Working Elsewhere The Next Tech Category

When it comes to the new workplace environment, the concept of Working Anywhere is truly here. We work in an Office. At Home. Or Elsewhere.

Those are the three categories that exist. Sure, some pundits will try to divide up the "Elsewhere," but for simplicity sake, let's just call those places-the hotels, cars, airplanes, coffee shops, restaurants, fast food locations, co-working facilities, the beach, a park bench, boats, ships, all elsewhere.

The "Elsewhere" category will be the area that has the most growth, challenges and opportunity. Over time people will get bored being at home. With education shifting to the home as the classroom, people will be looking for an escape hatch. A breather. A place of solitude, where they can collect their thoughts. For those solo at home, this won't be as needed as often, but for those houses full of working couples and families, kids or parents, WFH won't be the panacea it is for the solo act.

For those places in the "Elsewhere" category, much like we've seen lately with working from home, there will be the need to "upgrade" everything from WiFi gear, and the actual broadband connections to the work surfaces, chairs and even the people managing them. Think about how often you went into a coffee shop or restaurant and suffered through sputtering broadband. How the uploading of that PowerPoint just seemed to take forever. And don't think those speeds weren't to have you order another cup of coffee or Big Mac. It has to do with the aging infrastructure in the ground and on the property. No longer is 802.11n good enough. And having a pokey DSL line that is all of 5 megs on the upload being shared by 20 people isn't going to cut it. Not in an era where "Elsewhere" is where you head for that ZOOM, UberConference or Teams call. 5G can't come soon enough.

But there's also going to be, at least for the short term, the need to clean, disinfect , wipe down, air out and overall insure that the "Elsewhere" space has NYC-restaurant-inspection-grade-A-sign-1 been made safe for the next visitor. We'll likely see signs similar to what appear in restaurant windows, where a place has been rated by some inspector. We've all seen those ratings signs, and in some cities even read the weekly reports that are listed in the local newspapers, as a way to let the public know which facilities are taking safety, as well as your health and welfare seriously.  

RestroomWe'll also like see the digital equivalent to the rest room has been cleaned by so and so and at what time posted in the "Elsewhere" space. These types of notification systems will be first undertaken by those who take safety and your health seriously. Those conscientious types, who recognize that being ahead of the curve is what will make those "Elsewhere" locations practical and usable.

State, county and municipalities will all quickly follow suit, with their inspectors being tasked to make sure that "Elsewhere" is as safe, and conforming to local codes as the office buildings and restaurants are. Park benches that were never cleaned, except when it rained, will start to be washed regularly. New types of germ fighting disinfectant sprays will be applied, just like what hospitals and hotels are now using.  AdobeStock_342670225We'll also be seeing more "Out of Service" signs more often, as cleaning takes on a new meaning, with increased frequency, and visibility.

This will lead to the digitizing of the "open hours," "closed" and "cleaning hours" where local shops and stores, buildings, eateries, and even outdoor venues will be able to post their schedules on Google Maps, so patrons don't arrive during the "disinfectant time" or don't arrange to meet someone where they can safely sit and converse only to find that the space has been shuttered for it's timely refresh.

For shopping malls which have been dying off of late, this could breed new life into them. Food courts could become new "small communal" gathering spots. The eateries and cafes that are facing closure would have more space in the open air and covered spaces. Given their locales, they are ideal for remote work, and their ownership groups have the scale and resources to retool, reshape and bring about consistency to operations. Malls already have strict rules about stores opening and closing ON TIME, not when they feel like it. They are used to scheduled cleaning, deliveries and operational maintenance.  They have WiFi. All they need to do is upgrade things and sell memberships.

Oh, and the already established co-working facilities like WeWork and Regus will all need to retool. Space and people tracking will become the norm. Open air business lounges, much like the airline lounges at airports will need constant monitoring. Apps that have NFC to handle check in, check out. Sensors to monitor how many people are in spaces of certain sizes will all become the norm, as will badges with RFID embedded will keep track of who is where. Office monitors, much like hall monitors in schools from days gone by will become commonplace-though they may be robots, helping to make sure that only the approved number of people are in a defined space. Services like CLEAR, long fighting for purpose beyond airports and sports facilities will be en vogue like never before.

Tech for "Elsewhere" will see a rapid boom. Not because it's needed but because operators of "Elsewhere" will be looking to prevent social shaming, litigation and the most important thing. The loss of their business or property.