Mobile Employees: Attached Yet Unattached

Productivity, efficiency, and flexibility are three common themes that arise when our industry talks about the future of the office. Mobile work is a reality, and studies consistently show that employees are choosing be work outside of the workplace in order to be more productive.

As a designer, I too would love to be somewhere other than the typical desk to get my creative juices flowing. And anywhere semi-quiet could work; A beach, the lake, my parent’s home 1,000 miles away… All of these places would enhance my ability to come up with more inspired solutions to my work.

The traditional office a distraction?

But so far, “away” simply has meant at home, a local coffee shop, or a co-working establishment. All of which are great spaces to be productive if those environments work for you. But mobile employees can work from almost anywhere these days thanks to advances in 3G and publicly available WiFi, among other technologies. And traditional office manufacturers, vendors, and providers are taking note.

Knoll, a leading furniture manufacturer did extensive research before on mobile employees. Who are they? What do they do? Are they ACTUALLY more productive not in their workstation? Knoll found out that most mobile workers of the day were middle-aged men who were leaders, consultants, and experts in their field. Plus, “more than 60% of respondents said they are most productive at home.”

The home office a sanctuary of productivity?

Knoll’s study even claims that 75% of mobile workers use their primary work location for face-to-face meetings with co-workers and clients — and to socialize. (Voice of Mobile Workers)

So if employees today just consider the traditional office setting suited to socializing and formal meetings, then how does that reality change how we look at workspace design and furniture?

For example, a journalist recently posted online, “Why do we need ergonomic chairs? People can work anywhere under almost any circumstances.” As he boastfully uploaded this personal photo….

View From My Desk

View From My Desk

Of course HE can work anywhere, without expensive chairs – he’s a writer – one of the oldest mobile jobs ever. But he has a point. This beautiful background is much more thought provoking than the 54” high grey cubicle he could be sitting behind. Or even the Ikea desk in their home/office studios many-a-writer have come to know and love.

What I see is that with the ability to communicate with anyone through cell phones or tablet is that as human beings, we can become more nomadic. Where our official office is — or even where we own a home — does not need to be our central place to be productive.

Urban Nomads

Urban Nomads

These modern day nomads are restricted by only one common element; they must have the ability to communicate.

One of the “founding fathers” of technical communication is Bill Gates. He gave us the building blocks to form many different techniques to communicate from just about anywhere.

As a recent workspace critic wrote in reaction to his understanding of Bill Gates’ as a nomad, “If we want a society of innovators, of creatives, we can’t think of success as an act of compliance. Success is a break from the past. A new idea, a new context.” (Dave’s Educational Blog)

Where do you do your most creative work?

Valerie Trent is a proud Generation Y designer with interests in sustainability, space psychology, and international cultures. She is a Chicago-based commercial material sales representative.

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