DATE: 04/04/2016

Yes, I’ll have a venti-half-caff-soy latte please.

Those drink orders keep getting longer, don’t they? For many of the 40 percent of Americans who work remotely on a full-time basis, coffee-shop style amenities have become an expectation.

According to Gallup’s 2015 “State of the American Workplace” report, 15 percent of full-time workers never set foot in the office. Thanks to recent technology – smartphones, enterprise messaging collaborative software – telecommuting is now easier than ever before.

Although San Antonio has been historically slow to embrace remote work, employers are increasingly warming up to the idea of flexible work options. And as more workers continue to gain autonomy on a national scale, a bold question is emerging:

Why should we go into the office at all?

Furniture manufacturer Steelcase is seeking to answer that question with modern office design. And part of its campaign is asking employers to shift the way they view the purpose of the workspace.

“If you are expecting people to commute every morning to get to a specific place, there has to be some payoff,” said Steelcase CEO Jim Keane to Wired Magazine.“ It has to be the best place they can work. However, if their dining room is better than the office you provide, then they should stay at home. And you should save even more money on real estate.”

But hip decor isn’t the only draw toward coffee shops. The promise of work sans interruptions is just as attractive. Office workers are distracted once every three minutes, according to research from the University of California. Additionally, it can take up to 23 minutes to regain "flow,” after being interrupted. The cause of such disruptions?

Incoming emails, text messages and phone calls; the overheard conversations of coworkers in the distance and the literal interruptions from colleagues who want to ask a question. It’s enough to make anyone want to book a permanent table at Starbucks.

Of course, the rush of many companies to embrace more modern, collaborative workspaces without considering such elements hasn’t helped “the exodus”. But Steelcase insists – we can merge the relaxing elements of remote work locations with the collaborative benefits of open office designs.

The Solution: Flexible, Modern Office Designs

In 2009, the company renovated its headquarters to create WorkCafe, an experimental, open workspace made up of tables, lounge chairs and a library zone. Besides featuring an plethora of power options, the space featured several sequestered, individual spaces for more intimate conversations.

After observing how staff used the space over time, Steelcase was able to add more of “what worked” and take away what didn’t. What we’ve learned after talking with many business owners is that there’s a huge misunderstanding of what collaboration really is.

Many incorrectly assume collaboration entails a group of individuals working in close proximity from the beginning to the end of a workday. The reality?

Some of your most creative employees will need to go away to think on their own, before coming back and sharing ideas with others. And some complex tasks simply require privacy, solitude and individual work.

Thus, a truly collaborative office will provide modern office designs that allow employees to carve out “their own spot” (as if they were in a coffee shop). Further, privacy enclaves, quiet zones and collaborative communication policies can all work in conjunction to create an office environment employees actually want to drive to work for.

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