The End of the Office as We Know It: Mobile Solutions for the Evolved Workplace

The workplace is changing. Where "free-range" offices with community foosball tables and sprawling corporate campuses were once considered signs of an innovative company in the early 2000s, the changes affecting businesses today are far less superficial. The very concept of the modern office is changing as co-working and remote working migrate from the dot-com fringes to the mainstream of global business.

As a result of tremendous advances in technology, the traditional "big office" concept is beginning to fall out of favor. Newer companies are opting to offer employees more flexibility to address both personal productivity and the globalization of business. With workers joining the workforce at various stages of life and from diverse cultures, this forward-thinking approach makes solid sense. Allowing employees to work when they're most creative and at the peak of productivity -- whether that's at 8:00 AM or 7:00 PM -- can only be good for business.

Companies that spare their staff the stress of rush hour, allowing them to stagger arrival times or work remotely, may gain hours of productivity from their staff, in addition to a great deal of gratitude and loyalty. Those that offer napping rooms and spaces for yoga or meditation may find their employees far more focused and creative.

With regard to globalization, rather than address international markets from North American headquarters, many organizations are opting instead to hire a virtual workforce of freelancers within the local market they're trying to penetrate. Not only does this give them an authentic voice in the market, it also creates a deeper understanding of the culture and the unique tastes of that community as local experts become part of the business's ecosystem. It also reinforces the case for a flexible workplace at the home office, where staff can be available to associates abroad.

This shift to the virtual workforce has been addressed by digital marketing analyst Brian Solis, who notes that "as the sharing economy dissolves," businesses must begin to understand "workforces that create alternative supply based on rising demand. On-demand companies and their ecosystems of workers and customers trade on the value of reputation + trust + value." This references the rising popularity of the remote workforce made up of flex-time employees, contract or remote, rather than an office full of workers who punch in from 9-5 regardless of the ebb and flow of workloads, life obligations and responsibilities.

The downside of this shift to a more flexible workplace is fragmentation. With an organization comprised of full-time, flex-time and contract workers all over the globe, a unified culture could be nearly impossible to maintain. Business leaders will have to take on the challenge of understanding and then bridging cultural differences, both internally and externally. A key to engaging in this new wave of business successfully is to embrace transparency. Stress arises from unclear goals, success metrics and business processes, all of which can be easily obscured and misunderstood.

With all this fragmentation, leadership needs to find practical solutions to bind everything together and support transparency initiatives. From a technology perspective, a chat platform can provide the infrastructure businesses need. Logistically, it's an easy solution: cloud-based chat platforms are accessible from nearly any connected device, so there's no need to purchase expensive equipment or burden IT teams. Anyone, anywhere can access a project with credentials and a mobile device.

Furthermore, mobile-first chat technology can provide a more harmonious communication method that facilitates around-the-clock global communications that are both organized and democratic. With rooms organized logically by project or initiative, all team members, regardless of where they are globally or in terms of business hierarchy, can have visibility into project goals and KPIs. Messages are delivered quickly, with a casual tone and without the clutter of email. Every participant has a voice and makes visible contributions to every project.

With such easy access, and with goals and workflows clear, employees can be truly flexible and engaged. The implementation of a mobile-first communication platform shows that a company is truly committed to allowing their teams to be the best they can be. It's a much more significant commitment than any nap room or selection of free breakfast cereals: it's proof that leadership trusts its staff to do their best work, whenever and wherever they need to. It's that "reputation + trust + value" concept referenced by Solis -- and that's what the new and evolved workplace is really about. Harnessing these newer and proven technologies will help teams not just stay in sync but build a closer, happier bond that enables them to focus on more strategic and creative results.