In recent years, the way we work has made dramatic leaps from the close-knit, identical tables that employees were funneled into like sardines and considered open-plan offices in the 20th century. Or the minuscule boxes referred to as office cubicles which were originally designed to set employees free, but instead left them trapped behind fabric-wrapped walls and hidden from any exposure to communication or freedom. Although we’ve altered and returned to both floor plans over the years and have failed to produce any alternate outcome or effect on employees, workplaces have finally transformed.

So, what changed? After a few trial and error attempts, one or two innovative, influential architects and designers, and of course, substantial advancements in modern technology, we’re finally doing things differently. So, FLEXIBLE WORKING was introduced.

How have we implemented a flexible work environment?

In a flexible work environment, employees have the freedom to work when and where they choose. Perhaps a single mom needs to pick up her child at school at 3:30, so she’s at work everyday by 7:00. Another employee is most productive when he takes more frequent breaks to step outside or experience a change of scenery to keep his creative juices flowing, so he tends to work longer days than others in the office.

Instead of being confined to a single desk or cubicle, employees are free to choose from a variety of work environments and move to a new workspace as often as they please. For example, a quiet, secluded space, a large, open-plan room with rows of tables and chairs, a lounge area with comfortable couches and chairs, or a private meeting room meant for a small group to work. They might even have the option to work remotely or in other local areas such as a coffee shop. An employee is able to speak to and see her team member located in another country and share documents and schedules with him as needed.

So, how has this all been made possible?

That’s where technology comes in

We can begin with portable technology. We’re more likely to work from our personal computers or laptops issued through work. We can even use our phones for a handful of tasks. Therefore, we’re not glued in front of large monitors at a designated desk. Instead, we carry our devices to any location in or out of the office. As employees, we store everything online as well. There’s no need for hard copies and filing cabinets. Our work travels with us anywhere we go.

Through cloud computing and document sharing, we can share tasks, documents, schedules, etc. with as many coworkers or team members as necessary. Employees can cohesively work on and submit tasks and projects without ever meeting each other in person, increasing our ability to work from different locations on different schedules.

Let’s not forget about video technology. In large companies and corporations, most meetings are done through conference calls or video meetings. Again, allowing coworkers and team members to maintain communication with each other from anywhere in the world without ever physically meeting. This has become much more conventional now because it’s very unrealistic for international companies to hold regular meetings face-to-face with all employees, managers, and team leaders required to attend. Through video calls, last-minute meetings can easily be scheduled and effectively carried out.

Lastly, artificial intelligence, voice recognition and activation, and virtual assistants. Who needs a personal assistant in an office when you can have a virtual assistant which can come with you to any location at any time to manage your schedule, add tasks to a to-do list, dial into meetings or conference calls, and quickly find and provide any information for you? Yet another component which allows us to work from anywhere at anytime.

Technology has altered our office spaces by virtually eliminating the need for offices at all. Perhaps that is the future of the workplace...no workplaces. For now, we enjoy the freedom of utilizing our flexible office spaces whenever needed and the ability to work in a way that best suits our abilities and styles instead of being compelled to conform into a cubicle robot or forcing communication in an open office setting.