Rethinking Work Spaces for ROWE

Last Updated Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM EDT

The Takeaway: When Interpolis redesigned its Dutch headquarters, productivity increased 20 percent and sick leave decreased from 9 percent to 2.5 percent. The company also cut construction and equipment costs by 33 percent and reduced office usage expenses by 21 percent. How did they achieve such startling success? By implementing a revolutionary model of what an office is. In the morning, employees don't report to their desks, but instead are set free in a communal environment to choose where they want to work -- laptop and cell phones in hand.

No offices? No need, says Nooteboom. He explains that the idea is based on the principle that "every human being anywhere and at any time of day can work." Location, Nooteboom feels, is overrated. "You don't have to come into the office daily." Individual work can be done at home, at your client's location or even on the beach.

Still Nootebooom concedes that the traditional bricks and mortar office will continue to play a role even in this brave, new future, recommending workers come in one or two days a week for "social cohesion." He also concedes that this new model can present challenges for managers who can no longer simply peek over the cubicle wall to see if their team is being productive and notes that implementing ROWE means more training for those charged with administrating teams. The office of the future certainly require also requires state-of-the-art technology.

Nooteboom, though, is sure he has designed the work space of the future and insists ROWE isn't just flash in the pan:

In ten to 20 years a very large proportion of the working environments will be differently organized. One reason being globalization: If you are in contact with Asia or the United States one has to work either early in the morning or late evening. The concept of the office is basically old-fashioned, but we still need it. It will be used almost solely for meetings in the future. More and more companies will let their employees work from the home or while traveling.
That's a future, I imagine, many workers are looking forward to. The interview is an excerpt of a German language book, Morgen komm ich später rein by Markus Albers. Roughly translated that's: I'll be coming in later tomorrow.

The Question: Would you like to manage a team in such a space and under such a philosophy, or would the drawbacks outweigh the rewards?

(Image of office under construction by T-Mobile, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.