It’s no secret that the concept of a traditional office as we know it is shifting. Perhaps the biggest change is the lack of need for any physical office space at all. Though many companies still swear by the benefits of brick-and-mortar workspaces, the modern workforce is experiencing a location independence revolution, and I, for one, am all for it.
Here are four reasons why I predict “no workplace” will become the new office environment of our time:
Virtual Offices are a Business Reality
The days of expensive video streaming equipment and fixed ISDN lines are long gone. Now, a laptop with a Wi-Fi connection serves as my bona fide virtual office. Video conferencing tools like Skype and Google Hangouts are not only replacements for expensive video streaming equipment, but are now so good they serve as substitutes for real physical meetings for my business.
But what about having a mailing address and receiving packages? Mail scanning and virtual mail services like Red Dot Mail and PO Boxes that will forward your mail to a specific location obliterate the need for this as well. You can read mail online and direct packages for shipment anywhere in the world. My dream of a paperless office is finally a reality.
The list of digital resources goes on of course, and you may be surprised how many tools are available to create your custom virtual workspace.
Decline of the 9-5
Gone are the days when work and personal life were completely separate, and that’s especially true in a location-independent work environment. What matters most for my business is that the job gets done, and employees give it their all.
Most of my staff are willing to make the sacrifice if it means greater overall flexibility, and they’re not the only ones. Take, for example, entrepreneurs who travel the world using daylight hours to explore destinations, and shifting work hours to the evening.
Rise of Coworking Spaces
If you are looking to take advantage of telecommuting, don’t look past coworking spaces. As central offices give way, professionals will still occasionally seek out collaborative working environments.
I’m a member of Betacowork in Brussels. Though coworking spaces are not free, they’re often much cheaper than traditional office spaces, and can be worth their weight in gold in terms of opportunities to find partners, future employees and even customers.
To make the experience more seamless, many co-working spaces honor the Co-Working Visa, a program that lets entrepreneurs stop in at other spaces around the world for free.
Decreased Costs of Doing Business
Outfitting a fully functional office does not come cheap. Rent, utilities, furniture, office technology — all of this often has a hefty price tag. When your team members are responsible for developing their own workspace, your business saves money.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: your business also can save money with higher retention rates and fewer sick days. When my staff is happy and healthy, they’re more productive. It’s a win-win.
In order for the concept of a truly location-independent office to fully take effect, entrepreneurs will have to become more familiar with managing a remote workforce, which starts with having a team of self-starters you can trust. In addition, online tools become a crucial component of management, especially for communication and project tracking.
In my experience, some teams perform better in a remote work environment than others. Taking the time to get communication right, be clear about deadlines and expectations, and familiarize new staff with the company culture is absolutely essential for managing a remote workforce.
How quickly the location independence revolution gains traction remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: entrepreneurs need to ready themselves and, rather than view it as a burden, consider all the reasons why location independence can be a strategic advantage for your business.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Dave Boehl is a digital media entrepreneur in the online advertising space. He’s the founder and CEO at GraphicBomb, an online media publisher and performance ad network helping travel advertisers such as airlines, booking sites, hotels, and cruise lines reach consumers with high travel booking intent. Connect with @daveboehl on Twitter.