From the Death of the Desk to Standing Workstations: A Glimpse at the Office of the Future
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What do you see when you think about the office of the future? Conference calls with holograms? Workplace robots? Or maybe even computers synced with employees’ brains?
OK, so for the average business, the imminent future isn’t quite this exciting. However, from standing workstations to wearable technology, the way workplaces are designed and utilised is changing rapidly.
Here’s a glimpse at the office of the future.
Workers Will No Longer Be ‘Tethered’ to Their Desks
According to Ryan Mullenix, a design partner at Seattle architecture firm NBBJ (who are behind some of the most innovative workplaces in the world), office design is moving away from the idea that time spent at your desk is the measure of how productive you are.
In fact, according to many experts, it’s the time spent away from your desk interacting with colleagues that can be the most valuable. "It's who you see on the way to coffee, and movement which charges your brain, which is really valuable and part of work," explains Mullenix.
As a result, the offices of the future will see an increase in hot-desking, with employees able to work wherever it suits them, as well as plenty of large open spaces to encourage chance interactions.
The Workplace Will Be More Active
We’ve all heard about how sitting at a desk all day is killing us and, when you look at the research, there’s no denying that limited physical activity at work is bad for your employee’s health.
Studies have also indicated that increased activity has significant benefits for productivity, boosting concentration, memory, learning and creativity, as well as reducing stress and elevating mood.
In response, designers are applying a concept known as ‘active design’ to workplaces, which involves creating a space that encourages movement. An extreme example is RAAAF and Barbara Visser’s design (see below), in which craggy peaks allow employees to work in a range of positions, from lying down to standing.
See RAAAF and Barbara Visser’s active workplace design ‘Outstanding Landscape of Affordances’ in action.
Wearable Technology Will Be Used to Track Employee Activity
This sounds a little bit Big Brother – but wearable technology (for example, Apple’s smart watch) could have significant benefits for both businesses and employees.
The growing trend involves linking wearable computing devices with data analysis to improve performance. The much touted benefits include reducing employee’s dependence on ‘clunky’ devices, such as tablets, as well as allowing professionals to communicate ‘hands-free’.
However, the real benefit in terms of office environment and design would be the ability to track staff’s movements within the workplace, which could help managers to make informed decisions about how to make the best use of the space available.
Workplaces Will Cater For Different Generations and Working Styles
As people work longer than ever before, businesses will have to cater for employees from four generations – Millenials, Generation X, Generation Y and the Baby Boomers.
And whilst many of the world’s biggest companies have long been investing in open-plan collaborative spaces, it’s possible that this won’t be an environment that suits everyone.
Ryan Mullenix told the BBC:
“(Whether open plan layouts are good or bad) is probably the wrong question. It is the ability to create different areas within a campus and building, catering for different working styles that is important.”
The central takeaway for businesses is that choice is key. Everyone is different and providing employees with one fixed seat means that you’re not meeting the needs of some individuals.
Virtual Reality Could Become a Very Real Possibility
This is the development that probably seems the most far-fetched. According to Forbes, virtual reality could become part of our daily work lives sooner than we expect.
With the use of Google Glass-like technology, employees will have the ability to ‘transport’ themselves to a business meeting anywhere in the world – whether they’re strolling down a beach or sitting at their desk.
This will make it easier for businesses to operate with multiple physical locations, providing employees with all the benefits of ‘face-to-face’ interaction, without having to hop on a train. However, the technology isn’t likely to be perfect for some time yet.
Whilst workplace robots are probably someway off, technological advances, as well as advances in research are rapidly changing the way offices are designed and utilised.
From virtual reality to active designs, the office of the future will aim to provide workers with a flexible environment that caters for a range of different needs and working styles, as well as utilising technology to improve the workplace and increase productivity.
Here at Free Office Finder, we can help you find an office space that will suit your needs now and into the future. Contact us today for free, personalised advice on every aspect of the process.