OFFICE OF THE FUTURE: INTRODUCTION
How will the office of the future be? Experts say it will be multifunctional, eco-sustainable, reconfigurable, agile, dynamic, flexible and attentive to people’s well-being. The office of the future, in fact, will be built around users.
The perception of the workspace, single or shared, is definitely changing thanks to a series of dynamics that involve our life: first of all technology, work flexibility and attention to the sustainability and health of those who live in these places.
The sharing of information and collaboration, intercompany and within the company itself, with the support of devices and applications will also be favored and, moreover, new organizational models for the office will be inserted that focus more on the pleasantness of the place rather than the productivity of hours spent at the desk.
Here’s what Emanuele Madini thinks about it, of P4I-Partners4Innovation:
«The digital trasformation starts from the workplace of each employee. The constraints of space and time are crumbling: today technologies allow to the people to carry out their duties where, how and when they prefer, through the most appropriate tools. A change of paradigm that many companies have already realized, with results beyond expectations».
The space in which we find ourselves doing our work every day affects more than we can imagine our performances. A functional and modern work environment can contribute significantly to the increase in worker well-being which is fundamental for increasing productivity (there are figures in the company exclusively dedicated to increasing employee satisfaction levels!)
According to a recent study conducted by the research firm PAC, 57% of Italian companies intend to offer more flexible models and workspaces to their employees in the coming years, also providing them with systems to securely access company data remotely.
OFFICE OF THE FUTURE: CHARACTERISTICS
With a work environment that is becoming increasingly flexible, what characteristics will the office of the future have?
First of all, the fixed position will soon be a distant memory. Employees sitting at the same desk will disappear, who cannot leave their desk as work is concentrated within a single device.
In its place, the concept of “workspace” will be affirmed, which offers the availability of an online workspace that allows each worker to univocally access their work information regardless of the place or device used for access.
Workers will be encouraged to move frequently from one desk to another, and to use them only when strictly necessary, following the practice of so-called hotdesking, useful for stimulating creativity and problem solving skills. Smart working and sharing tools will become the rule and no longer exceptions.
And then the level of comfort of the environment should not be overlooked, which will be higher and higher since neuroscience today offers scientific evidence of the effect of colors, shapes, sounds and air on the level of concentration and well-being during the performance of a task .
In fact, research carried out at Harvard has found that offices with a better ventilation system, more natural lighting and average temperatures increase employee performance, as well as helping them sleep better when they return home.
Here, therefore, in the office of the future, greater attention will also be paid to the aesthetic, as well as ergonomic and functional, aspect of colors, lights, furnishings and access points to tools and documents so that people can work at their best.
The office of the future will host Artificial Intelligence (AI). The impact of AI to date is still not easily measurable. There are those who believe that it will help create many new jobs.
Others speculate, however, that it will redesign the digital workplace, reducing human activity. Gartner brings the matter back to its fundamentals, emphasizing how routine tasks will be automated.
Thanks to AI, people will have greater freedom to manage valuable activities in terms of creativity and planning.
By analyzing what managers do every day, bots and AI can already perform various tasks such as validating reports or projects, identifying anomalies but also hiring, firing, evaluating work performance or managing projects.
In the office of the future, various algorithms will be applied that will support the Line of Business in carrying out their duties: human resources managers, control departments, purchasing offices, development and production units and so on. Without replacing the higher management functions, Roboboss will become increasingly common in companies.
MORE INTELLIGENT WORKPLACES
The office of the future will continue to implement incremental intelligence. The Internet of Things makes a fundamental contribution to governance. Already today sensors and applications manage and supervise intelligent buildings to control air conditioning, energy, processing power, security.
Actuators and connectors connected to measurement and detection sensors, cameras, RFID tags are multiplying to identify all types of assets and simplify assets, maintenance and control.
In the future the IoT will enable new services: from the assignment of parking lots and workstations to the management of new contact points that will support people’s work such as, for example, interactive totems, e-boards, multifunctional installations based on a use evolved of digital signage.
Digital intelligence on the one hand and Big Data Management on the other, will encourage people’s work by helping organizations to be increasingly efficient and proactive.
VIRTUAL PERSONAL ASSISTANTS
Another tech topic from the office of the future is machine learning. Machine learning algorithms and more familiarity with automation will favor the entry of Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) into the work areas.
Voice assistants such as Siri, Cortana, Google Now and Alexa have made great strides since they entered the daily lives of consumers.
Companies are lagging behind but the providers are pursuing new developments: IBM Watson, for example, is working with a network of partners in the furniture supply sector to introduce machine learning and deep learning in voice assistants.
Looking ahead, companies will move towards the adoption of VPA for activities related to training, calendar management and more.
These assistants will also begin to speak and coordinate with each other, integrated into interactive installations, e-boards and all solutions supporting work in organizations. Analysts predict that in the near future, a wave of VPA will flood the workplace.
CHANGE THE PROFESSIONS AND CHANGE THE PROFESSIONALS
Continuous technological changes impact workers, their roles and tasks and, therefore, the office of the future.
Digitization is canceling some professions but creating others. Managing big data involves Data Science; managing user interfaces related to the multiplication of applications and devices calls into DevOps teams and the Service Designer; the Internet of Things involves system integrators but also Digital Asset Managers capable of rethinking the platforms that manage the content conveyed through connected and communicating objects, which are increasingly multifunctional.
“Gig ”in English means temporary work. The concept of gig economy is nothing new. Capitalizing on one’s skills and time to make contributions to the company is not trivial.
Designers, developers, but also translators can provide their services through open formulas for managing supply and demand. Looking ahead, the office of the future will promote talent management and cross-collaboration.
