The Outdated Question of ‘Where Do You Work’?

Where do you work?

A simple and common question we all know, right?! When asking such a question we are naturally interested in the position and organization one is working for… at the same time, the question also implies some indication of location, doesn’t it? In the past, this probably made perfect sense, and people could easily name their role, organization and street address they would go to every morning. Things have changed though…

A recent Mobile Workstyles Survey by Citrix states that today ‘work is what you do, not a place you go’, implying the mobility of workplaces and workstyles. In other words, the world of work seems to be moving away from stationary desks in fixed office spaces of fixed buildings… Indeed, companies have started implementing more flexible practices for remote work for quite some time now. Studies reveal that flexible working options are already available for more than 17% of Europeans and around 30% of Americans. For example, Mastercard proposed to its 12,000 employees worldwide to work fully remotely, while insurer Zurich in Spain had implemented a two days out-off-office policy. According to Citrix’s estimation, by 2020 89% of organizations worldwide will offer mobile workstyles, with the United States leading the trend.

Although our first impressions of remote work might be about working at home or freelancing from Starbucks, the current trend goes far beyond that. Start-up businesses such as, Neo-Nomade and Nested strive to provide a network of workspaces – be it a desk, a meeting-room or a coworking space, for a very different range of clients. While freelancers, nomads and business travellers might be the most obvious audience, flexible and on-demand workspaces are increasingly promoted also to corporations, having their ‘ordinary’ employees in mind. The ‘sales pitch’ of remote workpolicies for organizations doesn’t seem that difficult to deliver, as several surveys indicate decreased costs and increased employee engagement as outcomes. For example, a Gallup survey in the U.S. shows that employees, who spent 3 to 4 days a week off site, feel the most engaged, and academic research suggests that remote workers are also more productive. Echoing these notions, Citrix Mobile Workstyles Survey respondents reported huge operational and strategic advantages for organizations, as mobile workstyles allow to better recruit and retain employees, reduce real estate and overhead costs, and increase personal employee productivity.

Employee satisfaction with flexible work policies isn’t difficult to assume either. Just imagine being able to instantly book and use a spot in a local workspace instead of spending your last business trip hours in the hotel lobby; or checking-in at the nearest workspace after your sales meeting and finishing your workday there, instead of commuting back to the office; or just spending your offsite working day in a vibrant coworking hub, instead of your isolated ‘home office’… There are clearly a range of benefits, from reduced commuting time and increased work-life balance, to networking within a community of different professionals with complementary profiles.

Naturally, such a shift in work design is not without obstacles and drawbacks. For example, IBM, the pioneer of remote work, decided to call its employees back into the office to ensure their physical collaboration. There are also clear benefits of sharing office space and sitting around the same table with your colleagues, right? Moreover, how can we align remote work policies with other HR policies regarding security, productivity, mobility and control?

Several questions are still up in the air, but what is fairly clear though is that the way we work is shifting: instead of asking ‘where do you work’, we better ask ‘what do you do?’

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