Picture your office: does it have classic cubicles and big conference rooms, or a startup-style open floor plan with everyone within earshot of everyone else? Does it make use of shared workspaces, with workers able to rent desks wherever they’re most comfortable? Or is your small business entirely remote, with team members dialing in via Skype and communicating mainly through email? No matter the configuration of your workspace, connectivity is likely at the heart of it.
Mobile Devices Lead to More Mobile Workspaces
All of these layouts are realistic in light of the big changes the workplace has undergone in recent years. One of the biggest reasons for these shifts has been the rise of mobile phones, tablets, and laptops in the workplace, along with the wireless connectivity that connects them to business apps and the rest of the internet.
Workers are no longer completely reliant on a wired, Ethernet-connected desktop PC at a desk in an office. They have phones and tablets with super-fast WiFi and cellular connectivity. It makes sense that they are reinventing the workplace around new modes of connectivity, making it just as flexible and mobile as the devices in their hand.
Take the shared workspace, for instance. It’s the halfway point between working in an office and working at home or in a coffee shop. Workers or even entire companies can rent desks and share them with other like-minded individuals and teams. Meanwhile, the businesses overseeing these shared spaces may provide amenities like WiFi, a cozy atmosphere, and coffee. There may even be mailing addresses for workers to use while they’re there.
The Marriott hotel chain has gotten in on this trend with its Workspace on Demand offering, which allows people to book a workspace in a Marriott lobby just like they would reserve a hotel room. Other hotels are following suit, with services like Breather joining in as well. This type of service is a perfect fit for both new attitudes toward the workplace and growing interest in the sharing economy, in which everything from a ride (e.g., Lyft or Uber) to lodging (e.g., AirBnb) is available on demand. It’s like having an office outside the home, albeit one that isn’t “at work” but rather hosted in a communal space.
Connectivity for the Next Generation of Workspaces
The rise of shared workspaces and work from home is clear if you look at how much traditional office space is now allotted for each worker. In the middle of 2012, it was only about 185 square feet per employee, down significantly over the previous decade.
“Connectivity will make or break the shared workspace.”
But what do alternatives to the traditional office need in order to keep thriving like this? Light, airy space and downtown locales are nice, but ultimately, connectivity will make or break the shared workspace. The building must have the right infrastructure and services to support all the data, voice, and video that workers will consume at their new desks.
Otherwise, the connectivity at the office would likely still be more efficient. If you have ever tried to edit a spreadsheet or video clip on public WiFi at a coffee shop, then you know what it can be like if a network is not able to handle the demands of many different users at once.
Small businesses—whether they are looking to explore shared workspaces from a third party or build and rent out their own—can avoid connectivity issues by choosing services such as high-speed business internet or optical internet built upon dedicated fiber links. Shared workspaces are about the freedom afforded to workers and businesses by wireless-enabled devices, making connectivity the heart and soul of a better professional experience.
The New Workplace
The dominance of mobile devices in the workplace have led to its reinvention. The new, shared workplace offers many benefits…provided that connectivity is up to par. Some things to keep in mind about this up-and-coming model:
- BYOD workspaces are already extremely common, giving employees the capability of working from just about anywhere. As BYOD increases over the next few years, so will the prevalence of remote work.
- The shared workspace—particularly when available to rent for just a few hours at a time through services like Workspace on Demand and Breather—provides flexibility and a nice change of pace, while still offering some of the structure of an office.
- While atmosphere and amenities are benefits of a great shared workspace, connectivity is absolutely crucial for productivity.
- Audio and video conferencing and data sharing require high-speed, reliable internet, which in turn requires the correct infrastructure and service.