The gig economy will translate for external resources into contributions rewarded with money while, internally, with career advancements. What is certain is that it will be necessary to rethink the exchange platforms, given that freelance workers will bring their technologies within the company perimeter.
It means budgeting new policies using information useful for assessing workers’ ability to fill the roles that are most in demand.
When Gartner speaks of digital dexterity, it refers to the ability but also to the willingness of workers to use existing and emerging technologies. Success at work will be given by an open and elastic, curious and agile forma mentis, which does not offer resistance to change.
Indeed, the winner will be those who are always willing to learn and deal with digital transformation with enthusiasm. In the Curriculum Vitae 4.0 technology plays and will play more and more a primary role than any job. Regardless of the sector of reference and the professional title, digital dexterity will be crucial for the job.
In the era of disruption, agility 4.0 will be a detonator of positive change, which will allow certain companies to be more competitive and more advanced than others.
Microsoft Envisioning Center
The Microsoft Envisioning Center is the laboratory of the American IT company where cutting-edge technologies are studied and tested to implement the office of the future. Located in Redmond, home of the Gates and Allen company, it is a concentrate of innovation. It could not fail to have a ‘workplace’ up to par.
So Studio O + A was asked to design an office that completely detaches itself from the canons of common workspaces, capable not only of supporting the speed of the change taking place in the “way of working”, but also of anticipating it.
Forgotten the standard setting: computer stations, relaxation areas and meeting rooms, the Microsoft Envisioning Center proposes a vision of what a ideal office could be.
Everything revolves around the geometric module of the Hexagon Next Generation Meeting, built with wooden panels and sound-absorbing panels, equipped with 360 ° cameras, interactive whiteboards capable of keeping in memory everything that is written and stools along the perimeter. The Hexagon has been designed to support advanced video conferences and allows a multi-dimensional interaction between participants and technical information walls.
This is demonstration of how technology and physical space will work more and more together to provide seamless services in the workplace.
The corner of the cafeteria completes the Microsoft Envisioning Center. The space is flooded with natural light and is equipped with large lamps that – independently – adjust according to the brightness of the environment.
Again, the technology is there but not seen. “There is still a heated debate about whether the design of the working environment can actually facilitate the change of the same, comments Primo Orpilla, “I imagine this is a reality, but that is realized only if the people who use the space fully understand the concept and are willing to let it work”.
According to a survey conducted by Regus on 22,000 managers and professionals, the progressive technological improvement and digitalization have led to the search for agile and flexible workplaces that refer to the concept of teleworking.
This allows you to always remain operational-productive even if you are not in your office. The new trend is aimed at specific structures providing smart working services, in which to work without fixed costs and with maximum free time.
Francis Cleary underlines: “Contrary to what people believe, to design the office of the future it is not enough to find the right position for desks”.
“What really matters is to answer three basic questions: when, where and how the work is done. The advantages of co-working and greater mobility are no longer a prerogative of millennials, but also of other generations of workers. The offices of the future, therefore, must be spaces where productivity, creativity and collaboration are the masters.”
The 2017 Regus survey found that as much as a fifth of senior managers and business owners from around the world who took part chose business centers as their favorite place to work remotely. Cleary goes on:
“The offices of the future are being transformed into a sort of destination where you choose to work simply because it is the place where you work best”.
NEW WORKING PARADIGM
The issues of sustainability and attention to the well-being of people have now become pillars of the lifestyle of modern man. Green is always present: whether they are plants and flowers, or entire gardens and terraces, this natural element helps mood and health.
In this regard, a study carried out by the University of Exter confirmed the positive ascendancy of plants and flowers on employee productivity, which would even increase by 15%.
Working life is also very often linked to people’s free time: the need that arises today is therefore to be able to have a connection between sport and work.
It is no coincidence that many companies have incorporated gyms and structures within their workspace to allow employees to remain toned and improve their health: this occurs thanks to the benefits of sports activities that free endorphins, positively affecting mood and on the mind-body balance.
How then could we think that our offices can always remain the same, with desktops, landlines and motionless desks?
Especially since now in our country we only talk about flexibility, smart-working, working from home. Most people predict that the office of the future will be more interactive, collaborative and simplified than today thanks to technologies and processes that will make innovative ways of working possible.
Even the innovations thought would include drones, holograms, Bluetooth communications and sensory transmitters.
Andrew Laing, CEO of DEGW, says: “The classic structure” from 9 to 5 in an office “facility is giving way to a virtual work environment: employees work 24/7 on their Blackberry or Laptop.
Companies can take advantage of the natural evolution of the office by finding a balance between virtual and physical space. This could increase productivity and lower costs, without sacrificing corporate culture or individual motivation.
Innovative business executives recently recognized that technology allows their employees to be mobile, to work with colleagues remotely and at different times, and to get the job done in various ways, both in and out of the office. These companies have saved money, increased job flexibility and exploited their properties in the best possible way.
LEAVE A COMMENT
The hypothesis that virtual communication and remote work environments will completely replace the need to physically gather people is, however, misleading. The richness of face-to-face communication allows a rapid and personalized interaction, which accelerates the decision-making process and the flow of information, in ways that have not yet been fully achieved by purely virtual work environments.
At the same time, traditional workplaces are becoming increasingly unproductive and will soon be out of fashion among the leading companies, if they are not already. The solution could be in the hybrid workplace, a mix of open space and closed workspaces available to users when they need it. Companies will have to try to keep up. “
If you are planning to design your office of the future, through open space or through new hybrid structures, this article is perfect for you! In case I have ideas, doubts or simply comments to make, do not hesitate to leave a comment, we would be happy to compare you!