Students say ‘no’ to the office

A new survey by StartUp Britain, as highlighted by Business Matters*, declares that ‘63% of students* are now looking to start a business’, ’…70 per cent…believed a laptop was the most essential piece of equipment for starting up.’ and ‘…only 0.3% believed having an office was important…’.

Well, I don’t know where the survey is, I can’t find it online, but I hope they didn’t spend too much time or money on it just to get these nuggets.

It is obvious that students will be concerned about their chances in the job market and want more control over their lives. Equally clear is that, as they are growing up in a highly technological age, they understand the relative ease with which a business can be started.

You might not expect me to say it, but of course they don’t need an office.


Who needs an office?

Business is hard enough; patently any business should not be burdened with unnecessary costs. And with mobile and cloud technology getting more sophisticated all the time, an office could easily be described as an unnecessary cost.

For some this will change: as they grow and gain staff they may feel they want a hub: a central space to share knowledge, spread ideas and keep control administratively. It is also true that not everyone can or would like to work from home.

However, for many, it is clear that an office will not be required.


How will we work?

Well I have talked about the future of work a lot, so suffice to say that we are entering the age of the ‘Agile Worker’. Someone who may have no fixed abode, who may use third places like business centres, coffee shops, hotels, libraries, etc., to work and meet people and who uses cloud and mobile devices to facilitate this.

This is why many business centres are adding new facilities: they need to develop their services to accommodate these new styles of working. Things like hot-desks, co-working space, ever-more flexible arrangements, networking and learning events, business support and more.

And it isn’t just graduates.

Larger companies are looking at the benefits of giving employees more flexible working hours and spaces and reducing real estate and utility costs. Indeed, many have already gone through this process and seen staff productivity increase and costs go down.


A laptop and a dream

So does this say anything about the people that will be looking after us in our dotage?

Well, it probably says they are as naive as every generation before them. How many of us didn’t idealise our future and see it all laid out before us at that age?

It also says they are somewhat cynical about their chances of getting work and aware that, regardless of how we got here and the fact that it wasn’t their doing, they are nevertheless victims of this latest recession.

But mostly it says they are aware of the opportunities, aware of what technology enables them to do and aware that the old rules just don’t apply anymore. They are not burdened with traditional career planning, traditional ways of running a business or traditional ways of working.

They see the world as one big melting pot. Through the web, they have the world at their fingertips and through social media and mobile phones, their support network is always close at hand.

Those of us a tad older have had to get used to these ideas, but these students have grown up with them.

Intuitively, they know the whole world is within their grasp: of course they believe they can make it on their own; of course they know they only need a mobile device to be able to work; and of course they realise they don’t need an office.

*Business Matters article

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