Is Being “Out of Office” Your Job?

“Out of Office” – probably the most common auto reply in the world, so popular there are even tutorials on how to write one. But times are changing and the term is gradually losing its meaning. From telling people that you would not be working, Out of Office is becoming where more and more work really happens. To many, work is no longer a place you go but a thing you do. Like Podio user Todd Vachon put it recently:

“The [Podio] mobile apps help us communicate on the go without having to wait until everyone is physically present to discuss the finer points.”

Todd is not alone. We hear similar stories when talking to you, everyday. Sometimes you call it working-on-the-go, telecommuting, remote working, workshifting, or mobile workstyles, but one thing is certain, a lot of work happens outside the office.

Work like Richard Branson?

“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will,” – Virgin Group Founder, Richard Branson.

Few of us have working lives similar to Richard Branson’s, but there are many professions where being out of the office is your job. And, although his quote was in response to some companies moving away from remote workforces we get the feeling that the world is moving towards more flexible work styles, not away from it.

Not only black and white – not only Home vs. Office

The debate that has erupted in recent weeks around how and where we should work is important. How do we ensure that we can attract and retain the most talented people, that those people and motivated, productive, and innovative, and that a company vision and culture is shared by everyone?

This is not black and white – it’s about providing the flexibility to have work evolve in the most efficient and satisfying way for employees, it’s about moving work to the optimum time and place, and if we only look at the Home vs. Office argument, we fail to see how the concept of the office itself is also changing.

Everyday, over a third of people using Podio’s mobile apps use these apps for the same or more time as Podio on the web.

For example, the sales team at Danish brewery, Nørrebro Bryghus, now spend half a day less in their physical office each week because they have Podio on their Android phones – to them their real office is being out meeting clients and bringing in new business.

As for bricks and mortar, I recently talked to Ryan Anderson, Dir of Future Technology at Herman Miller, who was giving a talk at Techonomy. He explained how companies are now reconsidering their real estate investments as each office they own is now “at least in theory in competition with any other place where somebody might want to go do work” due to the rise of mobility and cloud. For an office space to truly deliver ROI it must prove to be the best place to facilitate a particular type of work.

Where do you work?

While big companies like Google or Facebook are known for their efforts to make their work campuses and offices great places, I am more curious to hear about the places you work from. Where is the place you feel most productive? Where do you spend most of your working time? In which situations do you work on-the-go? If you’re in one of the many innovative agencies using Podio, you might spend a lot of your work time with your clients, so maybe your office is your clients’ office?

How do you get the optimal mix of productivity alone and the benefits of interactions, spontaneous chats, and ideation? Professor Sullivan from San Francisco State University points out that productivity is likely to be higher if working from your home but “if you want innovation, then you need interaction”.

For me personally, it makes me proud to see that people seem to have found a solution in Podio. For example Marlene Eick from LiveStockPromotions writes: “We work with multiple staff members in various locations throughout the country and rarely have in-person meetings. Podio enables our staff to collaborate in a way that mimics the social interactions that are gained from working in the same physical office.”

So, what’s your “office” or is “Out of Office” your job?