As I sit at my kitchen table enjoying the quiet of my house before my kids come home, I know that I will move to my office and shut the door once that tranquility is shattered by their arrival. Then later this evening, once the house is again quiet with the monsters nestled in their beds, I might just take a few calls propped up on pillows in my bed. Yes, I do that regularly. Heck, they call it a laptop, right? This is the "home" scenario. On the road, workplaces and spaces vary even more. I really work best from a hotel room, or the hotel bar if I have a good headset on. None of this is new for me; I have played the role of an itinerant worker for years. But for a long time my employers continued to put my name on a door or cubicle. For me, that has now changed. No more nameplate for me. Employers are increasingly waking up to the fact that many employees (or "information workers," ugh... hate the term) just don't need or even want a fixed office or space. And, likely more importantly, the employers don't want that either. An empty office is an under-optimized asset. Both demand-side and supply-side forces converge to drive workplace and space diversity.
We hear a lot about empowered employees these days, and the changing nature of work and the workforce. Forrester's Workforce Employee Surveys investigate trends among information workers such as device usage, collaboration practices, workplace preferences, and attitudes about their employers. And, the signs are clearly indicating that the demand for workplace diversity and choice is on the rise:
“Telecommuting” and flexible work spaces are nothing new. I’ve worked from home, from public libraries, airport lounges, and even Sun Microsystem’s iWork Cafes and drop-in centers for the past 10 years. Companies have been (and are increasingly) giving employees the flexibility to choose where they work. If someone wants to work from a cafe in the morning before a client meeting, reserve a table in the campus cafeteria for a chat with a colleague at noon, and work from a co-work or drop-in space near their child’s daycare at the end of the day, they can do that. What is new is the ability to reserve all of those different workspaces with a single tool – and in real time.
I had a great discussion with the team from LiquidSpace yesterday to learn more about how they work. They provide a marketplace for those with work spaces to offer and individuals looking for alternative work sites. “Just as Open Table is a platform used by restaurants, we are a similar real-time platform for workplaces,” explained Mark Gilbreath, the LiquidSpace CEO and co-founder. “We are not an owner of space. We are the tool to connect users and space.” And, those workplaces can include both public spaces – such as hotel meeting rooms, executive suites like Regus or co-work spaces – as well as private spaces on a company’s campus or meeting rooms within a residential building or development.