Has The Traditional Office Become Obsolete?

The dream of working from home and ditching the office is still just that for many Americans that have to work from a cubicle, even though they know it is not necessary.

Working from home and telecommuting is an occasional job perk in many companies; however, the benefits of the virtual office are being clearer to some businesses.

While completely virtual, office-free companies are still a rarity, their numbers are growing and other businesses are taking advantage of ways to make the traditional office space less important in their operation.

Can the virtual office become the norm in America as technology progresses or are there too many limitations?

Technology now brings workers closer together without having to put them in the same room.

There are some businesses and sectors where the approach of the virtual office works better than others. Creative professions, where teams rely on writers and designers creating the best content, can definitely benefit from this way of working.

There is no need for face-to-face meetings about performance and strategy, or for group meetings in a stifling office space, because everything can be shared online.

Cloud storage and tools like Dropbox make data sharing easier than ever, Skype provides the ideal way to enjoy a conference call and individuals can work on one document through OneDrive – literally putting staff on different continents on the same page.

Everything can be done electronically and remotely these days. Even the most high-profile job interviews can be carried out in different places if the company is sure about the candidate they want.

This is ideal for headhunters keen to take the very best staff and managers from other companies, especially if those companies are in another country.

Critics, however, would question the true value of these hirings without that face-to-face contact.

There is, however, one logistical nightmare that is hard to overcome.

Having the very best staff and experienced workers collaborating on a project across the globe is great for ensuring high quality results and increasing a company’s options.

The potential problem is the time zone issue.

At some point, everyone has to check in and make sure they are following the same plan and on track (it is what conference rooms were built for) but how do you do that when your head of marketing is over in some meeting on the East Coast and your head designer is asleep all the way over in Europe?

Advancements in tech like UberConference mean that meetings can be recorded and distributed to those that can’t attend but it has its limitations.

Woman working with laptop placed on wooden desk

There is also a problem for those in senior positions. It seems that lower level employees are happy to work on their side of the project, send things over electronically and wait for notes and conference calls without much personal interaction.

For managers, it is a bigger problem. If they don’t have that big boardroom to bounce ideas around in then they sometimes feel less productive and efficient in their meetings.

The worker relationship vs the interpersonal relationship.

This difference in the ability to adapt to a virtual office environment leads to another of the obstacles in promoting and developing this style of office management.

Which is more important: the worker relationship or the interpersonal relationship between staff?

Traditional office managers might say that the best, most productive offices are those open-plan affairs where staff can work together and communicate openly on issues and different aspects of the problem.

Those in favor of virtual offices would say counter this with a simple question: what is the point of them all being in the same room if they just communicate electronically anyway?

If ideas and concerns are passed across the room via email and IM, these workers may as well do the same thing from the comfort of their homes.

As long as productivity and quality does not decrease, where is the harm?

Has the traditional office simply become obsolete?

The desire to regain control of our work-life balance and break free from the shackles of the old-fashioned workplace means that the concept of the virtual office has its perks for many modern workers.

By making the most of technology and remote communication, teams can work from home while maintaining their connections and productivity.

As more companies embrace this way of working, they could find themselves more virtual in the way they work.

Going completely virtual is, however, less likely as higher-level management hold on to their love of the boardroom and businesses try and keep at least some of their employees in the same room.

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