When work does not need an office

When work does not need an office

Thursday, 21 december 2017 | Brenda Rodríguez López

Arriving late at work, waking up every day at the same time, avoiding traffic jams in the morning, signing up before starting or counting the remaining minutes to finish the workday. Maybe all this is not necessary anymore. What today is a routine, tomorrow could be a thing of the past. The Digital Transformation and the lifestyle of the new worker generations seem to push towards the adoption of a more flexible and independent work modality where  professionals do not need to come to the office to perform their professions. Will Spanish companies end up assimilating this alternative? Will workers prefer to keep a conventional model?Or, will they choose to work in a remote way? Will teleworking be an option with future in our country?


The current work model is in a stage of complete transformation. It is increasingly common that professionals perform functions from distance, without going everyday to the office, teams work on projects by objectives, without schedules or calendars, or meetings are carried out via Skype or Facetime, without the need to shake hands. Experts in Sociology and professionals in the field of Human Resources use new terminologies to try to explain the changes that are taking place in the labor world: economy gig, "knowmad" phenomenon, micro-specialization, hyperconnectivity, digital nomads, smart working, Digital Transformation,... All these concepts are part of the prologue of a more independent, specialized, digitized and flexible work future. In this changing environment, remote work promises to become an usual modality.

Spain is different!

The consultant Hudson indicates that in USA half of the new workers will not have a conventional labor contract, but they will be autonomous professionals or part of a community that will work by projects. This trend towards independent work is also noticed in the Spanish labor market, which is increasingly oriented to freelance professionals and short contracts. The labor emancipation contributes to teleworking  getting followers outside our borders, but, in Spain this modality does not finish penetrating with so much force. At least, that is what the report of What Workers Want carried out by the Spanish Association of Offices and Savills concludes, together with Espacio Aretha, Experis, Merlin Properties and Steelcase, which reveals that only one in five Spaniards would be willing to work remotely.

Like that slogan that ended up becoming a distinguishing mark said: "Spain is different!". According to the mentioned study, 80% of Spanish professionals may not be persuaded by the arguments about the advantages that teleworking can bring to their lives. It is also true that there are different opinions between distinct generations. Baby boomers, for example, are the most reluctant to remote working, only 5% would be willing to do it. Their main motivation to go to work is collaborating with their co-workers. On the other side, 35% of millennials claim that they only go to work because they cannot work from their homes. It is likely that this is an indicator of where this change process that work experiences is going, given that it is estimated that by the year 2025 the members of this generation will mean 75% of the world workforce.

Work from home, or any other place that is not the company's building, becomes something more and more common, although, for the moment, only 27% of national companies offer this possibility. Among the factors that could back out firms there is the lack of regulation on this type of work, the difficulty on transmitting values and building a team from distance, or the fear of losing control over the employees' working day. However, teleworking can also reduce costs per worker, increase productivity, strengthen the commitment of these professionals with the organization and attract talent.

When work does not need an office

Bye presenteeism! Hello smart working!

The in-person culture is still very present in the current Spanish labor market but, this presenteeism trend gently weakens facing the unstoppable technological progress. The digitization of some functions has simplified the performance of many tasks. It is becoming less and less essential to go to the office to work. Professionals can work from home without losing quality on their performance. In fact, many experts suggest that their efficiency could even increase when working in a remote way. Teleworking is not only becoming a real alternative, but it has given way to a new and more evolved work model: the smart working.

Although teleworking and smart working may seem similar, they are not names for the same concept. While the remote working has certain limitations or barriers related to adapt an "office" work to a different space –like the Small Office, Home Office–, in smart working, the autonomy and performance of the worker is total. Thanks to technology and, in large part, to a good Internet connection, professionals have at their fingertips all the necessary tools to be effective and get good results anywhere; in a hotel, a coffee shop, an airport or a park. They can even use idle times, like the time waiting for the train to arrive.

These models of work outside the office allow a better conciliation between personal and work life, flexibility when establishing schedules, leaving out physical barriers, the reduction of travel costs and stress caused by these –they are even more ecological, they do not pollute–, geographic freedom, greater autonomy, increase of productivity thanks to work by objectives and, even, favoring the inclusion of groups with functional diversity. When making the decision to work in a remote way, you also have to weigh the possible disadvantages: disconnecting can be difficult,  professionals can feel separated from the team, it is solitary work, requires a lot of discipline and can be an obstacle to achieving a promotion.

Whether in an office, a cafeteria or a deserted island, you can always follow the premise of  Theodore Roosevelt: << Do what you can, with what you have, where you are >>.

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