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Buy your own workplace?

Employees should be given an allowance to buy their own computers and other equipment needed to perform their jobs, writes THERESE MEYER of Regus Africa.

Employees should be given an allowance to buy their own computers and other equipment needed to do their jobs in an effort to make them able to work anywhere at any time and so more productive, according to a report on the future of work.

The study by Regus also says that some organisations may even encourage their staff to organise for themselves what office space they require in order to perform at their best as part of what is being termed a ‚buy your own‚ world.

The moves are among the measures being adopted by organisations of all sizes and types in response to the need to cut costs, rising demand for more flexible working from employees (especially those at the beginning of their careers), sustainability concerns associated with commuting and the energy use in large buildings, and making use of increasingly rapid developments in information technology.

Working from research carried out among 600 business leaders at organisations around the globe as well as discussions with heads of property at some of the world’s biggest companies, the authors of the report, ‚VWork: Measuring the benefits of agility at work‚ , set out how businesses are becoming more agile. They also explain a formula ‚ the ‚agility dividend‚ – for measuring the success of such steps in terms of reduced property costs, greater happiness of employees and enhanced productivity, and describe the stages that organisations are likely to go through on the way to becoming truly virtual.

The idea of ‚virtual work‚ ‚ that is, workers working outside the office ‚ has been around for a while. But until recently it was equated with working from home, or ‚telecommuting‚ . And it did not catch on to the extent that was expected, mainly because ‚ as the research shows – people do not want to work from home. But they do want to have shorter commutes, and they do want to be able to use offices for meetings and other times that suits them.

This is likely to be made possible because organisations are already seeing many employees, such as sales people, working out of the office ‚ with a resulting waste of desk space. The report says that at any given time in the typical office 55 per cent of allocated desks are unoccupied. Anxious to reduce such costs, businesses are increasingly interested in providing spaces in centres closer to workers’ homes where they can work when they need to.

Moreover, other advances in mobile technology mean that there are no longer the limitations that meant that companies still relied on face-to-face meetings despite the cost in travel and lost working time. Companies are seeing huge benefits through being able to involve many more people in meetings and projects. Such collaboration ‚ via social media and other internet-based approaches ‚ will increasingly involve people in different organisations, raising further questions about the continued need for large offices and workforces.

Younger workers, the millennial generation and those still at school are likely to be even keener than the workforce as a whole on virtual work. The report sees challenges to the idea of the ‚traditional fixed workplace as the container for work‚ and instead predicts ‚Martini work‚ , carried out, in the words of the advertisement, ‚anytime, anyplace, anywhere‚ . With workers increasingly confident that they have ‚ or can obtain ‚ the tools to work anywhere, there will be ‚a fragmentation of the rules of office and corporate life that will be mirrored by a growth in distributed work, both through outsourcing and collaborative work-styles.‚

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