Conversation with Laurent Dhollande, CEO of Pacific Workplaces and Cloud VO

Commuting sucks. But so can working at home, which while avoiding the commute often lacks in the sense of community that for many sparks engagement and creativity. And not everyone has a suitable home office environment.

This podcast’s guest Laurent Dhollande, CEO of San Francisco-based Pacific Workplaces and Cloud VO, offers a solution: shared co-working spaces located in communities where people live offering fast Internet connections and the amenities of the centralized commuter office — sans the commute to a different community.

These community-based facilities fit nicely with the maturation of information and communications technology and its increased adoption, making time and location increasingly less important in knowledge work. This is the sense of history over the longer term, but it has not yet reached a tipping point, Dhollande observes. Many large organizations with staff living at the affordable edges of metro areas haven’t yet embraced the idea of distributed staff or have learned to manage them effectively.

It’s official: Working from home is the worst

“If it’s just about you banging out emails or writing a report, sure, you can do that wherever,” Waber said. “But the vast majority of stuff we do at work today—teamwork, not individual work—that is the stuff that really measurably suffers.” For big companies, that decline in productivity can be worth millions of dollars a year.

In a 2012 poll, 62% of employees said they found telecommuting to be socially isolating. And “jobs where individuals are most likely to be telecommuting involve sitting in front of a computer,” Allen said, so it makes sense that people working from home would get less exercise than those who have to commute.

Source: It’s official: Working from home is the worst

For many if not most knowledge workers, that is exactly what they do most of the day: sitting in front of a computer and writing documents and emails. And in many workplaces, they are expected to do that with minimal interaction with others, which is viewed as socializing and break time in the tradition of the water cooler — not working. The cultural ethic is nose to the grindstone in the style of the Industrial Age assembly line.

Tolan is certainly correct that in organizations that encourage collaboration, being face to face is ideal. But as Tolan suggests, most knowledge organizations do not operate as full time focus groups or think tanks. Constant co-located and spontaneous interaction among their members isn’t an organizational expectation. Tolan is also right in pointing out that not all knowledge workers have a suitable home office environment. A growing industry is stepping up to address this need with shared co-working office space in communities where knowledge workers live.

In addition, Tolan ignores the enormous business and personal cost to both knowledge organizations and their constituents to maintain what I term in my book Last Rush Hour: The Decentralization of Knowledge Work in the Twenty First Century as centralized commuter offices (CCOs) that involve hours of wasted time spent each week traveling between home and office, often entailing significant distance and time. CCOs are unnecessary with today’s information and communications technology that is rendering the Industrial Age daily commute trip obsolete.