Are we the last generation to need an office?

Phil Hues Phil Hues
Buildings Leader, Western Australia
22 March 2016
4 min read

The Internet is the most powerful force behind making traditional work practices and ‘the office’ less relevant. High speed connectivity and powerful software have the potential to render bus rides, train crushes and coffee queues in order to arrive at the office a thing of the past. Much of this is happening now. Today’s workforce could be the generation that pioneer ‘bleisure’ – a combination of business and leisure which irrevocably blurs the lines between home and work life, and if that happens, then what happens to the office as we currently know it?

A recent report by Jones Lang LaSalle showed that within most organisations, staff desks are utilised just 60 per cent of the time, with the other 40 per cent spent in collaboration spaces or out with clients. In this environment people don’t even get a desk to call their own and companies are benefiting from it from needing less office space.

Coupled to this is the fact that millennials don’t want to spend their day in an office if they don’t have to. As they seek to balance life style with work style, the office environment may not be the best place to do that.

The ‘office’ of the future could be your home, your coffee shop, a library or a public park; and might be required to function in multiple ways as a touch down space, a collaboration space, a space where things can be built, a meeting place and more.

OfficeAs this new model for work emerges, the technology driving this movement forward is becoming more powerful. Technology will soon make it entirely possible to enter the board room for a conference, face to face, with clients and colleagues from around the globe, while you’re still at home.

Virtual Reality (VR) goggles can readily provide this capability. The time, cost and stress of business travel will be eliminated. Artificial Intelligence (AI) could take care of most mundane tasks that don’t require emphatic thought processes. Emails will be automatically read and filtered, with only the most important ones being discussed with you.

What’s more, your AI device will provide details on each person you meet instantly, informing you of both their personal and professional information. In this world you’ll have the capacity to be more collaborative and innovative than ever before, with the ability to ‘see’ what those in the physical world are doing and communicate with them whenever you need to, including ‘seeing’ what is happening on a project site or in your retail outlet and ‘popping in’ to take care of things without physically being there. You’ll print what you need to work by downloading a design from the cloud and using a 3D printer to manufacture it.

Within this scenario, innovating will be more important than ever before. If mundane tasks are taken care of, the challenge to all workers will be to find new ways to add additional value. This will place a greater demand on workers to create more value for customers. Intelligence and innovation will become the ‘natural resource’ that companies must leverage to create competitive advantage. We have seen technology already displace and challenge many blue collar work environments. It would be naïve to think that similar disruption won’t occur to white collar work environments, particularly, when millennials are demanding this new balance.

Critically, if we are on the cusp of another workplace revolution, it is important that we contemplate its impact. There is a need for businesses to begin to ponder how the way we work will change; the effects on staff and the need to adjust their resourcing strategies. Uber’ing the office work force is literally just around the corner.

The first to make these changes and take advantage of an enhanced focus on intelligence and innovation will be the winners in this volatile and competitive environment. Building owners and tenants of commercial offices, too, will be amongst a very broad range of stakeholders who will be effected by this revolution – and will need to plan for it.

Very clearly, there’s currently no telling where this revolution will end. What is certain is that companies that succeed at anticipating this revolution will enjoy unmeasured success as their teams are encouraged to reach their potential, and as idea generation and better thinking explodes across their organisation.

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Phil Hues
Written by
Phil Hues

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