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Collaborative Work Space, is it a Ripple or Wave?

Brian Andrews, Managing Director of Basepoint Group of Companies, shares his views in his guest blog for Boxpod.

Over the last few years, there has been a move towards the open style workplace as a space for working outside of the confines of a ‘classic’ office set up. This step has been sudden, in that it crept up on most of the forty-somethings, but was a long time coming for those in their younger years! Inevitably this shift has created numerous iterations with different commercial models getting ‘wrapped’ in various guises but all play to the tune of the business centre flexible office scenario only with more freedom…. Freedom in every aspect chosen by the consumer, rather than those defined by the centre operator.

Whether we (as an operator) wish to believe it or not, the way we have inherently depicted Business Centres is engraved on the minds of those that run them. The older generation, particularly those trained and developed pre the digital revolution and here read 2004 Facebook – 2007 for the iPhone, because up to this stage the world, in essence, was happy with the old ways and had little in the way of infrastructure and technology to support doing anything different. The rate of change in technology terms has been rising steadily for years but in recent times has moved near vertical with processing power, free to air and the growth rate regarding individual knowledge of the digital world reaching most corners of the world. However; useful, boundless and free roaming applications have only seen the light of day since 2007 and took some years to develop to the level they are today with the resulting output being a highly connected individual or group having a meaningful and productive contact at a time and place to suit themselves… and long will it continue. The opportunity lies in the business leaders of today understanding how to change and capture the beast or see it pass them by with the inevitable commercial downturn being the result.

Having begun to understand the implications of the world as a whole, those with foresight have endeavoured to deliver a working model to the masses, particularly in the high-energy and high-density centres of the world. Spurred on by the inevitable capitalists looking to push their new money on to the next phenomenon and deliver an imaginary tide of opportunity for the young and trendy to cut their teeth into. The reality, however, certainly for the moment, is not so easy to understand and once all the gloss and hype is torn away you begin to realise that the wave may only be a ripple and that even this ripple may give way to a bigger splash following on behind. The fact remains that progress is inevitable and that this rudimentary evolutionary path has been accelerated by the freedom that new technology has given us. The youth of today understanding the implications far better than the fifty-something business leaders who are endeavouring to catch up (include me!) and want to carve out their future.

We are a social entity and as such have a general need for comradery, sword play and debate to help define our outputs, be it in the boardroom or as an individual on their first steps on the enterprise ladder, so we will always need a mechanism to feed this appetite. Historically fed by touching palms and social interaction and now fed by social media in a digital world.

So what is this collaborative environment that we find ourselves talking about and what, if anything, can we do to begin to understand how it works…. although simply having to ask the question is in itself a backwards step as those that have the understanding don’t need to think about it …. It is simply the way to work! The historical evolution has been typically blurred with many organisations claiming the crown of providing the first truly collaborative workspace but in reality, many organisations have been working on various forms of hot desking for years and many would suggest that this is the forerunner to our current work ethic. However, the hot desking of years gone by is a far cry from the inter dependable, collaborative working we see today. Stemmed from the cultural, technological and social balance that the over forties have been dreaming of for years, we are only now beginning to enjoy, carefully hanging onto the shirttails of the younger digital generation, with their carefree attitude and lack of responsibility, mainly through economic necessity as opposed to a deliberate glide path to working bliss!

In simple terms this up swell towards open space working is driven by the commercial models being employed in modern day Serviced Office operations, the ready availability of technologies that allow the interconnectivity of everyone and everything, should they have a mind to, the proliferation of digitally driven job opportunities and the ability to work anywhere in the world as though it were next door. But the overriding essential ingredient that has been carefully extracted from the list and has been the same since the dawn of the modern age is that of flexibility, simply because flexibility is no longer a constituent part…. it is the product.

The confines exhibited in traditional office space depicted by four walls a door and, if you’re successful, a window, are no longer seen as the epitome of a successful business that’s dragged itself out of the bedroom or garage and now enjoys the use of the executive toilet! The success factor has moved away from the need for an office at all and allowed itself, predominantly as a result of the necessity to keep costs low and to keep a free and easy approach to where you can do business, to enjoy this new found flexibility that is no longer the trapping of a poor business upstart and man without an office, but is one of a free spirit able to meet and work anywhere and at any time and is essentially growing up to lose the stigma attached to such low end start-ups! You could just as easily meet a billionaire in collaborative space as you can a penniless start up…. The interesting point being ….. Nobody minds and thus the immediate barriers to trade are removed.

Every generation has wanted to work at a time and place to suit them but has never had the opportunity, technology or wherewithal to get this approach into the mind-set of modernistic thinking. The new generations, however, are far less restricted by the old ways, given their perceived lack of financial (and other) responsibilities….. Can’t get a mortgage, debt-laden with university fees and modern living, still at home and using all the disposable income as the leisure pound while tapping the bank of Mum and Dad when times get ultra-tough! Since the introduction of communication channels delivering phenomenal speed there has been a tendency for some of the key players to throw away the old school 9 to 5 routine and work longer in an attempt to impress the boss, although some would legitimately say that without putting in the extra hours the work just doesn’t get completed and others suggest that those working this hard should learn some time management!…. Dare I say ‘’Life work Balance’ which is now approaching its own Armageddon as we head towards the unthinkable merger of work and life with the barriers well and truly gone!

So where does this all lead us…. Inevitably we are moving towards a faster paced environment with the new generations working solely within the digital world and as such an environment that the Chairperson and CEO’s of our corporate organisations need to understand, if not themselves then certainly through the eyes of those digital enablers that have the knowledge of what to do for the future. Without doubt, we will need the usual office space providers with their standard boxed environments with and without windows, but the trend is certainly (although still small in percentage terms) in favour of the collaborative spaces now erupting across the globe…. The important point is to understand, embrace and attempt to second guess the next ripple, wave or splash, while dealing with the current tidal shift, because undoubtedly if you don’t see it coming you will drown!

Source: Boxpod Commercial Property