Why truly virtual workplaces will become a reality

As you jump from Google Docs to Dropbox to Slack you’re using new tools to do the same work. But what if a truly virtual workplace could digitise interactions, put everyone literally on the same page and revolutionise every step of a project from conception to completion?

Virtual collaboration has the potential to help us work faster, smarter, more strategically and more transparently than ever before. Opening up the virtual workplace for all has impacts in terms of productivity, innovation and problem-solving. Today, over 41 million employees will spend at least one day a week engaged in virtual working.

The advantages of the virtual workplace

Any organisation that wants to reduce costs and increase productivity is looking seriously at the virtual workplace. By engineering spaces that encourage open-ended creativity and collaboration, an organisation can create an always available virtual office that promotes innovative and more democratic ways of working that drive employee engagement and retention.

But sometimes it seems as if new tools and technologies are only encouraging us to improve the ways we work, rather than to become more productive and creative in the work we do. Moving the office to the cloud won’t fundamentally change the way we work – yet. But the advantages of reducing the real-world footprint by exchanging functional work for conceptual work is already happening and it has some real implications for facilities management.

Rethinking space

Knowledge working is the fastest growing sector in the 21st-century workplace and it’s forcing businesses to totally rethink their concept of space. That, in turn, has an impact on facilities management, making workplace planning more fluid and dynamic.

Because the virtual workplace allows for the seamless exchange of knowledge between employees, stakeholders and customers, FM should focus on re-engineering existing office spaces to follow suit.

Integrating technology and services

The virtual workforce is already here, characterised by their mobility and an anytime, anywhere approach to doing business. As the virtual workplace takes hold, facilities management will be required to provide totally reliable and consistent connectivity for a diverse range of devices. This will be powered by collaborative software and backed up with highly responsive support services including space reservation services and concierge systems.

Reconceptualising the office

Truly virtual workplaces are already becoming a reality, boosting production and saving valuable time in the delivery of project work. However, virtual workers still rely on real-world office space to accomplish certain specific tasks and that’s where real estate can be found wanting.

Successful bricks and mortar offices combine open and closed spaces, group and individual, unassigned and private. Getting the right balance is critical to translate the productivity gains of virtual collaboration into the real-world workplace.

Forward-thinking

The challenge for FM providers is to remain forward-facing in the way in which they manage the demands and needs of virtual workers. New competencies will be required alongside new ways of thinking about space. By managing the evolution of work and the virtual workplace successfully, facilities management can help to integrate virtual and real-world employees, reduce overhead costs and minimise the environmental impact of traditional styles of working and commuting.

The process has already begun and forward-thinking FM managers will be at the forefront of a change that will alter the workplace forever.