Wednesday, May 27, 2009

debate: is the office necessary

An interesting blog debate is going on around the idea of the necessity of the office. Has remote and virtual working replaced the need for a physical office? Lane Wallace from the Atlantic argues that it is, and that much of the purported advantages of the virtual office are lacking important factors that come only from face to face interaction. A counter argument is offered by Lloyd Alter from the TreeHugger blog who infact works in a virtual situation with fellow bloggers and site managers spread across the continent. Lloyd makes a credible case on many fronts that Lane Wallace has it wrong. My reading of it sees a difference in the degree of immersion. Lloyd clearly works with a team of people fully committed to interacting across this virtual interface. Furthermore they are competent with its tools and get the most out of the interaction it offers. I did not get the sense that Lane had such an experience with her own situation. It may be a case of you get out of it what you put into it?

An interesting outcome of this for me is another good argument for the desirability of coworking. Here the employers and organizations get the advantages of eliminating large central workplaces, and their workers still enjoy the benefits of community at the workplace, and still must leverage the virtual work tools to interact with their virtual workmates.

6 comments:

  1. I work remotely most of the time, but would argue that the office is a good thing. It is similar to working out at home vs. going to the gym. There is just something about being around other "productive" people that is motivating. A smile, a laugh, just the presence of others can make for a more positive work experience. Why do all those remote workers head to the local coffee shop with the wifi? Answer: to be around other people.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Its true. The question is can the tools for interacting virtually give you the same motivation. Lloyd clearly thinks they do. How much of that is inherent in the tools, how much in the savvy of the people using them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Many companies now offer full service and affordable solutions for different businesses. In addition, they may provide space for executive offices with stunning views that are suitable for board meetings and client updates. I think for small business owners these offices are like dream comes true. I am also running a small business and after renting office provided by valleyhq I am very satisfied and feel like I am able to increase my business now.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hammon, what is an "executive" in a small business? The boss of 3 or 4 people? This sounds like a sales pitch for an office suite, where the idea is to create the illusion of a larger organization, to imagine that you are an "executive", whatever that really means. That sounds terribly old school, and frankly I think its going to get eaten alive by a new class of workers that don't share those values and would be just as happy working out of a coffee shop with 3 or 4 collaborators.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think Lloyd is taking Lane's propositions to a workspace they don't belong to. He's comparing remote/home working to a very very "normal" (as he says) fixed structure, cube farm like divided office.
    I totally agree with your last paragraph, Gregory: coworking seems to be the spontaneous solution that fills the gap between homeworking and established office. I don't think there will ever be an absolute extreme trend. New options add to the old ones, don't overwrite them completely.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think you are right JT. Lloyds group of bloggers never had a central workplace. Their workplace culture has always been centered on a virtual workplace. What Lane is relating reflects a transition from central office, where you saw your coworkers day to day, to a dispersed situation where they always measure the virtual experience against the previous central office..

    ReplyDelete

Blog Widget by LinkWithin