A Publication of WTVP

Flexibility, collaboration, mobility…these buzzwords encapsulate most of the ongoing changes in today’s workplace—not only in how we work, but also in where we work. “The built environment is starting to mold itself around how human beings operate, not forcing individuals into a space,” notes Farnsworth Group’s Sarah Kathro. “The view of the new office space is an open, multifunctional environment that promotes collaboration, effectiveness and flexibility.”

Years ago, Lincoln Office designed our company’s first workspaces, which had to be wide enough to accommodate those huge 50-pound monitors! We still use those desks—a testament to their high quality—but would probably opt for something different today.

For many companies, physical location is now less important. “‘Company headquarters’ is becoming more of a concept than an actual building,” notes Richard Lepsinger, co-author of Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance. This idea is still rather foreign to a Baby Boomer like me.

The notion of working from home started gaining serious traction in the late ‘90s, but that approach can be very isolating—I’ve experienced it myself. While I do take work home with me, I wouldn’t want to work from home every day. Even in the office, if I’m tethered to my desk for more than a day or two, I find myself wanting to get out so I can interact with colleagues.

WORKflow Peoria offers a case study in the evolution of the workplace, founded out of John Searby’s personal need for “a new way to work.” After working from home for a few months, Searby was lonely, distracted and unable to focus. He found that taking his work to coffee shops and cafes was impractical and unproductive. And thus was Peoria’s first coworking space born.

Of course, technology has been the key driver making all this possible. We couldn’t be mobile without the smartphones that keep us connected. We couldn’t conduct meetings at a distance without virtual meetings software. We couldn’t work together in teams as effectively without collaboration software.

When I visited China in 2002 with the Bradley EMBA group, everything seemed a world away. I remember standing in line to use one of the hotel’s computers—just to send an email home! So much has changed.

My 25-year-old “Millennial” daughter manages several employees who share a large desk outside her office, and are often collaborating. “Mom, I can’t get anything done! I hear them talking—sometimes work issues, sometimes not. I need to close my door so I can concentrate and get my work finished.” And so, while collaboration is great, we should remember why we’re here: to get our work done. After all, as Lepsinger points out, “Virtual teams may be increasingly popular…but they’re not necessarily successful.” iBi