26 January 2012:
Employee mobility is here to stay, and traditional real estate strategies, office designs, and workplace practices must adapt. Many companies have reshaped their portfolio and cost structure over the past decade and embraced a more mobile and flexible workplace. The trend suggests that remote work yields improvements to employee productivity, collaboration, and engagement well beyond the efficiency gains that are typically expected. But realizing the improvements involves a shift in mindset about how to manage processes, technologies, and behaviors.
The new contours of the workplace
For many years, working in spaces outside the traditional office has been standard practice among sales people and other professionals who travel frequently. They are accustomed to communicating in airports and coffee shops via cell phones, wireless cards, and inexpensive or even free videoconference technologies. Today that trend is rapidly expanding, even without formal mobility programs, as growing numbers of employees across all areas of business are using lower-cost, higher-function mobile technologies to execute their work in and outside of the office.
Traditional offices now compete with alternative locations designed to accommodate employees while they travel, around their metro area, or at home. Internet-enabled “third places” include cafes, libraries, hotels, and work centers. Space typically is shared among several companies, providing options
to work outside of a dedicated office. This combination of smaller fixed- cost corporate offices, flexible-cost third places, and employees’ homes is becoming the new workplace norm.
The rise of mobility has many implications for the corporate real estate portfolio. Significant cost savings can be realized when companies invest in alternative, innovative workplace designs, technologies, and practices. To help capture these potential benefits, though, companies must manage the transition more actively and effectively, rather than allow their mobile work practices to evolve and grow in an ad hoc manner, which tends to create space inefficiencies and organizational complexities.