What Does the Future of the Office Look Like?

July 3, 2015

4:30 pm

Barely ten years ago the working situation for the average office worker would be unthinkable for many of the employees, freelancers, and entrepreneurs of today. Gone are the days of the traditional office environment, comprising of allocated desks and worker bees clocking in at nine and leaving the office at five.

Advances in technology have gradually been contributing to a radical alternative, where staff can work remotely, as efficiently and collaboratively as they could if they were physically in the office. So does this mean we are saying farewell to the traditional office environment? Well, let’s explore the ways in which our working lifestyles are changing – and what it could mean for the future.

A fulfilled worker = a happy worker = a productive worker

Remote working opens up a world of new opportunities and with the latest technological advances in communications, borders no longer represent barriers. This flexible working phenomenon has given staff and entrepreneurs the ability to work in a way that best suits them. Smartphones, wider access to WiFi, video conferences, and even wearables like the Apple Watch, are all responsible for this new phenomenon.

With the ability to work from anywhere, people are able to spend more of their time at home in a relaxing environment or experiencing different places and meeting new people. This leads to a happier and, in theory, a more productive worker.

Flexible working has allowed freelancers to flourish

The Design Council recently reported a 40 percent increase in freelancers in the UK between 2005 and 2010. Similarly, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that freelancers will account for 40 percent of the workforce in the US by 2020.

The introduction of subscription models for software, affordable hardware and websites to find potential clients, means that working for yourself is less risky and requires minimal investment. The economic downturn of 2007 also forced many people and businesses to rethink their options. Individuals that were made redundant had little choice but to turn to freelancing. Likewise, businesses could no longer afford to employ people and had to turn to cheap freelancers accessible over the internet.

Technology has made it easier than ever to showcase your skills as a freelancer, and for businesses to find cheap labor from the other side of the world. Simply login to one of the many freelancing sites, such as Fiverr, Freelancer and Peopleperhour, and you have access to an experienced workforce without the complications of employment.

Collaborative work spaces are bringing freelancers together

Shared offices are growing in popularity and aren’t just confined to the office blocks and converted warehouses in the city. Collaborative work spaces are sprouting up in small towns and villages, to meet the demand for the growing number of freelancers and startup founders.

The affordable desk space in these offices is rented by the month, week, or even the day. But it isn’t just the desk space that provides value to these workers, they can also learn from the people they find themselves working alongside.

“I think this is definitely the way that things are going, that we are moving towards offices as being a service. The people who are doing this really well know it’s not just about desks and chairs – it’s about how you create a community,” comments Dogpatch Labs Managing Director Patrick Walsh.

What about the future for larger companies?

The increased flexibility of today’s office worker has left the allocated desk environment inefficient and wasteful. Whilst staff are working remotely, their desks are left empty. Why waste money on empty workstations, when they can be shared between workers?

Hot-desking is the office environment of the future according to work-based technology specialists, Condeco Software. The company has developed infrared heat sensors to detect when an office space is being used. The data collected from the sensors is analysed to see how efficiently a space is being utilized. Condeco’s CEO, Paul Statham, believes that allocating desks for each employee in a company is no longer a viable option.

What does the future hold for the office worker?

Collaborative work spaces are building and nurturing a new type of office relationship. However, in general coworkers are spending less time together and more time communicating via technology.

So where does this leave us? A world in which hot-desking coworkers barely even meet each other. A world in which human contact is cut to a minimum, meetings are conducted via Skype and phone calls are replaced by emails.

Adam Myeroff, Director at Stuart Neils, says “With the latest technology tools like Team Viewer, Log Me In, Microsoft 365, and the almost blanket use of smart phones, people are expected to be available before 9am and after 5pm, weekends and even on holiday. We are working harder and longer but innovative and collaborative work space with facilities like sit stand desks and video conferencing, means that companies are also focused on health and wellbeing of their staff and are able to offer flexibility so that it is possible to work and still not miss an important event like a child’s school sports day. The emphasis on this means that employees are happy to be available outside of normal hours and this approach is good for both the company and the employee.”

Office relationships are bound to suffer if coworkers are spending less time together. However, they are also going to be spending more time with their families, and more time enjoying the big, wide world. That’s the trade off.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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By day Emma works as a freelance digital strategist in the vibrant City of London. By night she can be found glued to her laptop, blogging about the latest technology trends. As a freelancer, Emma is free to travel as she pleases and has taken up house-sitting for individuals across the Globe. Freelancer, traveller and entrepreneur, Emma is keen to explore the freedom afforded to us by technology.