Is The Modern Office A Dying Institution?

4 min read

Something that has been weighing quite heavily on my mind of late is whether or not racing to and from the office every single day is actually a productive pastime. What I mean is, is it always necessary to be obligated to attend to one’s work schedule in a populated workplace? And why is there still a bit of a negative ring to the term, ‘working remotely’?

Pointless meetings

In my experience (in a creative and technical industry, that is), there seems to be far more that is achieved when someone is left in their own environment to tackle the project at hand than if that same someone were crammed into a space full of busy people bent on scheduling meetings, exercising the next best management technique or generally just creating noise. I’m not saying that working within a team is irrelevant or that meetings don’t have their place, but meetings for the sake of meetings? Everybody wasting valuable hours of their morning rattling off useless information about what they plan to do for the day? Let’s stop talking and start actually working. I think we need to consider that some of these practices are in fact a hindrance and, especially in the digital world where things move extremely quickly, maybe we need to consider a realistic and much more effective approach to how we expect our creatives and developers to function at their best. In an interview on Big Think, Jason Fried (co-founder and President of 37signals and co-author of the business book, “Rework”) puts it quite eloquently,

“Interruption and collaboration are different things. In the modern workplace with the open workspace and lots of hard materials everywhere and people cramped in really close to one another, it just encourages interruption, it doesn’t encourage collaboration. If you really want to get creative and really want to work on something, you need uninterrupted structures of time to get those things done.”

Let me propose the concept of the ‘virtual office’. Ok, it may not work in every circumstance, but for a front end developer like me, it’s a no brainer. I spend the entirety of my working day online; actually working flat out on coding or communicating with fellow developers and clients via email, Skype and the like. Some people may suggest that working like this could be bad for communication and productivity, when in fact, it actually forces people to communicate more clearly and ultimately the job gets done more accurately and a lot more quickly. Using modern tools like Basecamp to assign tasks and workflow makes it really easy for everyone involved to see exactly what is happening at all times; no room for misunderstanding. This, in turn, gives developers the freedom to work in an uninterrupted space, checking in and replying to mails or task instructions as they get to it. It eliminates negative interruptions, leaving less room for error and ultimately providing the space for people to be more productive. In the virtual office, the red tape is eliminated and it becomes more about delivery as opposed to hours, timesheets and meetings.

I guess what I’m saying is, maybe we just need to shift our thinking a little bit when it comes to the role of the physical office. And on that note, the idea of working remotely needs to be re-branded as something that can actually be quite a positive and forward thinking concept. I’m not necessarily saying break the rules for the sake of it, but question why the rules exist, and if they are not producing anything productive, then yes, by all means break them. Let’s just keep an open mind. Bin the trending jargon and meaningless protocol and let’s get the job done.

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