The impact that coronavirus had on our workspaces is quite clear, as millions of people are being forced or asked to embrace smart working. Although the adjective smart is often used to enhance the coolness of new things, being forced to work from home does not exactly refer to smart working. We should consider smart as a way to reach satisfaction through technology. For instance, we refer to smart working whenever both employers and employees take advantage of technology to make workflows flexible in terms of space and time. Living in reclusion is the polar opposite of flexibility, so – without flattering ourselves – teleworking is the most appropriate term for the ongoing situation. Words are worthy, but we could consider this period as an opportunity to time-travel towards the future of workplaces.
Taking a photo while grabbing a cup of tea in a tiny cafè with your laptop on the side is often more than just showing off on social media, since remote working can offer a variety of benefits such as the customisation, the feeling of freedom and the relation with sustainability.
One of the main thesis supporting remote working is the possibility to reach a work-life balance. Self managing the available time during the day can enhance job satisfaction and even improve the quality of work as well as the performance. This feeling of freedom is related to staying in a more pleasant, and often relaxing place. Employers could benefit as well from setting a remote team, as they can reduce various costs. Moreover, remote working can save downtimes such as commuting, which can release stress. Lastly, we are all witnesses of the current satellite images showing the sensitive reduction of carbon emissions and pollution created by companies and transports. In other words, we can logically suppose a social benefit deriving from this even tragic situation that should be kept in mind as a testimonial for the future.
The possibility to work remotely has already been explored by a wide number of digital nomads, workers that can carry their activity from any place in the world with access to the Internet. We all have heard the clickety-clack of the keyboards while we were probably waiting for the onboarding call at the airport gates. Whereas those people were probably freelancers, because only a few organisations experienced completely remote teams, this kind of encounter will become more and more frequent in the future.
In 1989, the sociologist Ray Oldenburg wrote The Great Good Place, an influential essay which underlined the distinction among homes (first places), offices or factories (second places), and community spaces (third places). During the last few decades, we have witnessed a gradual hybridisation of these places such as what happened with coliving concepts and coworking spaces, which rose quickly worldwide. In other words, the limits between living, working and leisure spaces are being blurred as never before.
Flexible workstations require flexible environments. This means that public spaces should adapt themselves to provide a solution to the emerging necessity of making business from everywhere. What will make the difference is to provide efficient IT technologies accessible to anybody that are also protecting the privacy of the users. However, flexible environments need to be integrated within a frame that also consider as a crucial aspect the human connection.
Although technology provides useful tools to work almost everywhere, designers, architects, marketers and everyone involved in developing hybrid spaces should keep in mind the human factor. In a raw distinction, the difference between space and place dwells on how you interpret the surrounding environment. Whereas space means that the environment is given and is perceived as physical matter; place refers to an environment where users can take action. Brands are the keystone that provide the connection between functions and symbols in this distinction.
Even if working remotely can be beneficial for several reasons, it can also further isolate professionals and create more loneliness, one of the main issues within the urban communities. For instance, what really matters is to build a community within the company and with its stakeholders, not just for the sake of generating business opportunities, but to exchange ideas, share suggestions or informal coffee breaks. A community environment can be created within a physical space, and later carried in the digital world. Moreover, exchanging perspectives can lead to the exploration of new pathways, especially for long-term employees in deeply-rooted teams. It is important to state that communities rarely grow up without a strategy in place to create consistent initiatives to enhance the customer experience by making people feel members – and not guests – of the spaces. Operators that are not able to build this sense of membership could outsource the community building strategy.
Living in uncertain times, the coronavirus pandemic can be seen as a blueprint of the future of working, and is also speeding up the process. The disruptive change will lie on the fact that what was previously considered as an exception, could become a normal situation requiring workers to adapt. Since technology should drive humans to increase their capabilities, it looks like remote working is making professionals aware that workplaces could cross physical walls. Like many other innovations, there will be benefits and threats, but it is clear that the future suddenly is knocking our doors instead of waiting for us.
Beyond the technological progress, our concerns rely on the usage of flexible spaces. In other words, we aim to concept how remote workstations will be able to combine spaces, communities, services and identity. Being able to provide just functional services will no longer be enough, as a Wi-Fi connection is already available almost everywhere. In doing so, brands will play a leading role to drive the user experiences within these new hybrid places.
Building communities in the physical space is a necessity. However, extending these communities to the online world can take your business to another level. Let us help you to understand your users’ journey and provide a more comprehensive customer experience, where real meets digital.
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