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Is Collaboration the New Paradigm of Work?


We’ve done a number of explorations in the past about workspaces: their designs, their evolutions, their relevance to lives and cultures. We’ve looked at specific examples from companies like Google and Facebook and Zappos, and we’ve analyzed books written on the topic of work. Over time, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about work, because the lines between working and conferencing and corporate events as a whole are very much blurred and blended. Today, I’d like to explore this train of thought a little further.

As we know, the so called “9 to 5” lifestyle was invented during the Industrial Revolution, as actually a cutback from the 12 and 15 hour days factory workers used to be expected to work. The idea back then was that “work” could only be done when one was physically at a particular location — in many cases, that meant being at the factory standing in the assembly line — and it made sense to enforce policies where people had to be present for a certain amount of time per day.

That 9 to 5 life transitioned very naturally to white collar work because the original white collars were the managers of these factories and industrial production companies. Furthermore, advents like the typewriter didn’t do nearly as much to enable remote work as the advents of our generation, and much of the office work still needed to be done by hand.

Fast forward to our current generation though, and nobody denies that there are many inefficiencies about clinging on to this 9 to 5 model the way many companies do. There certainly are many types of businesses and jobs that require the employee to be on site — like a waiter at a restaurant, among many other examples — but still many many more that don’t. For these jobs where output doesn’t depend on physical presence, many companies have turned to freelance workers, and many others have experimented with policies of having no office hours whatsoever.

Which brings me to my point of collaborations.

I’ve been interested in Manhattan real estate for a number of years at this point, at there are two particular kinds of real estate in this city that I find most fascinating. The first are coworking offices, of which the best example is perhaps a company called WeWork. The second are offsite conferencing centers, of which the best example is perhaps a company called Convene. On the surface, these two types of spaces seem to serve very different purposes: the former hosts the day to day activities, and the latter hosts the scheduled meetings. But my fascination though, is what if the lines between working and meeting becomes increasingly blurred over the years ahead? What if we get to a point where so much work can be done remotely, and so many companies catch on to new management policies, that the only times coworkers make a point to get together, are the times when they have to collaborate in a meeting?

See you at the next exploration!



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