I have a colleague who does not have an office. He is an an edtech leadership role in higher education, with over 20 years of experience managing a large and complex organization. During the time in which I have known this edtech leader he has had a couple of different offices throughout his campus, as his responsibilities are distributed across a number of units.
Nowadays he has no office. Rather, his office is wherever he happens to be. A laptop, a cell phone, a webcam, and a headset are all he needs to be productive.
This "no office" situation was intended to be temporary, the result of some re-org or role change or another. When it came time to move into his next office, this edtech leader declined.
Turns out, being "officeless" has many advantages.
I am not arguing that all of us should give up our offices. One example of one person who makes being officeless work does not mean that we should all follow his lead.
I do think that we need to re-conceive how we design our workplaces in the future, to include more hotelling spaces (first-come-first serve daily temp offices for anyone), and freely available collaboration and conference spaces.
Some university jobs require closed office spaces. Faculty (from adjunct to full-professor), all need their own offices - with floor to ceiling walls and doors that they can close. The ability to close the door is essential for advising students, preparing lectures, and reserving time for quiet writing.
Anyone involved in student counseling or advising, or any job that requires private communication, should have an office.
But perhaps there are some brave souls on your campus, maybe other edtech leaders, who see the upsides of going officeless and are willing to give it a shot.
5 Benefits for Going Officeless:
Benefit 1 - Relationships: Being willing to meet with a colleague in a colleague's office is a collegial thing to do. The fact that the "boss" goes to you, and meets you on your turf, brings a greater sense of equality to meetings. Offices are signifiers of status and rank, and eliminating these trappings is probably conducive to collaborative work with people throughout the organization.
Benefit 2 Visibility: Lacking an office will make you more visible on campus, provided that you "nest" in semi-public places. Grabbing a desk to check e-mail or do some reading before or after a meeting makes your daily activities public. A leader who is working in a public place, or within the space of another department, is much more approachable than one holed up in her own office. The lack of an office means that "leadership by walking around" is no longer an option.
Benefit 3 - Adaptability: All of us like to "nest" sometimes at work, and we rely on our offices as a place of refuge that we can use to gather our energies and focus on our tasks. I imagine that living without an office would force us to find new ways of re-charging, and may make us more adaptable to the shifting demands of our work life. The key, I think, would be to cultivate an attitude of flexibility and openness. Being forced to find creative ways to meet and work would, I think, encourage these traits.
Benefit 4 - Experimentation: The lack of a fixed office and a landline makes it necessary to find new ways to communicate, collaborate and work. Virtual web meeting software, chat tools, and mobile devices and software become much more essential when it is not possible to fall back on the telephone and office table. You would always be looking for better communications tools and more effective ways to share and collect information. The universe of mobile collaboration and meeting platforms evolves
Benefit 5 - Student Empathy: I've always wondered why we say that having an office for ourselves is so essential, but yet don't provide our students with one as well. Our students are officeless knowledge workers. I'm betting if more edtech leaders had to manage without an office that we'd put more pressure on our architects and building planners to build more hotelling offices and available small conference and collaboration spaces. Spaces that both students and the newly officeless could use.
What do you think?
Are you an edtech leader who is willing to give up your office?