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The Future Workplace: 12 Ways the Working Environment will Change

10 December 2015

Nothing is constant but change. From typewriters to computers, and rigid working hours to catching up with emails on-the-go, the way office environments are designed and managed has changed dramatically over the past 25 years.

But what will the workplace in the decades to come look like? As much as it sounds like a long way off, with the rate of development in collaboration technologies, smart devices, wearables and even architecture, the future is closer than you think. This next generation workplace will be more productive, more efficient and will deliver meaningful cost savings to organisations of all sizes across the globe.

Here, we’ve taken a look at a range of predictions, from PwC, the BBC and a report published on Workplace Insight,exploring the workplace of 2040, to bring you 12 predictions for the future workplace.

  1. Adaptable working hours will become standard

In 2040, working schedules will be designed to suit each individual. This means that employees can decide how long they wish to work for, the location they wish to work in and how they would like to work. As long as the assignment is completed employers will be less focused on operating standard business hours and more focused on output. It’s important because flexibility is often cited as the biggest non-numeration benefit for employees – particularly millennials. So as the rigid 9am-5pm structure disappears, organisations will need to create environments that can adapt to fluctuating numbers of employees, as well as shifting work patterns.

  1. Everyone will work from home (at least some of the time)

One of the biggest changes to the way that many of us will work in the future is that there will be less focus on, and association with, a fixed workplace. In fact, cloud computing is already enabling millions of employees to work remotely in 2015. In the future, remote working will become more widespread, reducing real estate expenditure for many organisations.

A survey of business owners by Virgin Media Business predicted that 60% of office-based employees will regularly work from home by 2022.

That said, every business will still require an office, and every workplace will need effective management. In the future, the emphasis will be on providing increased online communication methods, flexible and adaptable workspace and less geographic boundaries.  This itself is likely throw up organisational challenges, unique to the offices of the future. For instance, facilities management and the buildings themselves will need to be more flexible to adapt to changing working hours and the varying number of employees using the space.

  1. Split locations

Today, when you think of going to work, you think of going to the office – perhaps visiting a colleague at another location – or, for some, working on a laptop in a home office environment. But by 2040, many predict that the definition of the workplace will become much broader, allowing employees to work anywhere at any time. This will include ‘smart hubs’ and other collaborative public spaces, as well as a sharp increase in the use of online meetings and video conferencing facilities, allowing multiple attendees to join meetings from locations globally without the need to travel.

  1. Offices will turn into ‘trophy workplaces’

Of course, offices will still exist, as there will have to be some location a company calls ‘home’. Therefore, a worker may visit a ‘trophy workplace’ to check back in with other employees in person. However, choice is key, and employees will only be visiting the office if they need to or want to. 

  1. Facilities that are ‘consumed’

By 2040, businesses will often not own facilities, but ‘consume’ them – with employees the consumers, given the choice between a variety of spaces. Each location should provide employees with what they need to work at their best – from optimum temperature to places to think, collaborate and even rest.

Philip Ross, chief executive, Unwork.com spoke about this topic to the BBC:

"It will move from central business districts to a poly-centric city where people work more locally, in new co-working spaces that provide a sense of community and challenge the corporate office, which will get slimmer and be used for different activities.”

  1. Hyper-connected spaces

Tablets have become commonplace in the family home, and are increasingly used in the workplace. By replacing cumbersome PCs, workers can ditch the desk and work wirelessly from any location. Once again, the emphasis is on flexibility and connectivity.

  1. Technology will allow greater collaboration

As much as working from home or in remote hubs can make people feel isolated, technology will keep lines of communication firmly open. Social tools will enable workers to ‘crowdsource’ new ideas and easily make connections between departments, teams and colleagues worldwide.

People will always crave social areas and PwC predicts that in the future, companies will begin to break down into collaboration networks of small organisations, with these smaller groups becoming more specialised. Technology will bring these individuals together on a task-by-task basis, with social media playing a key role.

  1. Using wearables for tracking

Along with workers ‘consuming’ spaces, the space will also work with them in an almost symbiotic relationship. Employees will be able to track their activity through wearables, which will allow their managers and those designing the workplace the ability to adjust the working conditions and parameters, optimising the space for the individual to maximise performance.

  1. Health and wellness becomes more important

In parallel to the workplace being able to offer greater flexibility; focus will also shift to the mental and physical condition of the employees. Giving employees greater choice about their working environment and the hours they work lets them prioritise their health and wellbeing. Organisations will recognise this and in order to remain an attractive employer, companies will look to provide greater access to health and fitness facilities. So by considering your employee’s health, you will inevitably improve their overall performance and retain talent.

  1. Human services will become more valuable in the workplace

As technology in the workplace increases, human input will be all the more vital, ensuring the services provided still appeal to the human audience. Therefore, human services will be considered as a luxury offering, over the automated software that may complete the same work, but to a lesser standard. Those delivering these vital services will be in great demand, resulting in organisations becoming more competitive to create a great place to work.

  1. Green credentials will become increasingly important

PwC predicts that by 2022, a brand’s social responsibility will become even more important than it is today for employees and consumers – becoming a key driver of business and one of the best ways to attract new talent. Today, 65% of people around the world want to work for an organisation with a powerful social conscience, and this will only grow in the years to come. Sustainable business is no longer an option, but essential for success and the first place many businesses need to start is with how their facilities are managed and maintained. By making business operations more efficient and reducing waste, businesses can make huge progress, starting with their workplaces.

  1.  Holograms become a very real possibility

This is probably the prediction that seems the most far-fetched today, but in the future, it could become a very real possibility.

Dave Coplin, chief envisioning officer, Microsoft UK, told the BBC

"In ten years' time, I hope we will have broken free of many of the physical ties of our current working world.

I hope that employees, engaged and empowered with the purpose of their organisation, will use the incredible advances offered by new forms of interaction, like holograms and displays that offer "high empathy presence" where more of our body language can be conveyed to enable us to collaborate more effectively wherever we are.”

This not only opens up the workplace to new forms of communication, but makes it easier for employees working at different sites to collaborate in a way, which is as near to face-to-face as technology can allow.

These are all trends, which will change the attitudes of employees – and will need to be reflected in the way the workplace is designed and managed. While there is definitely a trend towards flexibility, it will still be essential that every company has a physical office space, or ‘hub’, it’s just how employees interact with that space that will change.

Make sure your organisation is ready to embrace the future and your strategy for facilities management incorporates these new technologies and working trends.

Find out how we can help at OCS with our total facilities management or call 0844 846 7608.