Written by David George, Chris Rowley & John McDonald
David George, Managing Director, iPWC Ltd
Let’s look back 20 years and remind ourselves what was happening in the world; the worry of how the millennium would impact technology, the fight against email generated viruses (remember the Melissa strain?), the stock market’s worst fall, Yahoo bought GeoCities and Microsoft was successfully prosecuted as operating as a monopoly. The first live webcast of an international football match took place and Britain’s first internet-only bank opened.
Today? We have more of the same, plus vastly greater choice and the accessibility of data and the means by which we are able to capture, retrieve, interrogate, process and produce more, automatically, has developed beyond recognition.
Looking forward 10 years? Many routine tasks will of course continue to be automated, and app development will come on leaps and bounds, even allowing us to control within eye movement alone. Communication technology will advance with ‘virtual presence’ facilitating a feeling of better engagement with remote colleagues when collaborating and in meetings, enabling an open communication structure, eroding structural hierarchies in organisations and allowing interactions at all levels. That said, there’s only so much communication that can be achieved on video, the phone and messaging.
Our behaviour and habits have adapted more slowly to this technology surge, for I believe we still need a sense of belonging gained through face to face contact. We enjoy these interactions with each other to help us deepen our relationships and to do our best work. We learn fastest by being physically present with others. So, what does this mean for work and the workplace?
Remote working will become more acceptable and the ‘norm’ for many job functions, but not all. The recent move to the “co-working coffee shop design” will continue and, as we are starting to see today, these models are being developed and refined, improving the acoustics and the ability to meet more privately with upgraded technology solutions.
The office of 2030 will be about less ‘ownership’ of space and furniture items – on a macro and micro level – and more about the sharing of facilities and work settings which will be specifically designed to enable both formal and informal collaboration. We’ll make use of all these technological enhancements and will thus see less work traditionally carried out at desks but not in quite the same way we imagined ‘Tomorrows World’ as per the forecast from the 70’s.
Chris Rowley, Independent Advisor
Predicting the future of work and the workplace is always very difficult, and when you are looking out to 2030 at a time when so many things are changing so quickly it becomes almost impossible. Eleven years ago the iPhone had only just been launched and Blackberry reigned supreme in the workplace. So thinking about how technology has changed the workplace in the past gives us some clues as to what to expect in the future.
Over the last couple of decades our working environments have been transformed by technology. In the 1990’s we saw the widescale roll out and adoption of laptops and over the last twenty years since, are seeing improved collaboration tools, mobile computing, apps and connectivity everywhere.
Looking forward to 2030 I think it will be hard to overstate the transformative impact of Artificial Intelligence on service businesses. In the short term it will bed in more slowly than we may expect now, but over a five to ten year timeframe office-based roles will change significantly as A.I. starts to deliver more repetitive analytical and customer interactive activities as a matter of course. Contact centre and entry level roles in professions such as Legal and Accounting will be among those most impacted. What does this mean? I predict that we will need less workstations for analytical activities and more space for collaboration, creation and communication.
John McDonald, Corporate Development Director, GRAHAM Group
Forecasting the workplace of the future with certainty is not an exact science.
Nevertheless, shifts in demographics, fundamental changes in society, and the unstoppable trajectory of technology dictate that the traditional concept of the working environment is disappearing, and fast.
If the last ten years are a barometer for change, then, by 2030, we can comfortably predict that the pace of change will be rapid and its impact profound.
The rise of WeWork is a case in point. Launched in 2010, the shared-space group has become the largest corporate office occupier in central London.
At the very heart of the question is “work” itself.
The implications of our modern, globally connected world mean that the nature of work is undergoing a transformation, the likes of which we have not seen since the industrial revolution.
Digitisation, automation and Artificial Intelligence continue to pervade every aspect of our working lives – a trend that is only going to gain a stronger foothold in the years to come.
This direction of travel presents both very real challenges, and opportunities, for jobs and skills.
Jobs have become ever more fluid and work patterns have altered considerably.
Naturally, as work evolves, so too do our workplaces.
While the process is well under way, in a digitally focussed world the notion of physical office space where employees punch in from 9-5 and sit at a desk in an open-planned office will be redundant.
Above all, employees now expect much more than a table and chair from their place of work.
And, employers must meet these rising demands of their workforce in a highly-competitive marketplace.
Therefore, the workspace of the future must be designed to promote general wellbeing, improve employee engagement and champion collaboration – proven factors that help to slash absenteeism, boost productivity and enhance performance.
It will feature characteristics of innovative interior design, ergonomic furniture and flexible space to promote collaboration, quiet zones to improve focus, and facilities to encourage social interaction – all of which will strengthen staff retention.
As we grow older and work longer, it also has to flexibly accommodate the needs of a multi-generational workforce.
Another developing trend is the acceleration towards serviced offices and managed spaces for co-working as organisations adopt a decentralised approach, moving away from the conventional company headquarters model to smaller, widespread satellite bases.
Offering control and agility, these vibrant offices provide the functionality to add or remove space depending on a range of factors, including expansion, and help to promote entrepreneurial networking and creative thinking.
But it is smart technology and Artificial Intelligence that will have the biggest impact on workspace through data driven decision making.
Connectivity and the Internet of Things mean that smart buildings will integrate everything from access, lighting, heating, security, cleaning and catering across a single network, enhancing the end-user experience in the process.
Sensors, for example, will function intelligently to adjust the temperature or lighting dependent on individual preferences.
For employers, landlords and facilities managers, the advent of digitisation and data analytics is central to the efficient operation of buildings. This influence will be maximised by 2030.
Presented with information at the touch of a button, real time analysis of every facet of a building’s performance is possible which is critical to the evaluation of costs and driving improvements.
Digital disruption is already shaping workspace, and, without question, by 2030 its impact will have transformed the “office” forever.