Future Of Work: Glossary Of Terms

A glossary featuring some of the key terms associated with the flexible workplace and the future of work.
  • A glossary featuring some of the key terms associated with the flexible workplace and the future of work.
  • The future of work is constantly evolving, and working practices will continue to adapt and change.
  • Discover the meaning of coworking, flex desk, virtual office, PropTech, the gig economy, coliving, and more.

Powered by the continuing march of technology and automation, the future of work is constantly evolving. It is a journey rather than a destination, and our working practices, along with the physical workplace, will continue to adapt and change in line with innovative new solutions that help us work more collaboratively, efficiently, and productively.

The future of work will continue to be influenced by a combination of factors such as globalisation, the gig economy, technology, automation, artificial intelligence, and more. This glossary reflects some of the key terms currently associated with the future of work.

Suggestions welcome. Contact the editors with any additional terms and definitions that you would like to see in this list.

Coworking Space

A workplace environment in which people, who are usually from different companies, share office space and work collaboratively. Most spaces provide open plan workspace along with private offices, meeting rooms, lounge areas, and other shared amenities such as printers, copiers and kitchen space.

Flex Desk Workstation

A workstation comprising of a desk, chair and storage, which may be for private (sole) use or shared under a hot desk scheme.

Hot Desking

Rather than giving each worker their own dedicated desk, hot desking is a space-saving practice in which workers use an available desk or workstation only when they need it.

Business Center

A hybrid environment in which businesses can rent furnished office space, coworking space and meeting rooms, usually under short-term flexible agreements. Business centers are staffed and provide a range of services such as receptionist support, call answering, mail sorting and forwarding, and general day-to-day assistance.

Virtual Business Address

A commercial address that business owners can rent on a flexible basis. They can register their company to the virtual business address, put the address on business cards and marketing materials, and have mail received, sorted and forwarded. Similar to a Virtual Office, they can also visit the building and use the facilities by the hour to work or hold meetings.

Mail Forwarding

A service provided by virtual office providers, business centers, and some coworking spaces. Companies can use the business address as their own, and have incoming mail received and forwarded to an alternative destination such as their home, or another office address.

Virtual Office

A virtual office provides a combination of services, a workplace, technologies, and processes for remote workers. Virtual office services include a business address, mail forwarding, monthly access to meeting rooms or desk space, live receptionist services, a business number, and a VoIP phone system. Businesses can choose which services they need, and can often add or remove services depending on their requirements.

Virtual Reality

Not to be confused with a virtual office. Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial environment created with software and presented to the user through eyewear or a headset, which enables the user to interact with their environment and feel immersed in it. VR is becoming an important element in commercial real estate and the future of work, as it can be (and is already being) used for virtual workspace tours, architectural design, hands-on training, and more.

Augmented Reality

Not to be confused with virtual reality. Augmented reality (AR) adds artificial features to the reality you would ordinarily see, rather than replacing it. In most cases, people interact with AR technology through a screen, usually a smartphone or tablet, on which images, videos and sounds are overlaid. An example in the workplace is a hologram, which allows people to appear virtually at a reception desk, or in meetings.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the technology behind smart buildings and smart homes. It is a network of physical objects – such as vehicles and appliances – which are embedded with electronics, software and sensors to enable them to connect and exchange data. In the workplace, IoT can be used in many different ways. It can provide valuable insights on how people use and interact with their workspace; it improves security by providing smart access; and it can save resources by only heating or lighting areas that are in current use.


The use of technology to address the specific needs of property companies. In commercial real estate, PropTech can help companies find, buy, sell, design, fitout, and manage workspace. PropTech takes many different forms in the workplace, such as smart access systems, billing and invoicing, tracking consumption and data utilization, software for reporting repairs, and crowdfunding new workspace-related projects.

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Cloud Computing

A computing service that is delivered over the Internet is known as ‘cloud computing’. Examples include online storage such as Dropbox and iCloud, databases, software, and networking. The advent of cloud computing enabled greater mobility in the workforce, allowing people and teams to telecommute from alternative locations without compromising on collaboration, and driving rapid takeup of coworking and virtual office solutions.

Virtual Receptionist / Live Receptionist

A flexible remote receptionist service that provides live call answering, call forwarding, appointment scheduling, and general customer service support. Companies that outsource their call handling to a live receptionist pay on a sliding scale depending on how many live call answering minutes they require each week.

Virtual Assistant

Similar to a live receptionist, a virtual assistant provides remote business support on a flexible basis. In addition to call handling and customer service support, virtual assistants often provide secretarial tasks such as diary management, data entry and cold calling.

Digital Nomad

A term used to describe people who combine remote work and travel. As the name implies, digital nomads are nomadic in nature, moving around from place to place and working remotely on a freelance or contractual basis, or as an entrepreneur. Digital nomads normally require a work visa or a travel visa and are able to enjoy their work/lifestyle with the help of mobile technology, wireless Internet connectivity and cloud computing. Typical occupations include travel blogging, freelance writing, web development, design, and consulting, among others.

Remote Worker

A remote worker is a person who works for a company, either on an independent contractual basis or as an employee, outside of a traditional office environment. Remote workers typically work from home or from a ‘third place’ location, such as a coworking space, a coffee shop or a business lounge, and collaborate with their team members through digital apps such as video conferencing and instant messaging, alongside traditional communication tools such as email and phone.


A person who works on a self-employed basis for different companies. Freelance workers, sometimes known as ‘gig workers’, typically charge by the hour or by the task and often work remotely, using a home office or a coworking space to carry out their work. The rise in freelance work is largely attributed to advances in mobile technology and cloud computing, which enables freelancers to advertise their skillset and work for companies without the need to commute daily.

Gig Economy

Similar to freelancers, ‘gig workers’ are usually self-employed and carry out short-term tasks, known as ‘gigs’, for different companies. The ‘gig economy’ is the term used to describe this labor market, which is characterized by short-term freelance jobs – which can be anything from a delivery service to data entry work.


An individual who creates a new business, often after having identified a gap in the market and creating an innovative solution to fill it. An entrepreneur typically takes on most of the risks involved with starting a business, along with most of the rewards, and is usually seen as an innovator and a source of new ideas in their particular market.

Location Independent Living

Often associated with digital nomads, people who have a location independent lifestyle are not tied to any particular place. They may choose to stay in a certain place for a period of time, but they maintain the freedom to move around and travel to different places as often as they choose, often using a work visa or a travel visa. Many people with an independent location lifestyle work online, which provides the flexibility to manage their own schedule and work from virtually anywhere. Typical occupations include travel blogging, freelance writing, web development, design, and consulting, among others.


Shared housing, often found in city centers, where residents rent their own private rooms and share living space and kitchen facilities. Similar to coworking, coliving spaces are social and focused on community whereby residents, or members, build connections and relationships.

Lifestyle Design

The process of designing your optimum lifestyle and, rather than waiting for retirement to enjoy a more flexible or luxury lifestyle, to do it in the present. It became popular after Timothy Ferriss published his book ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ in 2007, which suggested that most people aspire to freedom and flexibility rather than wealth. This can be attained with a more flexible approach to work, which allows people to pursue hobbies and enjoy a healthier and happier lifestyle now, while they are supposedly still able and fit enough to enjoy it.
Suggestions welcome.Contact the editors with any additional terms and definitions that you would like to see in this list.

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