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Why we need to combine both the physical and virtual workplace

Over the years, the impact of digital transformation has changed both the workplace itself and the way we workA shift has taken place from a physical workplace to a virtual environmentIn this blog post we look at why both the virtual workplace and the physical workplace are important to create the best possible work experience. 


From the physical workplace to the virtual workplace 
When I go back in time twenty years, my working life was completely different from what it is today. Back then, to be able to work, I had to go to my office. Because there, my PC was stationed at a fixed office desk. I did not have a mobile phone, which meant that I was never available on the road or at home. Hence, nearly all work was done in the office. 

Fortunately, technology has gotten better. Mobile phones became smartphones. The Cloud made it possible to start sharing and working in the same files. Always and everywhere. However, when it comes to collaboration, the real turning point for me was video conferencing. Video makes collaboration so much easier, more effective and more efficient. Even if you work from home. Research shows that meetings that take place with video support are 15 minutes shorter than meetings that take place solely in audio. The main reason for this is that body language plays an important role in effective communication. When this part is missing, and it is therefore not possible to see one another, for example, an important part of the message might be missed, making it harder to determine if someone shares your opinion or not. 

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The role of the physical workplace
With the convenience of video conferencing, the virtual workplace becomes a reality. Does that make the physical workplace obsolete? Why go to the office when it is just as easy to work at home or in another preferred location? Where it is sometimes difficult to find an available workplace in the office, an online meeting room is always available wherever you are. You only need a browser.

Yet, that statement is too bold. The physical workplace most certainly still has value. For me, the office is increasingly a place for social contact. While I am very productive when working from home, I really would not want to do so every day. I just need some background noise and to engage with people around me. Think of the quick conversations at the coffee machine or the conversations and jokes during lunch. While video conferencing meetings make it seem like you are in the same room, it does not outweigh the spontaneity when working at the office. This is essential for building long-term relationships, to be truly connected to one’s colleagues and to feel part of the company. Even if I was self-employed, I would be working in shared collaborative spaces to make sure I have people around me to engage with.  

Apart from the social argument, there is also a technological perspective. In some cases, you need a well-equipped office meeting room because your home office does not always provide the optimal solution. For some meetings, it is more convenient if you are able to use a larger screen or even two screens if you want to see both your colleagues and the documents that are being discussed. 

Both the social and the technological perspective make me believe that the physical workplace will never disappear. The virtual workplace and physical workplace go hand in hand. 

As IDC puts it in its InfoBrief: "The physical workplace is a place for social contact and working in the office should only take place when required by the nature of activities." With a good mix of meeting rooms, huddle rooms, concentration rooms, but also social areas, you offer the best possible work experience. 

Download IDC infobrief

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