Goodbye ‘Out of Office’
Out of necessity
As a principle, Out of Office [OOO] seems fairly logical and necessary, however its use and context reflects a period that appears to be rapidly fading away.
From its inception it has been a means to solidify the barriers of the office, 4 walls which traditionally have been the only portal to productivity. As such, when you weren’t there, you would notify others of your availability – simple. However, this entire construct has been undermined by both access to modern technology and the mind-set that has followed.
With products like Office 365, Google Apps and many more, you are now able to easily work from wherever you have access to internet. With developments in mobile technology such as smartphones, this now translates as everywhere.
What does this imply? Now when you send an OOO, you are probably not saying ‘I don’t have access to what you need’, you are most likely saying ‘I do – but I will not be helping you right now’. This has nothing to do with the office, but your state of mind.
Why is this important?
At RedPixie we believe that a company’s staff is the real key to how well the organisation will do and the pace they move at. With a view to increase input, research has shown that telecommuters work between 5 and 7 total hours more per week than non-telecommuters*. This is incredible because, while there is a stigma that home workers reduce their input, the facts show that the contrary is true, resulting in huge benefits to organisations.
The movement to telecommuting
With increasing travel costs, the need to deal with other obligations combined with access to equally good technology has enabled many more people to work from home. While the term, ‘telecommuting’ isn’t exactly new [coined in 1973], it is a term that perfectly aligns itself with the current model of society.
Make no mistake, this trend is not merely about a few rebellious employees. **More than 34 million US adults now telecommute on occasion, and this number continues to rise as the dogmas of previous mentalities fade away.
What has changed?
While it is hard to pinpoint one deciding factor, there are a few significant advances that have contributed to this change in habits – broadband, tools and growing managed experience.
Broadband: In the current age of communication, widespread access to quality internet has given us far greater agility. It has enabled people to work where they see fit, whether that be at home, in Starbucks or any other number of locations. This approach has created waves of mobile workers, with each new generation more comfortable with the idea than the last.
Tools: We are fortunately no longer in the era of the office typewriter – people are now buying equally great home PCs, and with the price of laptops and tablets decreasing, we now have more personal devices than ever before.
Growing managed experience: It has taken some providers longer than others, but there has been a concerted effort to ensure that software works well across all devices. This means that I can access our CRM [customer relationships manager] from wherever.
All of these factors, when considered together, serve to devalue the importance of an office, and by extension – an out of office. At its core, OOO has been redefined because of the capability to find and have access to one’s office applications from everywhere.
What does this mean?
As innovation removes pre-defined ideas about work locations, people now have the opportunity to work whenever. They are able to think about what works best for them; whether that be 9–5, 5–9, or flexi-time.
Make no mistake, the office is not going anywhere. It brings people together, fosters an environment for great collaboration and it can help enforce a culture – but it is not the be all and end all.
What will happen?
As we move to a point where mobility is even more prevalent, we will see people at a company as a means to increase output rather than a cog in a mechanical, industrialised mind-set.
Figures show that the US telecommuting ranks will swell to 63 million by 2016** – an incredible demonstration of the way society is moving. These people will be in the office less and less, they will undermine the construct, and in doing so, could be a lot more productive for it.
So… With all the changes to the way society has viewed work, OOO seems to have been left in the pile of past practices, and as we move into the future, there will be new, more appropriate means to tell people that you are on the beach in Marbella!
We would love to hear your thoughts on the changes to “OOO”, comment below!