Mobility, WiFi Could Boost Virtual Office Acceptance: Ricoh

More than half of Americans believe the concept of the traditional office will last at least another 50 years.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans say they'd choose to work virtually if they could, according to a survey of 2,512 American adults conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of business information solutions specialist Ricoh Americas.

Surprisingly, younger people seem to be the least enthusiastic about working virtually. In fact, 18-to-34-year-olds were the age group most likely to prefer working in an office (43 percent of them chose the office versus 31 percent of those age 35-54 and 36 percent of those ages 55 and above). Of the survey respondents who chose the office over working virtually, 66 percent said they would be more disciplined and productive there, 51 percent said they would want to socialize with colleagues and 39 percent said they would feel more secure about accessing, scanning, storing and printing information from an office.

Despite technologies such as fast, reliable wireless Internet access and increasingly powerful mobile devices, more than half of Americans (53 percent) said they believe the concept of the traditional office will last at least another 50 years, owing to the superior discipline, connectedness and information security the traditional office provides.

"Virtual office technology has not yet caught up to employees' fears that they may become irrelevant if they're not perceived as being fully engaged with the traditional office," Ricoh Americas vice president of strategic marketing Terrie Campbell said in a statement. "While mobility is a signature of the new workforce, workers know they need to seamlessly collaborate with colleagues and superiors to demonstrate their ongoing value, especially in the current economic climate. Although the world is making significant advances in videoconferencing and information management, there's no perfect substitute yet for meaningful face time. But innovation is moving at unprecedented speeds in this area, and progress will come."

However, two-thirds (67 percent) of employed adults said they feel dissatisfied about something in their current work situation, including the inability to get the information they need in a timely manner (18 percent), the organization being out of date with the latest technology trends (14 percent), too much paperwork (14 percent) and failure of co-workers to use technology tools to their full potential (12 percent).

"Although this dissatisfaction isn't great news, it's good that so many American workers appear devoted to improving their personal and organizational performance through better processes and technology," Campbell said.

Factoring into the virtual workplace debate is the development of unified communications (UC) technologies like video conferencing that make collaboration easier and more efficient. Workers are highly frustrated with today’s passive and non-real-time communications options such as email and voicemail, according to a recent global survey by BroadSoft.

More than three-quarters (76 percent) of survey respondents said they would be “very keen” or “somewhat keen” to adopt UC solutions, with mobile integration, instant messaging and presence, and Web collaboration cited as the top three most desired unified communication services.

“The survey reflects the fact that workers are frustrated with everyday communications services, such as voicemail and email, and that they have a growing interest in mobile unified communications capabilities,” BroadSoft vice president of marketing Leslie Ferry said in a statement. “And because of the higher average revenue-per-user generated by UC services, we believe mobile operators are positioned to more rapidly monetize their investments to deliver the service enterprise users require in order to efficiently communicate.”