It’s not headline news that our working lives have dramatically changed as a result of technological advancements. Our office designers and workplace consultants share their insights on how our relationship with our workplace and technology will unfold in the future, writes Tony Snelgrove, creative design manager, Morgan Lovell.
Every day the cloud delivers greater choices about where we work, the ‘Internet of Things’ and associated apps provide flexible ways to interact with our colleagues and offices have morphed from square boxes into ‘smart’ buildings.
This seamless fusion of our physical and digital worlds and the data we collect inform the design of our offices, can increase our happiness at work, improve our productivity and reduce our impact on the planet.
A recent Morgan Lovell survey of 500 office workers revealed that only 37% felt their technology was good or cutting edge; however, the possibilities for innovation in the office of the future are infinite. Selecting solutions that provide the best fit for a business will depend on its strategy, culture, size and budget. Most importantly, the choices we make must be about our people and their kaleidoscopic personal and professional requirements. As we often say in the office design industry – one size will not fit all.
Wellbeing and culture
Our offices house people whose physical, psychological and social welfare is a primary concern for the workplace of the future. So it’s no surprise that new technologies are emerging every day to support and enhance our working lives and experience in the employee-centric offices of the future. Technology provides multiple responses to the question that is now being asked by business leaders and HR executives: “how can we enhance the working lives of our people?”
Even when we’re not co-located as a team, technology can support our cultural and social needs, opening channels of communication, engaging remote communities and sharing values. A sense of cohesion and togetherness can be harnessed that would otherwise be absent without common technology. Measuring who is talking to whom can also help build beneficial communities.
The ongoing challenge of managing anxiety in the post-lockdown office is being addressed to some extent through technology solutions like thermal imaging, spray-on antiviral film and UV lighting. Providing stylus pens for shared touch screens reassure users and live feeds of occupation density also allays concerns around social distancing. The data that feeds through to facilities management acts as an accurate alert system for cleaning and sanitisation operations, advancing a sense of trust in the business’ management.
With a focus on enhancing our health and comfort, apps can connect users to their office delivering individual control over their preferred temperature, lighting and window blinds. The same software will encourage us to achieve movement targets, prompt us to adopt mindfulness techniques and offer the convenience of booking company sponsored virtual GP appointments.
Technology blends flawlessly with furniture of the future to enhance office workers’ comfort and productivity. As in today’s high-end cars, ergonomic chairs can automatically adjust to a user’s preferred height and comfort settings. Built-in sensors link to the user’s desk which can intermittently raise to encourage healthy periods of standing. The use of voice-activated technology which is becoming ubiquitous in our homes with Alexa, Google and Siri will continue to phase out keyboards and mice in our offices.
Technology driving the ‘office of the future’
Imagining a workplace where technology stands still is more challenging than trying to make sense of the myriad of technological transformations that will shape the office of the future.
The workplace technological ride ahead will be fast, furious and exhilarating and it is up to us to control the pace and direction. Used wisely, technology will inevitably improve workplace design. It will influence our choice of where to work and while we are in the office, it will enhance our health, our wellbeing and inspire collaboration. Technology can additionally support our collective aim to reverse damage that we have imposed on the planet – while simultaneously reducing how much our office costs to run.