Five trends that will shape the workplace of the future

The modern working environment is unrecognisable from offices of the past. Fax machines, individual offices and nine-to-five working hours are now confined to the annals of history.  And, although it’s hard to imagine, it won’t be long before cubicle farms, individual desks and even the concept of a traditional office will be superseded.

To take a closer look at what work will look like in coming decades, we collaborated with insight consultancy The Future Laboratory to produce a white paper that explores what the business environment of the future is likely to be.

Read on to learn about some of the major trends uncovered in this paper that we can expect to see evolve in the Australian workforce.

‘Bleisure’ becomes the standard way of working

As it sounds, bleisure is a portmanteau of business and leisure. It describes how the businesses of the future will seek to combine the feel and way of thinking of both spaces. The purpose of this trend is to help people collaborate more effectively and work more efficiently.

A good example of bleisure in practice is Google’s London headquarters. Every room has been designed with a particular type of productivity in mind, be that collaboration or intense concentration to meet a deadline. One of the rooms is called the Velourmptuous Snug, which has the look and feel of an English pub. The purpose of the room is to simulate the privacy and atmosphere when you work at home.

The ‘frictionless’ office space

This is the idea that where you work is fluid and shifting. The notion is that there’s no need to do your work just from an office. One of the concepts of the frictionless office is that hotels are becoming the default workspace.

One expression of this idea is global hotel chain Marriot’s LiquidSpace app, which allows users to search for vacant tables, workspaces or meeting rooms in its hotels.

The third ‘Industrial Revolution’

In the same way mass production and the internet transformed the way we work, 3D printing will revolutionise manufacturing. ‘Fabricators’ are becoming much cheaper and the software that drives these devices is becoming much easier to use. In the future people will print rather than buy products, which will slow down the ‘throwaway culture’ we live in today.

Eventually we will be able to print very complex items including electronic devices with 3D printers, which could spell the death of the manufacturing sector as we know it. We will literally be able to download designs from the cloud and print anything we want.

The dawn of the age of everywhere

We’re at a point where almost every electronic device is connected to the Internet. Very soon, these devices will have superior predictive capabilities, and the ability to communicate with each other, to make everything we do increasingly seamless. There will be a continued blurring of the lines between office life and personal life.

In fact, the team at The Future Laboratory predict the word ‘office’ will become obsolete and the typical work environment we know today will be transformed as a new model for work emerges.

#GenMobile work ethic pervades

Many of these changes will be driven by a newly discovered generation, dubbed #GenMobile. This generation’s values are quite different to their predecessors’ values. They prize collaboration, connectedness and mobility. Recent research conducted by Aruba Networks revealed 63 per cent of those surveyed think their mobile devices help them manage their lives better.

It’s essential that this group be enabled to work remotely, using a mobile device, outside traditional working hours – because we know this is when they thrive.

Forward thinking businesses will recognise this and will be designing their workspace with this in mind. We are already seeing leading organisations make the steps to accommodate this new way of working with the introduction of hot desking and communal collaboration spaces.

One significant trend behind this force is the growth of the all-wireless workplace. The all-wireless workplace is centred on high-performance mobile networks that enhance connectivity through unified communications and eliminate restrictions from fixed data and phone lines. Core to this is ensuring the mobile network implemented supports security, is stable when facing heavy demand, smart enough to prioritise important applications yet simple enough for everyone to use.

Every business needs to be aware of how the way we work will change in the future. Managers need to be thinking now about where and how the way people in their business will work in the future will shift. Companies that do this well will successfully support their teams to achieve their potential, assist in idea generation and better thinking right across the business. The result will be a more engaged, productive workforce and an improved competitive position for the organisation. It’s an exciting time to be in business.

Written by Steve Coad, Business Spectator, January 2015
Steve Coad is managing director, Aruba Networks, ANZ