Trends: Office of the Future

In the last 50 years there have been dramatic changes in how working space has been provided to employees.

Once, almost everybody who was somebody had an office and almost all of them had windows.

Eventually this was winnowed down to open space design and cubicles.

Now it appears we are ready and in some cases already experiencing an office-less working environment.

It’s All About the Money

The driving force for the latest wave in working space is cost, especially the price tag associated with downtown office space. The Wall Street Journal reports that companies are moving to replace “traditional” offices with “non-territorial” spaces.

These areas often offer communal work tables or floating desks. They are limited in number and only available by advance reservation. Otherwise you are figuratively and literally on your own when it comes to office space.

American Express is one company leading the charge, if you pardon the pun, toward reduced or very limited office accommodation for staff. Their preference is for employees to work from their homes or other remote locations using laptops, tablets and smart phones provided by the company.

Another company, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline gives all its employees storage lockers at its building in New York City. Then it offers a small number of work stations that you have to reserve on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Rise of Virtual Offices

Smaller companies have long seen the need to try to operate without a formal office, and there is a whole generation of small business people and consultants who have made their local Starbucks their virtual head office.

If they absolutely have to have space to meet and work with others, many of them are choosing to rent virtual offices from companies like Regus.

Regus has 1800 offices worldwide that you can rent by the day, week or month in more than 100 countries. They work by providing a fully-equipped “front office,” including reception, boardrooms and work rooms to fit the changing needs of its clients.

What would it cost to rent a virtual office for a day? The costs vary from city to city and around the world, but many virtual office companies offer a basic package that starts at about $200 (USD) a day.

This would usually cover the use of their mailing address, call answering, two days in the office a month, and access to their corporate business lounge. The rates would be lower in smaller traffic areas and in locations where there are multiple virtual office providers and higher in major metropolitan centers and cities.

The Offices of the Future

If you don’t have the need for a full-time office and meeting a client at the coffee shop just won’t do, then renting a virtual office might be a viable alternative. People who run small businesses and professionals working on their own find that this can be highly cost-effective.

They get to meet their clients at a prime downtown location in a professional environment that clients respect. They can present a professional operation to the world at a cost they can actually afford.

You can even build your business in other locations using the virtual office concept; many entrepreneurs are using this model to open branch locations and to expand in to other regions.

So if you still have an office, enjoy it while it lasts. There may continue to be a need for traditional brick and mortar offices in the near future, but the trend to office-less workplaces is certainly on the rise.

So too is the concept and business of virtual offices. They continue to grow and expand, and with that they are creating new and shifting opportunities for the workplace of tomorrow. So get ready to say goodbye to that downtown office with the window and get ready to say hello to your new virtual office.


Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of Change the Things You Can (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit: Change the Things You Can


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