Fading shardThe question of how we work in a digital world is occupying me quite a lot at the moment. Prompted in part by my involvement with the project to deliver technology good enough for work, I wrote a post here a few weeks back on whether offices are redundant, with a couple of follow up posts linking to others’ thoughts on the subject. From a central government perspective, that’s all also an aspect of the TW3 initiative – the way we work. All of that is feeling to me like the context for a potentially interesting conversation at UK Govcamp tomorrow – and the point of this post is just to bring some material together which might be useful background for a discussion. I have included a few links below which happen to have caught my eye – I haven’t made any attempt to be systematic in looking at what’s out there. But even with this semi-random approach, a few question tend to come out (often implicitly) from several different directions.

Do we need offices?

There are few who argue for total abolition, but there are some who argue that the last thing they should be used for is working. On that view they are about corporate projection more than anything else – and anybody who does somehow end up doing other kinds of work should behave as if they were working remotely anyway

To the extent that we do need offices, what do we need them for?

Bringing people together is the obvious answer, but there is an overlap here with a very different agenda of space efficiency and the spectre of open plan working.  There are some very strong reactions against that – but equally strong arguments that done right it can generate better work as well as better space

How do we balance different needs?

Working from home is great, if you have a home where you can readily work. Working in a coffee shop is cool, if distractions do not overwhelm concentration. That doesn’t make the single organisational office building the only alternative – being imaginative about where and how space is used could transform working patterns, but would take more work to set up than making finding a place to work the responsibility of each individual.

How do we ensure that the technology helps?

It’s one thing – and an essential thing – to update and enhance what we have got. It’s another thing to think about where the discontinuities might be both from the demands of new ways of working and the technology developments which may create radically different possibilities.

What are the implications of all that for the work we do?

Sitting at home, or even sitting in a coffee shop, doesn’t change the fundamental nature of the work. If we are interacting with the same people, taking account of the same opinions, we remain in a conceptual office block even if we have escaped from an actual one. In a world (and as it happens on a day) when ideas such as open policy making are becoming more central, to miss the wider opportunities of more flexible working would be to miss something fundamental.

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