Aug 2, 2011
It’s one thing when daily newspapers and online publications tackle the topic of virtual offices. It’s another thing when MIT’s Technology Review takes on the subject—and that’s just what has happened.
On August 1, Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and author of Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges, explored the topic in-depth.
Dubbed The Rise of the Virtual Office, the article is part of a series that explores how technology is changing how, when and where we work. McAfee absolutely nails all the reasons why people are using virtual offices today and why people will use them more tomorrow. I encourage you to check out the article for yourself, but here are some quick snippets to give you the flavor of The Rise of the Virtual Office.
“The idea that the office is a specific place where our professional lives “happen” is becoming less universal, and less important. These days many knowledge workers can be productive anywhere, thanks to smarter, more numerous mobile devices, faster network access, and a growing number of online collaboration tools,” McAfee writes.
“Telecommuting is no longer merely something that the phone company is trying to sell you. And wherever “the office” may be, wider and better use of social networks, data analytics, and smart technologies such as voice recognition could be poised to increase productivity dramatically—meaning that both real and virtual offices may have fewer people in them.”
McAfee goes on to report that physical offices are changing but hierarchical organizations are not. In other words, there’s still org charts. And there are still challenges, especially for large companies that want to transition at least part of the workforce to virtual offices, such as IT security. Technology pushes productivity, one of the promises of the virtual offices, but it also opens up corporations to data loss. With so many hackers breaching high-profile companies these days, security is an even larger concern. But that is not as large of a concern with entrepreneurs looking to tap into virtual offices.
“Even as technologies proliferate and their problems are overcome, offices—no matter how virtual—remain collections of people. In my work, I’ve seen a positive feedback loop between what we do when we get together face to face, and the ways in which we reinforce those relationships digitally with new tools. And it’s important to remember that even in this world of freelance and part-time contractors, companies are still desperate to hire good people and retain them. That’s not going to change anytime soon, no matter how many snazzy digital tools we get. The office of the future might have fewer people in it, but the ones who are there will matter more than ever.”