If you build a public work space specifically to meet the needs of mobile workers -workers who use a PC at least 15 percent of the time and have the freedom to work from home, the office or some 'third place,' will they come?
According to new research from Internet Home Alliance, a network of leading companies doing collaborative research to advance the connected home space, the answer is yes. In addition, the research found that a mobile work environment was a viable business proposition, increasing the revenues of retailers in the area, prompting the pilot participants to keep the Plano, Texas, test site up and running indefinitely.
In April of last year, a group of Alliance members -Cisco Systems, Cushcraft, Herman Miller, Hewlett -Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Panasonic and Taubman Centers -came together to test in the real world what past Alliance research had found to be the "ideal" mobile work environment: a broadband connection; a highly secure Wi -Fi network; business services such as copying, printing and scanning; business and news programming broadcast on plasma screens; ergonomic furniture designed specifically for a mobile work style; collaborative work areas; and food and hospitality services.
The Alliance set up this ideal environment in a 2,400 square foot space in The Shops at Willow Bend, an upscale shopping center located in Plano, Texas, a Dallas suburb home to several Fortune 500 companies. Dubbed "Connection Court," use of the space was open to the public from April through October 2004 and free of charge.
"We believed this was a service we could offer our customers to enhance their shopping experience, and the feedback has been absolutely positive. Willow Bend customers use Connection Court and appreciate the amenity," said David Goldberg, VP, Marketing and Sponsorship, Taubman, one of the nation's leading real estate developers and operators of regional shopping centers, which furnished the physical space, related infrastructure modifications, space staffing and coordination of hospitality services.
Taubman was so pleased with the findings and by the fact that area retailers reported increased sales that they have decided to keep Connection Court up and running in The Shops at Willow Bend.
Connection Court was a popular destination for mobile workers with more than 1,400 average sessions per month. Users gave Connection Court high marks for being comfortable, conducive to individual and collaborative work and for offering the right atmosphere for being productive. About 80% said they would recommend it to someone they know; this is strong evidence that Connection Court fulfilled the ideal among this audience. Compared to other possible work settings, such as coffee shops, copy shops or airports, Connection Court was preferred because of its professional look and feel and all -around superior comfort for working. In addition, users praised Connection Court for being free.
"Generally speaking, a new product or service concept has merit if it meets three key criteria - it's demonstrably better than the alternatives, it's compatible with consumers' lifestyles and it solves a significant problem," said Nate Chandler, Director Emergent Business Opportunities, Herman Miller, makers of office and home furniture, which contributed professional design services, furnishings and work environments research counsel. "Most users indicated Connection Court met all of these threshold requirements for success, particularly in terms of problem -solving capacity."
Profile of Connection Court Users
Connection Court users were predominantly male (68%) and younger than the U.S. population as a whole and spent about half their work week in an office/business location and the other half in other locations, such as home (30% of the time), other stationary locations like client offices or job sites (12%), and/or traveling. The most common occupations among users were sales, computer programming, executives/business owners and engineers. The self -employed accounted for one -third of Connection Court users.
Connection Court Activities
Activity was split evenly between personal and business tasks. When asked to pick one primary reason for visiting the space, the most popular answer was to check and send email, which was cited by about half of users. Other activities such as Web surfing (15% called it the primary reason) and working on a PC (12%) were named much less often.
"Today's mobile generation increasingly looks for access to real -time information and resources -a clear benefit offered by Connection Court," said Ann Sun, Senior Manager of Wireless/Mobility at Cisco Systems, the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet, which provided network access, including the Wi -Fi implementation, configuration and integration services.
Among the other Alliance members that contributed products and/or services to the pilot were Cushcraft, makers of advanced antenna solutions, which supplied antenna equipment and integration consulting services; Hewlett -Packard, which supplied wireless printers; and Microsoft, which contributed Microsoft Office software that aids in team networking from remote locations.
For more information about these and other research findings from Internet Home Alliance, please visit www.internethomealliance.com
About Internet Home Alliance
Internet Home Alliance is a group of leading companies engaged in collaborative research to advance the connected home space. A non -profit organization, the Alliance provides companies with the collaboration, research and real -world testing opportunities they need to gain a competitive advantage in the home technology market. Members of the Alliance, which was founded in October 2000, come from a variety of industries and include such leading companies as Cisco Systems, Inc., General Motors, Hewlett -Packard Company, IBM, Invensys, Microsoft, Panasonic of North America, Procter & Gamble, SBC Communications, Sears, Roebuck and Co., and Whirlpool Corporation. For more information, visit www.internethomealliance.com.
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