In talking with my ITA colleagues yesterday, we were discussing the necessity of going into the office, or not. And it seemed that there were times it made sense, and times it didn’t.
What doesn’t make sense is trying to do work in an office. If you need to think, having random conversations and interruptions happen gets in the way. Yes, you need colleagues and resources ‘to hand’, but that’s available digitally and distally.
Being together makes sense, it seemed to us, when you either are meeting for the first time (e.g. with clients), or want creative friction. You can interact virtually for planned work, but it helps to interact F2F when getting to know one another, and when you’re looking for serendipitous interactions. Jay Cross, in his landmark Informal Learning book, talked about how offices were being designed to have the mail room and coffee in the same place, to facilitate those interactions. If conversations are the engine of business, having the opportunity for their occurrence is useful.
This seems the opposite of most visions of work: work away from the office, interact in the office, instead of the reverse. So, is this the flipped office?
Jordan Sanders says
This is a topic that has been at the forefront of my mind recently. There are certainly a pros/cons to working in an office as well as working remotely. Sounds like you’ve hit the nail on the head when describing the pros of working in-office: “meeting for the first time (e.g. with clients), or want creative friction”.
I’d also like to add one more “pro” to the in-office list: training. If you need to train a colleague or client on a work process, it’s always easier in person. Sure, there are times where distance limits in-person options – Google+ hangouts are an effective way around this. Still, if I could choose to instruct someone on a Google+ hangout vs. in person, I’d choose the latter.
Final thought: the amount you need to meet with others and get “creative friction” with colleagues will vary depending on your role / responsibilities. For those with jobs that can be largely done on a computer (a growing majority), the majority of work can be completed more efficiently remote.
David GutiÃ©rrez says
Myself working from home, yet having worked for several years in a cubicle-free, open office, I have trouble admitting that it’s just for meetings. Every day I miss relevant pieces of information that come up at the office while performing routine tasks. Serendipitious interactions cannot be scheduled, and therefore there’s a loss when you work away from colleagues. There’s obviously also a loss in productivity, but it may be worth it. Still, the flipped office probably beats the cubicle farm anytime.