We are witness to how digital is questioning the validity of traditional methods of working and turning them on their head. One of the most visible effects of this is the way in which work spaces and even the very idea of the workplace are being redefined. The principles of geographical and temporal unity are being gradually eroded with the advent of new digital applications and technology that enable us to stay connected wherever we are, whatever the hour, and interact with people without having to be physically present.
It follows, then, that teleworking and digital nomadism are now opportunities that are open to everyone. This is the product of a thought process which a number of companies (Orange included) entered into several years ago. They were required to equip and train their employees (laptops, smartphones, etc.), redefine methods of working and management (relying less on oversight and more on collaboration), review their organisational principles and familiarise their employees with technology, new practices and rules of good conduct, as well as with new risks such as: cognitive overload, attention management, work/life imbalance, data security, and many more…
Nevertheless, despite 65% of employees reporting themselves to be more productive when working remotely, the majority also point out the need for a connection to the company and physical interaction with colleagues in the workplace. Indeed, remote working relationships are often viewed as less spontaneous and liable to produce more rigid, less fulfilling exchanges when compared to face-to-face interaction. For this reason, teleworking is rarely a full-time option. Instead it is designed for specific times such as a number of days per week or otherwise takes a more flexible form as and when required.
The normalisation of distance work brings with it considerations in terms of the way in which work spaces are organised. They are no longer necessarily dedicated to one team or activity and ought to promote collective work, smooth exchanges and collaboration, while also adapting themselves to suit organisations that are more flexible and increasingly frequently characterised by time-defined projects as opposed to a rigid management hierarchy.
The start-ups and co-working spaces that have developed over the course of the last 10 years provide a source of inspiration and examples of good practice for large companies. We are seeing increasing numbers of these new experimental spaces that include co-working and GAFA-inspired modular spaces as well as call centres designed to promote information exchange, best practice sharing and quality of experience. By removing barriers and mixing teams, encouraging collaboration between far away sites and creating a dedicated space for testing out new equipment and devices, the company aims to foster the development of collective skills and improve the employee experience with a view to optimising customer experience.
With the arrival of digital technologies, companies are increasingly open to outside influences and are beginning to implement virtual and/or physical spaces that enable collaboration between internal and external persons with varying degrees of structure and regulation. Our idea of the work space is undergoing rapid change, highlighting the issue of the collective in a world where digital is giving rise to increasingly individual activities.