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Mobile workforce shrinking the bricks-and-mortar workplace

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine toured the halls of a major technology vendor, only to find them virtually deserted. Corporate holiday or off-site meeting? No, just the usual number of people working remotely or from home offices.

It’s not surprising that as the mobile workforce grows, the less bricks and mortar infrastructure matters. The Los Angeles Times reported recently that the walls are closing in on workers and that physical workspace dedicated to employees is shrinking. The square footage used to determine how much space a company needs has fallen from up to 700 square feet per employee to an average of 200 square feet. That number could go down to 50 square feet in five years, the article said, while the average cube space has fallen from 64 square feet to 49.

But internal space isn’t so important a factor in the shrinkage as the growth of virtual space, and management thereof, putting a premium on network, wireless and VPN infrastructure, as well as mobile devices and applications for them.

It follows that mobile devices are going to take on an even greater role from now on. Users are going to demand them and IT managers are going to have to start accommodating them, and developing apps for them.

Yankee Group analyst Eugene Signorini went even further when he discussed mobile workforce applications at the Health IT Insights conference earlier this month. He said eventually mobile apps are going to be developed by end users themselves (or, in that particular case, by doctors) who need a specific function out of their mobile devices.

This kind of scenario could invite chaos and panic in IT shops of today, but it’s a vision that is entirely possible and plausible, and one that companies need to prepare themselves for.

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