For the commercial property industry, that’s a million dollar question.
Peer inside a dozen different office buildings and the chances are you will see a dozen different office cultures. The office as we know it has come a long way – cubicle farms and private office space are giving way to open-plan offices, and from traditional long-term leases came flexible serviced offices. Furthermore, free Wi-Fi in cafes helped to promote the co-working movement.
There are numerous theories and suggestions about the future workplace. The common ground seems to be that the future office will most likely reflect the requirements of a much more flexible and mobile workforce. For example, a recent Regus study – ‘Flexibility Drives Productivity‘ – found “hard evidence” that flexible working helps to overcome barriers for growth. Their research claims that 72% of global businesses reported increased productivity as a direct result of flexible working practices.
The Regus study also found that 68% of firms declared that flexible working led to staff generating increased revenue.
If flexible working equals increased revenue, that’s surely the route most – if not all – profit-seeking businesses will want to take. So the future office certainly seems to be one that will pander to the needs of a more flexible workforce, whether that be mobile workers, part-timers, freelancers or homeworkers.
The aptly named Office of the Future: 2020 goes further into the concept.
Featuring a comprehensive range of research studies conducted by staffing organisation Office Team, the general consensus is that there will be fewer set locations, and employees will increasingly work from diverse locations, with teams equipped to work – and be managed – on a remote basis. From a staffing perspective, those people that can adequately adapt to new situations and fit into a work-on-the-go environment will be in demand.
Office of the Future: 2020 predicts that technology will play a significant role in allowing staff to work off-site, while companies will come to rely on a range of plug ‘n play environments within which to land. Essentially, “going to work” will be redefined as employees become more mobile.
Technology is at the crux of progress for both work-on-the-go professionals and the workspace industry. Jerome Chang, founder of co-working facility BLANKSPACES, believes that workspace and technology are intrinsically linked.
“I see coworking and real estate the same as software and hardware. Once every Joe is comfortable with computers, then we can move toward Web 1.0, then 2.0, and hopefully, mobile. By then, we’ll see many more nimble workspaces in airports, malls, and hotels. Everything from how power and data is distributed will be more standardized.”
He believes that concierge or front desks will be commonplace, helping workers to get acquainted with the day’s touchdown space. He thinks that landlords will become more like today’s cloud servers, in the sense that their office space will be “modular, reconfigurable spaces”.
Bridget Hardy of Integrans Consulting believes that the future workplace will be more of a ‘pay as you go’ environment. Rather than rows of static desks, the space will work harder and offer more options – such as collaborative spaces, “huddle areas” and quiet areas for workers to “get their heads down”.
Offices that ‘work harder’ to make better use of available space, helping to minimise floor plates and reduce overheads certainly seems a viable solution. Combine this with the evidence that greater flexibility at work results in happier staff and bigger revenue margins, and you’ve got the makings of a recipe for success.
What’s your view on the future office?