Distributed workplaces – a new way of doing business

The nature of traditional workplaces is changing, and quickly. Where once upon a time, workplaces were defined by their physical premises, today they are more defined by technology platforms than bricks and mortar.

Hot desks, working hubs, remote log in, mobile devices, cloud computing and paperless offices are just some of the things making it possible for workplaces to exist anywhere at any time. The possibilities which flow from this for business are enormous. No longer do we need significant amounts of expensive city space to run a large organisation. Seats can be shared, staff can work from home and low-cost offshore workers can be engaged virtually.

In addition, video conferencing, an array of online collaboration tools and high-speed internet are making virtual collaboration easier and more accessible than ever. Where only five years ago working remotely often involved slow connection speeds, frequent drop-outs, and expensive technology solutions now cloud-based computing systems and high-speed connections are making the quality of the virtual working experience often as good as the real one.

As the flexibility of working arrangements increases, so too does the range of contracting arrangements being explored with staff. No longer are staff just employed to work full time. Whether it be working part time on an hourly rate, being paid on some measure of output or even being engaged as a non-exclusive specialist (who may also even do work for competitors) the range of staffing options are really only limited by one’s imagination.

So what does all of this mean for the quality of professional services on offer?

Interestingly, when properly embraced, these changes can significantly improve both the speed and efficiency with which work is done without compromising quality. This can result in reduced cost to clients and better overall outcomes.

Many new start-up businesses are fully embracing the opportunities which flow from a distributed workforce. Some are setting up with very small or even no central office and are performing nearly all of their services through distributed workplaces bound together by a central shared technology platform.

As we become more accustomed to working this way, the potential to also tap into the significant cost savings that flow from the use of offshore labour becomes more accessible. Consider that a staff member working for you in the Philippines is likely to cost less than one fifth of a comparative staff member in Australia but be as good and you can start to understand where the future possibilities lie.

The workplace as we know it is changing quickly and those professional service firms that choose to embrace and take advantage of it will benefit and prosper. Those firms who don’t may find that they have a dwindling number of clients to provide their services to.

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