In the animal world, living creatures evolve and adapt over time to the natural environment they live in. It is of paramount importance that they do so, if the species is to survive. In the commercial world, however, evolution is a two-way street.
While people should look to continually adapt to new ways of working, the environment in which a business operates is also required to perpetually evolve, in order to suit the people within it. The importance of that evolution is no less significant than in nature. The most dynamic business flourishes and grows in a modern office space that is designed to actively support concentration and collaboration among its staff. Most businesses are, however, aware of this. The question is how one achieves that – and that question has invited a lot of debate about the benefits of open-plan office spaces, versus closed-off individual working areas.
The answer, as with so many disputes in business, is a matter of balance.
The Birth Of Open-Plan
The open-plan workspace is a relatively recent incarnation of the modern office, where desks are not assigned to any one person and staff can move freely. This usually occurs in tandem with a Bring-Your-Own-Device policy on laptops, mobiles and other working devices. The theory behind it is simple. By removing the physical barriers that separate individual workers or whole departments from each other, a business owner can facilitate more effective communication, collaboration and common understanding within the company. Businesses will always achieve more through collective endeavour than they would with a structure that isolates employees; this is a universally accepted fundamental principle.
Why Open-Plan Alone May Not Be Enough
There are occasions, conversely, when the quiet of isolation allows people to focus. Students don’t pack out the campus library around summertime for no reason. The open-plan modern office was designed to give staff freedom of choice, to move around and interact with others. Yet ultimate freedom of choice can, and perhaps should, include the freedom to go somewhere more serene – without having to put headphones in as a form of escapism.
Many co-working rental spaces, such as WeWork, Huckletree and Second Home, already offer facilities which combine the open-plan philosophy with smaller, closed-off workspaces on the sidelines. In effect, a modern office hybrid. This is the route that businesses should look to proceed with, disrupting conventional working habits for the long-term benefit of employees. The open-plan space would still be the central hub of the workplace, encouraging inter-departmental interaction and flexible movement. However, denying employees any privacy simply for ideological reasons is counter-productive, and could have a detrimental effect on business output.
Building A Modern Office Hybrid
The physical design of a modern office hybrid follows a very basic concept: small closed-off areas within a broader open-plan workspace. The key to supporting such an office strategy is having the right technical infrastructure to allow staff to work wherever they are, without obstruction. On a foundational level, if a business is looking to initiate a Bring-Your-Own-Device strategy (normally hand-in-hand with the open-plan office), they must buttress that strategy with a scalable connectivity solution. This allows staff to reliably access the company network, and permits for company growth and a greater number of users.
The other technical cornerstone of a mobile office is the remote centralisation of data. If company files are stored on an onsite server, they cannot be accessed from an individual user’s own device. Nor can they be accessed from different geographical locations within, or outside, the office space. If a business aims to be truly mobile, then data must be securely centralised in the cloud to make it accessible from any location, on any device. In addition to cutting overall business IT outlay and creating a scalable network, moving to the cloud frees up staff to move to whatever working environment is most conducive to their efforts, at any one time. For the flexible modern office, the cloud server is essential to supporting employees - whether they wish to work quietly or collaboratively.
Businesses are well-advised to underpin their staff with the appropriate IT infrastructure for the modern world of commerce. Some will think that in a commercial sphere which is changing all the time, that will lead to constantly chasing shadows. This is untrue. The key to cloud infrastructure is its adaptability: it now provides a platform for the vast majority of worthwhile software innovation. Businesses can continually tap such innovation as it emerges, if they too engage with the cloud system – all the while empowering and trusting their workers to operate in the ways they see fit. Some staff require an environment that enables concentration; others need one that encourages collaboration; and they may alternately want either of these things at different things. The successful modern office space is one that allows those staff members the flexibility of both.
Viastak work to support businesses looking to leverage technology, in order to streamline the way they operate. We believe in creating flexible, dynamic enterprises that are equipped to deal with the demands of the modern global economy. To find out more, please get in touch.
Written by Oliver Kiddell
Oliver Kiddell, Author at Viastak Technologists.