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This week’s Expansión column: time to rethink corporate environments

Enrique Dans
Nov 23, 2013 · 3 min read

My column this week in Expansión, Spain’s leading financial daily, is about corporate environments and how they influence technology, and is called “Rethinking the company”. I’m talking here about companies where the right resources are applied to creating a comfortable place to work, usually downtown, with unassigned work places (hoteling or hot-desking), designed to encourage social interaction, and that offers the workforce shared areas that can be reserved for meetings or tasks that require a certain degree of privacy.

Such would be the logical reflection of a technological environment that would increasingly allow for work to be seen as an activity, not a place, and that would cease counting the number of hours that a worker spends at his or her desk, while borrowing many principles from coworking spaces. I work on the cloud, complemented by methodologies that incorporate meetings using technologies such as Google Hangouts, Skype, or Cisco Telepresence, along with shared working areas equipped with the necessary infrastructure but oriented toward maximizing interaction and exchange.

From the moment that work can be carried out anywhere, we need to rethink our spaces to optimize the fact that each of us can be where we really want to be, based on our needs or preferences at the time, and where the main reason for physically being at the company is convenience or for social interaction.

Here’s the full text :


Rethinking the company

How many people in your company work with skills and knowledge that are head-based? The number of so-called knowledge workers is multiplying all the time, and while a lot of jobs in services and industry still consist of physical operations, the balance has been shifting steadily since the Industrial Revolution, and is speeding up as automation and robotization spreads.

Technology redefines all environments, and the corporate environment is no exception. It is no longer sustainable to think about work as we did a decade ago. Independence of movement, and permanently connected: with every day, conditioning the workforce to be in a specific place only makes sense if one is trying to create a social return on that proximity. Meetings? The most productive and pleasant that I have attended recently took place around a shared document, or via Skype, or in a Google Hangout.

We need to rethink the corporate environment, and start using areas for open collaboration to maximize interaction; offices need to be located in attractive parts of the city, able to maximize the physical space, with multiple screens and with infrastructure available for meetings and activities that require privacy; all benefits for the workforce that are unimaginable in the context of a traditional company.

In return for flexible working conditions, we must accept near-permanent availability: a message or email can require our attention at just about any hour. This is a change that requires a break with collective agreements or rigid structures, but that many workers prefer and are prepared to accept. If this transition is done well, it can generate not only more-productive environments, but also ones that are more enriching, creative, and human.

Businesses are going to undergo significant change, and the way that they implement change will affect their ability to attract and maximize talent. Time to rethink corporate environments.

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

    Enrique Dans

    Written by

    Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

    Enrique Dans

    On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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