We always like to keep our office an engaging environment where people can work their best, but not every company thinks that way. Open-plan offices have grown in popularity, but most still have drab carpets, plasterboard walls and staple features: phone, desktop, and desks.
A great office is the foundation of a happy workforce, but we at Plusnet wanted to know what the future holds for the working environment. Not in one year, or two, or even five. We wanted to know that the office of the future would be like in 2030! Biophilia? Holograms? Nanotech? They all could be about to become reality according to pioneering visionaries of the future we spoke to.
We were surprised at their predictions, seeing what companies of tomorrow might introduce to make the office an even better place to work. Below, we can officially unveil the office of the future we can all look forward to.
Driverless cars will transport commuters safely and smoothly to work. This technology is already being trialled in some countries, and the UK has recently promised to invest in this area.
Car parks will have a stacking system, like those already in existence in Japan. This will increase car parking space and provide room for underground expansion.
Holographic receptionists will welcome you, personalised towards each individual, staff member or client. To start work, biometric entry will see staff and visitors signing in via fingerprint scanning or iris identification.
Heightened security, as well as health and safety improvements, mean you should expect to be scanned as you enter the building, as well as throughout the course of the day!
Futurist Peter Cochrane speculates that “fully automated robotic receptionists, security scanning and real-time behavioural analysis would also include subliminal lie detection and ‘intent prediction”. Looks like you won’t be able to fake the odd day off sick anymore!
The Office Floor
Although there are differing views from some of our experts, the general consensus is that open-plan and portable workspaces will continue to be the future.
The standing desk trend will spread beyond Silicon Valley and become part of a completely customisable working environment. For those who do choose to take a seat, chairs will be fully ergonomic and adaptable to each individual.
Glen Hiemstra, founder and CEO of Futurist.com, told us: “The most radical future office forecast is that offices will have no furniture at all - simply flexible nanotech that can be formed into whatever you need at the moment - something to sit on, a desk, or a conference table.”
Artificial intelligence will also be significant, he adds: “Office work will involve a great deal more consulting with artificial intelligence to assist with decisions than what we've seen up to now, and rather than AI being the province of the most specialised IT people, everyday work will be engaged with AI decision assistance.”
For workplaces globally, holograms and telepresence robots will become the norm in meetings. Digital Leadership expert Sofie Sandell adds: “We are going to use 3D holograms in more meetings and phone conversations. It’s better in that way that you can see more of the person’s body language.” These holograms will be beamed into the meeting room as if they are sat attending themselves.
For those actually wanting to impose themselves in a meeting in near physical format, telepresence robots with a monitor on a wheeled pedestal and controlled by the internet are another option. These robots will even be able to leave the room and accompany colleagues to the kitchen to continue their chats!
Table surfaces in meeting rooms will act as screens, allowing you to bring your desktop files to the table with a swipe of a finger. Christopher Barnatt, Associate Professor of Computing & Future Studies at Nottingham University Business School, tells us that “nanopaints may even allow this functionality to spread to entire walls and ceilings, turning each room into a potential visual display.”
The kitchen will develop into a more personalised area. Biometric refrigerators will recognise a person’s touch and produce privately stored food, avoiding issues of theft in the workplace. For those who would like something on demand, 3D printers will develop to the point of being able to prepare a snack at the touch of a button.
For the health nuts amongst us, health tracking trays will highlight the nutritional content of what you are eating, whilst tea drinkers will appreciate drone tea-trays flying from the kitchen.
Toilets will become greener and smarter. They will not only compost your waste and reduce water usage, but also diagnose medical conditions.
Information will be sent to in-house doctors who can liaise with HR staff and senior management to prepare for long-term absences.
Smart hand-dryers will be able to recognise anyone who hasn’t washed their hands sufficiently, setting off an alarm to wash them again. Alternative options include a toilet lockdown that prevents anyone exiting until they have washed them sufficiently to maintain high levels of hygiene throughout the office.
Scott Lesizza of Workwell Partners explains that, “we will see multipurpose ‘chill’ areas whose purpose during the work day is to have informal meetings that don’t require closed-door privacy, and whose purpose during happy hour is to give employees a break area to de-stress.”
Fun elements like slides will be integrated for the use of the employees. As discussion about the benefits of napping at work becomes more widespread, offices will have nap spaces, whilst meditation, yoga and similar activities will also be available to encourage regular exercise and improved wellbeing.
For the gamers in the workforce, virtual reality gaming machines and headsets will allow employees to plug in and zone out. Depending on their line of work, these games may even be used to keep employee skills sharp, such as graphic designers improving their hand-eye coordination, or managers challenging their problem-solving skills.
Rather than standard office plants, companies will grow a diverse range of plants more akin to the Eden Project! They will also grow their own vegetables for use in canteens, ensuring a healthier lifestyle.
Scott Lesizza suggests that the outdoors will be brought in – which he terms ‘biophilia’: “Humans have a natural instinct to want to be closer to nature, replicating what is naturally a less stressful environment and a more productive one”.
Behold, the Office of the Future!
Above all else, Neil Shah of the Stress Management Society says, “the office of the future will have a lot more focus on a company’s culture and values. They will be designed to inspire and promote wellbeing.” It seems that customisability and well-being will be the two main focusses of all of our offices in the future, letting people work their own way to increase personal productivity while maintaining cohesiveness as different departments depend on each other. Overall, an even healthier and happier workplace for everyone.
Plusnet CEO Andy Baker said: “The Office of the Future shows just how innovative and fast-moving technology has, and can, become and just how much of an influence it has in our daily lives.
“Whilst some of the technology is a long way off and outlandish in some respects, it is fascinating to hear and see just what the mix of experts suggest how workplace environments change.
“Areas such as nanotechnology and artificial intelligence are areas that are incredibly exciting and frightening in equal measure, whilst the notion of ‘biophilia’ will also become more important as companies seek to go greener and more energy efficient.”
For the full overview, including much more from our futurists, download the report by clicking here