MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

Has the quality of the experience brought by mobile technology become so satisfying that it is no longer satisfying to work in a fixed place?

Whether in our professional work, in online discussion groups, or in our readings, it seems that the subject of workplace transformation is itself in a transformational state. People still cite statistics justifying one side or the other of the ongoing open versus closed debate, and others are counting the amounts of corporate real estate savings delivered through alternative work and mobility programs as supportive data to expand them. Certainly there is an evolution, a progression taking place, and perhaps all of this data buzz is the signal that the subject is finding traction, but the metrics are still about consumption, and not yet about production. That is, "performance" seems defined in terms of a space/cost metric and not sufficiently in terms of organizational achievement.

In the meantime, as the design of the workplace lags, the design of technology that initially enabled alternative workplace programs never sleeps. Today, the 2 millionth iPad has been sold as more and more people discover the delights of the latest technology that lightens the load and allows almost access to almost any type of information in progressively more satisfying form, anywhere and at any time, and sharable.

In relatively rapid development we've gone from bulky laptop to lighter notebook to Blackberry to iPhone to iPad. We've fretted about work/life balance yet now go mostly with the flow. We've gone from traveling salesman to knowledge worker to worrying about how to accommodate the socially-connected gaming generation in the workplace.

We are learning that the old institutions are dying, as well. Leadership in commerce is increasingly being achieved through collaborative insight and breakthrough development, much of it achieved from relationships established after serendipitous contact at the peripheries of our core pursuits. These connections are, in a large part, the products of technologies that have made us lighter, more agile, more networked, more aware.

So this is what I am wondering: As the pleasures of these technologies have enabled the increasing satisfaction of connecting, developing ideas and achieving the good things that come from interaction in or from places other than the office, but since only a portion of those experiences are shared by people working in assigned space in offices – is it getting lonely in a conventional office?

What is the impact, in other words, of the experiential gap between the design of virtual and physical work space? Are there barriers to achievement, organizationally or personally, presented by working in assigned office space when the activities of others are being augmented and amplified by the ability to get out and move around?

Has the quality of the experience brought by mobile technology become so satisfying that it is no longer satisfying to work in a fixed place?