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(Noel Hendrickson/(c) Noel Hendrickson)
(Noel Hendrickson/(c) Noel Hendrickson)

Start: Mark Evans

The end of the office? Not so fast Add to ...

Clive Thompson had a story recently in The Globe and Mail's Your Business magazine about the end of the office, and how it is being driven by "technological and cultural shifts as the Web-literate Generations X and Y become the driving force behind entrepreneurship."

There is little doubt that "the office" as we know it is changing as more people work from home as opposed to dwelling in a cubicle for nine hours a day, five days a week.

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But it's a stretch to suggest the office is going to disappear. Sure, there may be fewer cubicles but the office will continue to exist, though in a different way that it has for the past 100 years.

Instead of the cubicle farm, offices are going to be places that will see more employees flow in and out as opposed to sitting in the same desk all the time. Many of these employees will split their time between working at "the office," working from home, and working on the road.

The multi-location approach will gain more traction as owners seek ways to attract, engage and motivate employees by offering lifestyle alternatives. Having people work at the office for some of the time will also let companies maintain some sense of management control as opposed to rarely seeing their employees.

At the same time, companies will be driven by the fact that a different "office" model could reduce costs by letting them operate with less real estate.

Another reason the office is unlikely to disappear is the psychological need it fills. While there are many entrepreneurs and freelancers perfectly content to work by themselves, many people need and crave personal interaction.

They want the water-cooler gossip, the coffee breaks, and the opportunity to collaborate and exchanges ideas. This is what motivates them to come to work every day, even though the commuting to and from the office can be a grind.

An interesting hybrid office is shared workspace, in which people rent a desk at an office, or pay-as-they-go.

This arrangement offers the best of both worlds - an office to go to, if and when needed, that features all the things needed to do business, while still providing the flexibility to work from home.

A good example is Camaraderie, a workspace in downtown Toronto that has a big room with four communal tables, some office chairs and a couch, a boardroom, meeting room and kitchen.

Rather than seeing the office disappear, it will simply evolve. While the cubicle farm will unfortunately continue to exist, new types of offices will emerge as viable and popular alternatives to meet the professional and personal lifestyles of the next wave of employees.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

 

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