Are Mobile Tools Close to Killing the Office?

It’s striking when you consider the wide range of tools that enable mobile work.  There are project management tools, collaborative document creation tools, document management systems, messaging tools, and the now universal video calls.

As great as these tools are there is still something missing from the office experience. Some see this as the reason why we’ll inevitably go back to the office — we are social creatures after all. Others see it as evidence that we are missing some feature sets that can be solved for with the right software.

CBInsights points out that many startups believe it’s a matter of a missing feature set. These startups are aiming to address whatever it is that face-to-face office life has that is missing when we work from home.

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Here are some of the attempts being made:

  • Spatial believes the missing element is the sense of being in a three-dimensional room together. They solve for that with VR.
  • Remotion believes that what’s missing is being able to look around the office and see your teammates, possibly starting a short conversation if they don’t look too busy. They solve for this through thumbnail ‘always-on’ videos of your teammates. Teemly has a similar and slightly more elaborate solution.
  • Pragli wants to address the lack of the ad hoc conversations you have in offices. It enables virtual office hours to make those conversations more likely.
  • Sococo feels that people miss being in an office where they can walk around and get a sense of where everyone is and who is working with whom. They solve for that with a virtual office layout where you can see where everyone is.

It’s unlikely all of these ideas will succeed; it’s equally unlikely they’ll all fail. Bit by bit they will bring the missing dimensions from the office world to the home office.

What’s Interesting

  • It is interesting just how much creativity and effort is going into creating these tools

What’s really important

  • There is not some mysterious life force that makes working in an office better than working at home. There are specific factors and these factors can all potentially be addressed by technology. As these tools chip away at the advantages of working in an office, we might find offices disappear once and for all.

David Creelman is CEO of Creelman Research. Based mainly in Toronto and partly in Kuala Lumpur, he’s best known for his research on the latest issues in human resources.

He works with think tanks such as Talent Tech Labs (New York), Works Institute (Tokyo), Workforce Institute (Boston) and CRF (London). He’s collaborated with leading academics such as Henry Mintzberg (leadership development), Ed Lawler (“Built to Change”) and John Boudreau (future of work).

His books include The CMO of People: Manage employees like customers with an immersive predictable experience that drives productivity and performance with GrandRound’s CHRO Peter Navin; and Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau (USC) and Ravin Jesuthasan (Willis Towers Watson).

You can connect to Mr. Creelman on LinkedIn