One thing that we can be sure of in the virtual world of work is that “place” is still important. Few of us are very good at being totally virtual.
Toward the end of last year Josh Bowling and I attended a conference on mobile work in San Francisco. It was held at a conference center on the campus of the University of California San Francisco. And it was a great conference extolling the virtues of technologies that allow us to be mobile and work virtually.
As I was exploring the conference center, I came upon a visual image that challenged my mobile paradigm. The conference center was in a building next to an academic building with what I assume were professors’ offices. The offices had large windows and the lights were on. I was able to see clearly and what I saw were not offices, but nests. Yes, NESTS! You have seen them–papers stacked everywhere. Hardly room to walk or find a place to sit. It may remind you of your professor’s office, or perhaps your own office. The NEST is certainly not limited to the academic world.
I am not an anthropologist, but it made me wonder how ingrained in our genes and psyche is the need to NEST. Is it just a workplace thing? Do we build NESTS at home and at work? Do the forms that the NESTS take give us insights into who the person is?
But the real question that stared me in the face was how do we NEST in a paperless, mobile, virtual world? Will this need derail the building momentum toward what seems like a much more appealing way of working.
As someone having a lot riding on developing world-class places for mobile workers to LAND, but not NEST, you can imagine this was a disconcerting moment. So what are the implications of the seemingly pervasive need to NEST—although some people obviously have more serious cases than others—for the mobile workforce?
Having caught my breath, I would argue as I stated in the opening that “place” is still important in a virtual world. Being totally virtual just doesn’t work. Think about it. Most people who work virtually celebrate the fact that they can go around and meet in their clients’ or other people’s offices. But if everyone is virtual, then there are NO offices to meet in—gotcha!
Physical place is still important. It may be a coffee shop or a place specifically designed for mobile workers like E|SPACES. But how do you satisfy the need to NEST in a place that is designed for LANDING? Perhaps it is a design that creates defined spaces and a cozy, safe feeling even in an open environment. Perhaps when a person finds exactly the right environment, they build today’s NEST on their desktops and displays. And an advantage is they can take their NEST with them to the next PLACE they LAND.
Maybe those professor’s offices were not as chaotic as they appeared. OK, I confess. Sometimes I too work in environments like those and I sort of know where things are. Maybe it is not the chaos, or the NEST, but the familiarity. If that is the case, I can create familiarity with apps, icons and electronic folders just as I can with stacks of books, binders and papers. Come to think of it, my files in the Cloud are in about as much disorder as my paper files. The difference is that the search functions allow me to find what I need much faster.
So what are your thoughts? How can we satisfy this need to NEST in today’s mobile, virtual world of work?