Allsteel’s library of white papers contains a wealth of thought leadership on the topic of work. The company’s research includes information on what it is, how and where we do it, and what tools, technology, and practices ensure work gets done in the most efficient manner. For an insightful and detailed look at the newest concepts in workplace analysis, check out the recent paper on “NetWork”. This is a term that describes the sea change that has occurred in the deployment of the modern labor force. Work is no longer where we go – it’s what we do.
The net is the matrix of spaces within which we carry out this work. In the words of the authors, “NetWork is both the supporting platform and the interconnected infrastructure and settings in which work occurs. Its ultimate purpose is to increase the organization’s ability to carry out its program of work.” These days, that can be the central office, a home office, an informal locale such as a café, or a coworking space. Each of these spaces has its own set of pros and cons which are explored in the paper.
Offices Won’t Disappear Altogether
The authors point out that there is still a need for the traditional office. It is and will remain the ideal part of the “net” for certain aspects of work. Here are a few examples:
- Use of special equipment that cannot be accessed from home or other settings
- Stages of product development or project work that require intense collaboration
- Mentoring relationships that rely on observations and tacit learning
- Jobs dealing with sensitive, confidential or secret information
New Ways of Working Require Careful Design
Since employers have complete control over the office environment, they can tailor it to support such specific work activities more than any other space. It might be tempting to assume that facilities design for the corporate office requires less planning and expertise when employees are more mobile. After all, if they don’t care for the setup at the office, they can always work from one of the other available spaces in the “net”. However, this is precisely the wrong attitude.
If employees are dissatisfied with their central work environment, this damages the sense of team spirit that makes them productive in less directly supervised work spaces. In addition, failing to accommodate the needs of workers in the traditional office setting for critical tasks means they are still settling for a less than ideal work space when the choose to perform those same tasks elsewhere. Each space must fully support the type of work being done there. Ideally, employees should be choosing where to work based on what they want to achieve – not what they want to avoid. The NetWork white paper offers a range of suggestions for tools and methodologies employers can use to achieve this goal.