Phonebooths and Mailboxes

Mobility and technology together have created great benefits, not just for businesses, but also for their workers and the world.

01/30/2013 By Steve Delfino

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If you can find one word that would best describe the way our lives have changed over the last decade, that word would be ‘mobility.’ Our mobile devices allow us to go anywhere, do anything and always—always—stay connected. Nowhere is this more significant than in the workplace. The whole concept of an office has changed, including the way it’s used, the way it’s designed, and the way it promotes or suppresses innovation. Smart companies appreciate the change and adapt to it. They understand the benefits.

What does this change have to do with the title of my book, Phonebooths & Mailboxes? Look around you the next time you’re out on the street. Where’s the nearest mailbox? When was the last time you even saw a phonebooth? With emails, texting and online banking, there’s not much left to put in an envelope and mail. Even grandparents are walking around with cell phones, so phone booths are quickly disappearing from our landscape. If mobility is essentially turning these icons into anachronisms, is the same thing going to happen to the office? Phonebooths & Mailboxes takes a closer look at the pervasive use of mobile technology in the workplace and the effect it has on how work is organized, conducted and experienced. So does the office have its place in today’s mobile world? The resounding answer is yes!

on the move
The business world understands that mobility is here to stay, and that it may be one of the most significant changes made by technology. If you want to know how companies are reacting to this sea change, here are some amazing statistics:

  • 89 of the top 100 U.S. companies offer telecommuting as an option
  • 67 percent of all workers are using mobile and wireless devices for work
  • 58 percent of companies consider themselves as virtual workplaces1

Learning Objectives

Interiors & Sources’ Continuing Education Series articles allow design practitioners to earn continuing education unit credits through the pages of the magazine. Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this issue’s article. To receive one hour of continuing education credit (0.1 CEU) as approved by IDCEC, read the article and click here and follow the instructions.

After reading this article, you should be able to:

  • Identify the emergence of technology in the office
  • Discuss the trend of technology and why it will continue to increase
  • List the reasons why mobility is an important business tool
  • Explain the balance between meeting the needs of mobility and creating a robust collaborative office setting
  • Name the four types of worker styles prevalent today
  • Discuss the approach of several leading companies on mobility and technology in the office
And this trend is only going to grow. Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at the London Business School, talks of how work will evolve. “By 2025,” she says, “we can expect more than five billion people will be connected by mobile devices, the internet cloud will deliver low-cost computing services … and self-created content will … create an unprecedented amount of information in the world knowledge net.”2

So why would businesses necessarily embrace mobility? Because they know that people now “work” wherever they are, turning the world into an office. Mobility changes how, when, where and with whom we work. Mobility expands the talent pool to include anyone anywhere with access to Wi-Fi. Mobility opens up opportunities for businesses and workers alike.

moving in the right direction
Mobility and technology together have created great benefits, not just for businesses, but also for their workers and the world.

SPACE: A telecommuting worker (or as we’ll call them throughout this article: teleworkers, mobile workers or distributed workers) who is in the office only 50 percent of the time doesn’t need a designated space to work, but rather, a well-designed space that can be shared by a number of mobile workers as they come in and out of the office. This then frees up office space that can be used for public spaces like break rooms, lounges and central halls, where other workers can “collide” and interact. Instead of designing offices for individuals, we’ve simply started designing offices for groups.

PRODUCTIVITY: Workers are more productive when they have flexible work programs. Some of the world’s largest corporations have seen the benefits of telecommuting:

  • Best Buy, British Telecom and Dow Chemical indicate that their mobile workers are 35 to 40 percent more productive
  • Sun Microsystems’ experience suggests that employees spend 60 percent of the commuting time they save performing work for the company
  • AT&T teleworkers work five more hours a week at home than do their office counterparts
  • American Express teleworkers out-produce the office workers by 43 percent3

The reality is that the flexibility afforded by mobility turns out to extend the workday from 8 to 12 hours. That’s because mobile workers have the freedom to work when they’re most effective, whether that’s 8 in the morning or 11 at night. And since they tend to keep their mobile devices close at hand, there’s really not much downtime.

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