The Office of the Future

OK, so you get the drift….in big commercial companies remote and mobile working is really taking off (primarily as a cost-cutting means). It’s also slowly seeping through to the public sector (for example Local Authorities).

So what does this have to do with the office blueprint? Well, remote working needs are starting to have a serious effect on how offices are designed. My post a while back on house of the future fell a little flat, but Office of the future is big business.

So what will the office of the future look like?

Cisco has recently been redesigning some of its office buildings “with the remote worker in mind” and Intel had a go at doing this last year. Some of the key elements are:

Hot Desks

hotdesk

Hot desks, drop in desks, desk sharing, team areas, call them what you will. These are desks that people can plug in and work at. In the past hot desks have not had a good reputation (issues over ownership, space etc). Things have got better and as people are more familiar with mobile working and desks are often used more as a touch-down space hot desks are back in favour. Some organisations have randomly allocated these while others have desks grouped in teams. It’s also likely some offices will bring in smart scheduling software to ensure maximum desk occupancy.

At the Improving Services and Reducing Costs Through Flexible Working day I attended Emel Morris, Head of Communications at Hertfordshire County Council talked about team spaces. They found that some mobile workers (for example social workers) were not keen on hot desking but when these desks were allocated to a team (say 5 desks for 10 mobile workers) they were much more popular. Workers liked the fact that they could work next to their colleagues when in the office.

At Intel they “created a bank of first-come, first-serve offices for people who spend most of their time working from home, complete with storage lockers.

Some ideas on how to manage hot desks are available from the Flexibility site.

Adaptable Environment

The recent BBC article on smarter work places suggests that “walls could become screens showing diaries, documents or video conferences.” Electronic wallpaper could potentially show any useful data. There is definitely a move to making offices a more interesting environment so that when people do visit them they stimulate creativity. It’s what has been happening in the library world for some time (see JISC’s library of the future work).

On a recent trip to the Colchester campus of University of Essex I was lucky enough to have a tour of one of their iLab buildings. This is “an inspirational facility designed for group work, which transports users from their everyday environment into an extraordinary space encouraging creative thinking and problem solving.” It was great and hopefully offices will be encouraged to have similar spaces in the future.

The whole idea is to have this sensory, seamless smart environment,” said Dr Puybaraud. “You will turn up and this environment is ready to support you and the way you work.

Instant offices or Remote Offices

Mobile working requires our office to be everywhere and anywhere. Remote offices may become more popular, café commuting definitely will and instant offices (business centres that allocate some space to hot desks) will also be increasingly used.

Video conferencing might also turn a corner. If it becomes more natural and realistic most offices will have a dedicated room. The vision is:

Videoconferencing is crystal clear, allowing easy eye contact and reading of every participant’s body language and facial expressions. Sales managers love videoconferencing: They can give live demonstrations for potential customers located anywhere. It’s popular in homes as well, not only as a communication device, but also as an entertainment medium.

So to conclude although the paperless office didn’t quite happen our work spaces are definitely changing.

So what is our office of the future going to look like? Well for many of us it will look very similar to our spare bedroom or garden shed.
😉

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