Response to “The End of the Office as We Know It”

   By Allison O’Kelly, CEO of Mom Corps

“The End of the Office as we Know It” is a great article by David Gee at—while it is true that the office as we know it is undergoing changes in order to adapt to the needs of a more flexible workforce, the physical office is not actually disappearing any time soon. We still need interaction, common ground and the shared workplace gadgets and gizmos. The office is not going away, but rather downsizing by shifting to smaller offices, implementing desk sharing and other efficiency increasing models.

The growing demand for workplace flexibility is the driving force behind these changes, and as flexible work options become mainstream, no longer will the traditional “9 to 5” confines of the office be the norm. The article lists three transformative changes taking place including how we work, where we work and who is performing the work. These changes reflect the way in which Mom Corps re-defines flexibility: time, place and duration.

How we work will begin to change as modified hours, condensed workweeks, job sharing and part-time positions are being offered at a higher rate. Where we work will become less centralized and more mobile as we begin to implement office sharing, telecommuting and virtual workplaces. In addition, preferences such as shorter commutes and no required travel will play into this area. Who is performing the work will shift greatly, as we make way for the contingent workforce made up of permanent hires, temporary workers, project-based workers, contractors, seasonal employees, freelancers, etc.

As many companies are already modifying their business models to fit these changes, the discussion progresses to how we evolve as business leaders to best manage a more flexible and virtual staff. Three trending areas of improvement stand out:

  • Talent: It is easy to get distracted while working from home or another remote location, so one way to ensure this model works affectively is to build a team of self-motivated leaders. Executives must define each employee’s role and responsibilities, communicate them to the management team, and then teach them to manage their employees according to those outcomes.
  • Communication: This key skill can either make or break a company’s progressive work program. A predetermined, pre-tested communications plan must be implemented in order to keep employees productive and engaged with co-workers and managers. Because staff is no longer in the same physical office each day, it is helpful for all employees to identify set times when they are available so managers can coordinate schedules accordingly.
  • Trust: A results-only work environment (ROWE) is a management strategy focusing primarily on the produced work and employee performance. With this approach, employees have the flexibility and freedom to work whenever and however they choose, as long as they meet their requirements. While some executives worry about losing control over employees in a virtual or partially virtual workplace (Best Buy, for example), ROWE allows employees to be more in control of their schedule while still being held accountable for results.

While I appreciate David’s view in this article and agree with his points, I believe the “death of the office” is reaching a bit. However, we can expect to see changes in the near future as flexibility motivates the integration of smaller offices, remote working options, desk sharing and other models in order to make the most of their employees’ strengths. With various percentages of employees working in the office, working off site and working both in and out of the office, companies are beginning to test out these models and are finding success. The take home point: this is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. The key is to find the right formula that works for your company and employees and tweak it (in Cali Yost’s terms) until you get it right.


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