Many employees have embraced the chance to work outside the office environment, and it’s a change heading in only one direction.
COVID-19 pandemic aside, the headline-grabbing news story of 2020 has been the shift to working from home (necessitated by the virus, of course).
While many favour continuing their WFH arrangements post-pandemic, such a change will not be without pain, for some at least.
There are those of us who simply lack the physical space in our homes to set up a permanent workspace, while some of our colleagues crave the type of personal interaction WFH fails to deliver.
Some find it difficult to deal with unannounced and unwanted visitors, while others find the struggle of working alongside a partner and one or two young children too much of a challenge.
More disturbingly, an increased incidence of domestic violence has made us acutely aware that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a safe WFH environment.
With mixed results emerging from the most comprehensive remote-working experiment of all time, managers are wondering what the ‘new normal’ will look like in terms of the workplaces of the future.
It is fair to say that COVID-19 and our WFH experiences have cast a spotlight on our general dissatisfaction with the daily workplace grind.
Yes, some of us will persist with WFH while others will continue to stomach the daily commute to the office; and there are those of us who might end up doing a spot of both.
But look out for the new kid on the block when it comes to remote working and flexible workspaces that is set to disrupt office life as we know it: workspaces on demand.
In the modern era, nearly everything is ‘on demand’, including television, music and food, so why not workspaces?
An on-demand workspace breaks free from a fixed working area (home or office) and makes an individual the architect of his or her own workspace.
This dynamic approach gets an individual out of the lounge room, away from the kitchen table and into underutilised venues in the broader business community.
One such on-demand model, Dayuse.com, involves hotels offering vacant rooms on a daily basis as micro-stays and as an alternative to heading into the office or WFH.
However, an on-demand workspace goes way beyond the day use of your choice of hotel suite. It involves individuals working at a diverse range of physical locations, for example a museum, boardroom, cafe, vineyard, distillery, children’s indoor playground or even a farm.
In designing an on-demand workspace experience, key considerations might include factors such as the type of work to be undertaken, whether you need to meet others, travel time, the equipment and resources available on site and, importantly, whether the venue has COVID-19 precautions in place.
Other considerations might include availability of refreshments like barista-made coffee, child friendliness, proximity of parking or access to public transport, privacy requirements, access to free WiFi and temporary storage facilities.
Melbourne business Dorpee delivers an on-demand workspace-sharing platform that connects workers looking for flexible work locations with venues that have underutilised space. There are plans to launch in Western Australia by the end of the year.
Using purchased credits, those seeking to get away from the office or WFH hire surplus space offered up by businesses for as little as 30 minutes at a time.
After buying credits, an individual might spend the morning at a local co-working centre to write up a report before moving to a more suitable workspace to meet clients, such as a conveniently located winery.
The number of credits required varies according to the length of stay and exactly what is on offer.
On-demand workspaces, utilised alongside WFH and more traditional offices, will allow every employee to work in an environment that best suits their needs.
By ensuring an individual can move from one type of space to another according to the type of activity to be undertaken, such dynamic workspaces are thought to bring out the best in employees by inspiring creativity and innovative thinking, building morale and engagement, and fuelling productivity.
And while critics of dynamic workspaces claim many bosses will never be able to get their heads around this type of approach, advocates point to the fact that, 12 months ago, the widespread adoption of WFH was a no-go zone.
As many of us vacate our traditional offices and flee from unsatisfactory WFH arrangements – at least for part of our working days – on-demand workspaces could well fill a large void.
Professor Gary Martin is chief executive officer at the Australian Institute of Management WA