The Big Idea … the Office is dead – or is it?

See our latest contribution to the Herald’s Business Magazine Big Idea discussion ….

The Big Idea … the Office is dead – or is it?                                     

As consultants, my partners and I are used to seeing teams clocking in for the 9-5 at the organisations we visit. We however, work virtually. We have no office; no firm base to be located and locatable in, no daily routine of coffee and chat with colleagues.

Do I miss it? No. My role means I meet a kaleidoscope of people, both those I’m working with and those who I see whilst I travel between offices and coffee shops. I feel part of what’s happening in my community, and around the UK and overseas, through my travel with work.

Being based at home means I see the local community coming and going; I know my postie and DPD delivery man. My children can pop their heads round the door on their return from school, before they delve into homework and social media. Do I get distracted by the TV and washing that needs doing? No; I’m working.

Best of all is being able to work, to really dive into and immerse myself in a project, with no interruptions. It can be incredibly efficient, which works for me and my clients. I can respond quickly, rather than someone waiting for me to be out of a routine meeting. A half-day monthly meeting with my partners is all that’s scheduled in my diary; the rest can wrap around clients’ needs.

We sometimes choose to pair up and have ‘desk days’ together: to reflect, think and write, and to pay attention to the emergent. We share a cloud computing system and the ‘bubble’ that tells you who else is working evokes a strong sense of connection and appreciation, especially at odd hours.

But recently I’ve had a fascinating glimpse back into office life. Spending two days a week, for an extended period, in a large office has highlighted some of its attractions.

I’ve realised that, when I’m in an office, I choose to walk over to people and ask them questions. I don’t email or call them, as many do, even though it’s a large open plan spread over two floors. Why? Because face to face allows so much more communication; misunderstandings can be rectified immediately, frowning or smiling noted and responded to. I’m part of a clan, a community of interest. We share snippets of our private lives, get to understand each other’s fascinations and frustrations.

Why does this matter? Because it means our work can be more productive together. I understand why someone may be withdrawn, if a family member is unwell. I can walk over to the next person in the process if my original contact doesn’t deal with that issue. I don’t have to email, or call, or make a calendar appointment, to speak to someone about something urgent.

Given this, should we focus on sustaining the daily 9-5 office life? No, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t choose it; it’s still not as efficient for me, and it’s not as diverse a life as I’m used to. Does the big office have a role in Scottish business? Yes. At least until we can teleport at will…

Read more here …  the end of office working?