The traditional office setup is fast becoming a thing of the past. For years, business leaders thought that small cubicles reduced distractions and helped people focus and improve their work. More recent studies into working practices have found that this rigid working style doesn’t always produce the best results and some employees are better suited to a more relaxed and flexible office space.

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You’ve probably seen the result of this new research in the form of the co-working office spaces that a lot of tech companies are building these days. Some of these spaces include ping pong tables and sleep pods everywhere, adaptable work spaces that suit anybody’s working methods, and flexible working hours for employees.

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The majority of companies haven’t adopted this radical new office style yet and a large number of business leaders still stick by the traditional methods. They think that flexibility breeds laziness and harms productivity. They argue that supplying people with leisure activities in the office is going to cause them to be distracted easily.

Whether you believe in the new, free office spaces that are gaining popularity or not, the traditional office space is still being called into question. Is it going to survive or will it quickly become obsolete?

Cost

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Cost is a huge disadvantage of the classic office model. It’s expensive to rent and run an office full time when all of your employees are there 9 to 5 every single day. What a lot of newer companies are moving toward is remote working. Some companies are even getting rid of the office entirely. Employees do a lot of their work from home because they can easily stay in touch with their colleagues and do most of the things that they would normally do in the office. The office is then seen as a base that you can use for meetings once a week, or somewhere you can come for a day or two if you fancy a change of scenery.

When you’re working in this way, you don’t need enough space to accommodate everybody at once. That means you can massively reduce the amount of space that you need to rent. You’ll also be saving money on the amount of electricity that you’re using if you’ve only got a few people in the office most of the time. It seems like a winning concept really. It’s cheaper for employees to work remotely, so will traditional office disappear soon? It’s not quite as simple as that.

One of the main problems that you’ll come up against with remote working is the response time between employees. Email and instant messengers are great, but they can easily be ignored or forgotten. However, when you walk over to an employee and ask them a question, you’ve got that information right away. The danger with having lots of employees trying to collaborate on something while they’re working from home is that things may move slowly and you may see a big dip in productivity.

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Getting rid of the costs of running an office is a main benefit of remote and flexible working. But there are other ways to reduce the amount that you spend on a work space. New technologies have made it easier to work remotely, but they’ve also helped to make the traditional office more efficient and more sustainable.

There are all sorts of ways that you can eradicate the running costs of the office for starters. Use solar hot water systems to generate free electricity and hot water instead of paying for it. New building materials are far more efficient for insulation, so energy costs are lower. You can also stop paper use entirely in the office, which will save you a substantial amount of money.

As well as streamlining costs, technology has rendered some office roles completely obsolete. That means that most companies are steadily reducing the amount of employees that they actually need in the office. In turn, they can rent a smaller place.

All of these money saving ideas mean that the cost alone won’t render the traditional office obsolete. However, it’s certainly clear that it needs to change in some way to stay relevant.

Shared Offices

The shared office is a new model that could be the future for physical office spaces. Instead of one company renting an entire floor and filling it with employees, you just have an area where people can rent a desk for a day or a week. You no longer have to pay for an entire office that you aren’t even using; you’re only paying out when your employees need a desk in an office.

With an increasing number of people working on short-term contracts as freelancers (known as the gig economy), more people are starting to turn to this new way of looking at the office space.

Another interesting thought is that a lack of housing could also have an effect on this new office model because it would free up more buildings that can be converted into living spaces while people share offices more.

Flexible Working Hours

Research is increasingly showing that the 9 to 5 working day is not effective. Younger employees are asking for flexible hours for a number of reasons. On a basic level, people work in different ways. Some people like to work the same eight hours a day, but others don’t work effectively at certain times of the day. Some people work more effectively late at night or early in the morning. Being able to have regular breaks when you need them, stops people from getting burned out. Varying the times that you work each day also stops the job from becoming mundane. Young professionals are also more focused on development and promotion opportunities. Having more flexibility gives them the chance to seek out these opportunities.

The way that job roles work is also changing because technology is taking over certain tasks. Instead of one person doing one very specific task all day, roles are increasingly made up of lots of smaller responsibilities. Having more flexibility about when and where they do all of the different aspects of their job allows employees to tailor their own working day in ways that maximize efficiency.

The main worry that employers have about this flexible working model is that people simply won’t do as much work. The idea is that if people aren’t contractually obliged to work 8 hours a day, they’ll slack off and do fewer hours, therefore being less productive as employees. However, this isn’t the case at all.

When you give people a strict routine and a rigid job role, they aren’t likely to take on extra responsibilities and push themselves to work harder. People tend to become complacent in their job. But when you give them more flexibility, they’ll be more proactive.

Strict hours are also more likely to cause stress, which is one of the biggest killers of productivity. Even though all of this research points toward flexible working hours as the best way to run your business, employers are still wary of it.

Their fears are largely unfounded as evidence shows that working fewer hours doesn’t necessarily mean doing less work overall. The four day working week is a new concept that some countries have trialed and the results look promising. Scandinavian countries like Denmark have adopted the four day working week and work around 30 hours a week, on average. The good news is that their economy has not suffered as a result.

The four day working week is better for quite a few different reasons. The first is a reduction in time wasting. Anybody that has worked in an office has been guilty of procrastinating at some point. People quickly get bored of a routine and look around for ways to distract themselves. Even though they’re there for 8 hours, they aren’t working for the entire time.

When people have less time at work, they’re conscious of the limited time they have to get everything done, so they don’t waste as much time. The same amount of work gets done and you’re no longer paying them for the time they spend doing nothing.

Having more personal time also affects your staff in a very positive way. That one extra day for themselves makes your employees far happier. Any good boss knows that happy employees are 12 percent more efficient, so you should see a big boost in productivity.

A company with happier, healthier working conditions is also more likely to retain its best employees. If you hire somebody very valuable then work them too hard, they might leave and go to one of your competitors. Treating them well and giving them the flexibility to improve your company is a far better option.

So, is the traditional office model completely obsolete? No, not in the sense that they will be gone completely. It’s still useful to have that space sometimes, but we need to have a complete overhaul in the way that we think about it. We should come to see it as a base where people can meet and work when it suits them, but they also need the freedom to work outside of those confines when their job and livelihood demand it.

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