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The Traditional Office

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Will the traditional office exist in 50 years?

Do you enjoy going to the office every day, or do you prefer your home office or a coffee shop? Either way, the debate goes on about the pros and cons of the traditional office and the virtual office. Some American workers express a fear of irrelevance that virtual work might bring about. And those who choose to work in an office say they prefer it for the discipline, connectedness and information security.

Regardless of their concerns, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they would choose to work virtually if they could. Yet, despite abundant Internet access and powerful mobile devices, 53% believe the concept of the traditional office will last at least another 50 years. These and other findings came from an online survey conducted within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Ricoh from October 3-5, 2012, among 2,512 adults ages 18 and older. 

Who knew? There's a generational paradox.

The survey respondents who chose the traditional office were asked why they prefer it over working virtually:

    • 66% say they would be more disciplined and productive
    • 51% say they want to socialize with colleagues
    • 39% say they feel more secure about accessing, scanning, storing and printing documents

But guess who is the least enthusiastic about working virtually. The 18-to-34 year olds! 43% of them chose the office versus 31% of the 35-to-54 year olds and 35% of those 55 and older.

Information management challenges hamper workers

To be effective in their jobs, employees need to be able to rely on their employers for tools and information, regardless of where they're working. But some feel this isn't happening:

    • 67% of employed adults feel dissatisfied about something in their current work situation
    • 18% say they can't get information in a timely manner
    • 14% say their organization is out of time with latest technology trends
    • 14% say there is too much paperwork

Many businesses are moving to digital workflows and the latest collaboration tools, but are they moving fast enough?

Room for improvement

It's clear that virtual office technology hasn't caught up to employees' fears of not being fully engaged. Workers know they need to demonstrate their ongoing value. And to do this, collaboration must be as seamless as possible. Unfortunately, there isn't yet a perfect substitute for meaningful face time, in spite of advances in videoconferencing and information management. But many companies, including Ricoh, are working hard on new technologies and best practices to support the new world of work, so keep an eye out—and follow some really interesting workplace trends.