Is the reign of the office over?
In the 20th century, much work came to be characterised through activity in physical offices. However, following the digital revolution, advances in IT meant that workers no longer had to be at the office to carry out many of their usual tasks. As computing merged with communications, working patterns began to change. A different style of employee management emerged: the distributed workforce.
In its simplest form, a distributed workforce is one that reaches beyond the traditional office, across a wide geographic space. Employees are not tied to a physical location and both employers and employees can benefit by working with each other even though they might not share the same postcode. This widens the pool of opportunities and increases the availability of skills.
While the distributed workforce isn’t a new concept, the scope and scale of remote working is ever changing. Mass connectivity, digitalisation, portable personal devices, Software as a Service, and cloud computing have made it possible for people to work from anywhere in the world, at any time. They also connect colleagues in a meaningful way unlike virtual businesses in which employee interaction is minimal.
Due to the availability of the technology to facilitate remote working, more companies are seeing the big benefits from a distributed workforce. First of all, having less reliance on a physical space means lower expenditure on the costs associated with running an office. Having flexibility of who we work with and when is generally thought to create a healthier culture and improve productivity. Technology also enables shared databases to support accountability and provide a central location to share and store work.
The expansion of the distributed workforce indicates a changing world of work where physical presence is less necessary – at least for typical office jobs. However, as ever, good communication and collaborative skills are drawn to the fore. As digitalisation grows, so too will distributed workforces.
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