May 18, 2017 by

People share documents, manage projects, offer advice, and develop relationships without sitting across from each other in the office.

The mobile workforce in the U.S. has grown from 96.2 million in 2015 to a projected 105 million by 2020, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the U.S. labor force, according to a new report from IDC, a global market intelligence firm. It’s not just millennials delivering these increases, it’s the growing number of independent contractors working alone or with other free agents. No longer just in offices, we work at home, client offices, and a variety of other places.

Employees are experiencing a much greater choice of location and work-life balance. These factors have reshaped our job as it’s always been. Work now happens at the office, home, almost anywhere!

We are choosing places with engaging, welcoming environments—accessible, convenient spots where people come together. For those really on the move, airports, train stations, planes, and trains offer the means to connect.

Many of us compensate for physical isolation by connecting with others via social media, chat rooms, and forums, while connecting to our work colleagues via the internet. Feeling connected to others is why offices, or places like coffee shops and libraries, draw us in. The past decade has seen this café environment evolve from a place to meet a friend into a vital workplace fueled by caffeine and having its own social life. Technology enabled this phenomenon for laptops and cell phones. Now it’s even better supported by cloud computing, smart phones, and applications encouraging social networking and productivity.

These locales support individual work activities, but have the added benefit of not obligating us to interact with others as in an office. Society has adjusted. Lighting and ergonomics have improved. Still not the best for private meetings because they lack security and privacy, there’s hardly a coffee shop where you won’t find someone working every hour it is open. Even basic work needs like electrical plugs and open tables remain in demand.

The next step, co-working space, is designed to be used either on a lease or drop-in basis. Individual contractors, either would-be entrepreneurs or commute-avoiding employees, embrace these facilities as a structured workspace to deliver more emotional, social, and physical support than is found at home or in cafés.

Co-working centers today are more recognized as places where work happens.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

This column was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.