Tear Down Corporate HQ


by Samuel Greengard

I've worked in a home office for more than two decades. This dates back to the dawn of personal computers. In the beginning, there were no home networks, there were no mobile phones, and nobody had the foggiest notion about cloud computing.

Somehow, I managed to get work done in those Dark Ages.

Now, with instantaneous global communication thoroughly woven into business and life, a tsunami has been unleashed. Society and work are changing in profound ways.

According to a Yankee Group study, 40 percent of enterprise employees work outside a corporate headquarters. In larger organizations, the figure can reach 80 percent. In fact, many organizations are now scattered across dozens, if not hundreds, of locations globally. Many also incorporate a virtual work force that spends little if any time in company offices.

The writing is all over the LCD monitor.

The corporate office is dead. Okay, maybe not next week or next year but, really, why do companies require huge campuses and office complexes when there's no need for everyone to sit together and pass paper notes? Yes, there are a few niche office jobs that require a physical presence. And it's a good idea to check in once in a while or attend a useful meeting. However, most of us can get our work done just fine--perhaps better--without the constant interruptions of a corporate office.

Instead of battling employees over smartphones, find a way to accommodate them. Also, look into desktop virtualization and other technologies that make it easier to share data but also maintain control. Let employees roam free. It's not about where they're sitting at any given moment, it's about work getting done.

What will companies do with their 20th century brick and mortar edifices? How different will work be 25 or 50 years from now? Your guess is as good as mine. But this much I know: mobility has changed everything. Cloud syncing will soon be so good that all our data will replicate on all our devices automatically. Within a decade or so, I fully suspect we'll have fully immersive virtual meetings.

The workplace of tomorrow will look very different. Flatter, more democratic and totally connected. Yet, for those of us who have worked remotely for years, it's merely a case of back to the future.