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Traditionalists, beware: the new work space is everywhere

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Technology has revolutionized the face of business such that fresh talent isn't just dreaming of a corner office with a view of the waterfront, they're producing top quality work from a dock right on the lake.

There has been a steady shift in work expectations and culture driven by Generation Y and the anticipation of Gen Z entering the workforce. Companies are finding it difficult to retain Millennials in part because they've failed to adapt to the mobile workspace revolution – a new work environment that is built on the foundation of an always on, always connected, mobile office. But is the traditional office a thing of the past? Or is the virtualization revolution a fad set to fade?

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Going Mobile

If you're a traditionalist and believe the office is where your employees should and will be growing your business, you're in for a rude awakening. Last year, Gartner predicted that the mobile market will grow 15 times by 2017, meeting the needs of today's on-the-go lifestyle. Soon, mobile work spaces will be the expected norm.

In fact, the forecast for 2020 sees half of the U.S. workforce working remotely, with 40 per cent expected to be a freelance position, according to the Citrix 2020 Technology Landscape report. People want to have better control of their time and they want to go where they'll be most effective and have the most impact.

Some may scoff at such a suggestion, boiling it down to Millennials being Millennials, but a shift in office work spaces may be exactly what companies require to stay competitive, innovative and profitable.

The Shift

Where we are, and where we've been for several decades, is an 80-20 ratio between office work and out-of-office work. This conventional workspace quotient can limit talent pools, create wasted time commuting and damage employee engagement. However, the nature of work spaces is changing. This shift can be attributed in a significant way to the adoption of cloud computing and technologies like virtualization that have enabled – but more importantly proven – that virtual teams outperform traditional face-to-face teams.

The new normal will see the 80-20 ratio still in effect, but now in favour of non-traditional workplaces including home, third places such as co-working spaces and coffee shops, as well as customer and partner sites. The new normal doesn't just represent a physical shift in where work is completed, but also illustrates the employees' mental shift of wanting mobile capabilities to needing mobile capabilities.

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The Future

The need for mobile flexibility is represented in the latest New Way to Work Index from Unify, where 43 per cent of employees would choose flexible working over a pay raise, banishing the myth that salary makes or breaks a job. If your company is a pioneer within its industry, adopting new technologies that enable mobility, you can reap its benefits. You'll attract the best hires while increasing productivity and retention, minimize security risks and increase cost savings. This collectively amounts to a substantial – and sustainable – competitive advantage, an opportunity that simply cannot be ignored.

It's time to pull the plug on the traditional office. The office of the future is mobile, and it's everywhere.

Michael Murphy is vice-president and country manager of Citrix Canada(@CitrixCanada), a global company that enables mobile work styles, allowing people to work and collaborate from anywhere.

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