Video conferencing has helped set the U.S. workforce in motion.
The ability to bring people face-to-face over any distance the internet can cover has meant employees can maintain human contact with their employers and colleagues without having to share a physical space.
That human element, and the clarity of communication it brings, has seen the remote, or at least mobile, workforce swell in numbers to the point that it may soon become the dominant form of work in the country.
There are predictions that mobile workers could account for almost 75% of the total workforce by 2020.
But a workforce that large needs to mature beyond the compromised home office and the temporary shelters of BYOD meetings in cafes and in transit.
It could be that the workforce in motion needs to find a professional place to stop and work.
Live Locally, Work Globally
That’s not to say that now we have the power to work from anywhere we should chain ourselves back to the company office.
Rather, the “mobile” part of the equation should be our skills, and the “work” part of it should be a strong home base. Not a residential home, but a permanent environment where work is the priority.
That home base is already taking shape as shared office space, or coworking space.
Companies like Thrive, in Georgia, and the more fashion-conscious Neuehouse or WeWork, which operate globally, rent out private workspaces within a communal environment of remote workers, freelancers, the self-employed, and small startup teams.
At the cost of $99 a month, Thrive will give you access to all the mod cons of office life: the printers, internet access, a lounge, a tea room, and importantly, the colleagues.
Of course, none of those colleagues will be working on your project, or with your employer, but their thoughts, contacts, advice, and company are as accessible as your social skills can make them.
It’s a halfway house mentality that provides both the focus and structure of an office and the freedom of engaging your skills wherever in the world you can find a niche.
Start Your Telecommute from the Office, Not Home
We’ve written before about the advantages of working from home, especially at times of transition between work and family.
And, as it currently stands, the home remains the first choice venue for remote workers.
But it also has its drawbacks, most notably the constant opposition of the professional and the domestic.
That’s a war that is often won by the working side. And it can tilt the work/life balance too far to the punch clock aspect of life, leaving people feeling they can never get away from work.
You can solve that problem by taking up temporary residence in a shared office space–although you still have to have the discipline to put away your smartphone and laptop once the working day is done.
That word “temporary” is key. A shared space is not a commitment to a small office rent, or an investment in a bricks and mortar presence. It is just a way to get away from the home, and to move toward a professional environment.
Employment Opportunities Disconnected from Location
Video conferencing is not intended to recreate the office environment, and attempts to use it to build social bonds between remote employees don’t always work. Instead, video conferencing humanizes the otherwise faceless long distance communication of email, phone calls, and document exchange.
While working in a shared space near your own home is not going to help you become chums with your remote colleagues, it will at least put among fellow professionals and give you back that incidental, idle human contact you’ll miss tucked away in the spare room at home.
The success of shared workplace companies like Thrive and WeWork, and the increase in remote workers makes all kinds of shared workspaces possible. Could an arrangement of professionally disconnected but vocational linked workers become the modern way to organize a workforce, and a community? Could we have floors or buildings marketed to specific types of employees? A floor for coders to connect and trade tips, a floor for freelance writers to network, a floor for graphic designers to laugh together about their clients’ demands…
Could we one day be offered such a bounty of such shared office spaces, that we choose where to live based solely on the environment, the amenities, and social and family considerations rather than job location?
The ever-rising mobile workforce powered by video conferencing could one day make any town as bountiful a job market as New York City.
The workforce may be in motion, but it could soon find a permanent place to stand.