With more Baby Boomers hitting retirement, so are the old cubicle-style offices that have hindered creativity and collaboration for decades.
Working more than the typical eight-hour day can lead to stress, unhappiness, lack of productivity and even illness. Future office concepts are putting the health of the employee at the forefront of design.
With Generation X taking on leadership roles while their younger colleagues from Generation Y migrate into the workplace, corporations are already adapting to a new workforce mindset. Not just physically — the young professional’s need for a work-life balance is the new corporate culture and the results are a more enjoyable atmosphere than the Boomers ever dreamed possible.
By 2020, it is estimated by Knoll that 50% of the workforce will be Generation Y. To appeal to this new breed of professional, corporate designers are thinking “out of the cubicle.” Here are some concepts that will change the work environment for the better:
Technology and the Future Office
Surely most people have now heard of the Internet of Things (IOT), but for those who haven’t, in its most basic definition it refers to devices with sensors and other embedded technology that can seamlessly interact with each other and smart devices through the use of the Internet.
Businesses should know about the Internet of Things to stay competitive and attract top talent as this trend in technology gains momentum.
Forget about Google Glass — Google will use new technology to develop augmented contacts and other tech wearables engineered to converse with IOT devices. This “über” smart technology will gather metrics, specifically health data of employees, to help companies become proactive and reduce sick days to promote a healthy lifestyle at work.
The future office design will have the ability to transform based on the needs of their employees — the walls, desks, conference rooms adapting to situations at a push of a button or even a visual command.
Visual computer navigation using eye tracking technology will make the mouse a thing of the past. Samsung is working on EyeCan+, its second-generation eye mouse that can help those with disabilities use computers. Tobii, a world leader in eye tracking technology, recently introduced EyeMobile, a device which helps those with impairments to become connected to technology.
It may take some time until eye tracking is perfected (a consumer-ready solution to replace the mouse), but along with gesture and voice technology, the only thing on the desk of the future may be a screen.
Architecture and Environment
The office design of the future is about choices. Doing away with the cubicle in exchange for the open space office with privacy on-demand. If employees need seclusion to be productive, then maybe a glass bubble desk designed by Christian Pottgiesser used at Pons and Hout would do the trick.
Going Green Keeps Going
The “go green” initiative is not just a trend, it is a smart business decision. It benefits the environment, the health of the workforce, and can cut utility costs. Winners of the Metropolis Magazine Workplace of the Future 2.0 Design Competition of 2015, Organic Grid+, wants to make your office building into a greenhouse, or have “sky gardens” where workers gather fresh produce for lunch.
Employees in the future will eat fresh and organic. Cafeterias of the future office will be open for most of the day, serving up the freshest and healthiest ingredients. Gone are the days of the office fridge — jam-packed, reeking of lunch long-forgotten and the free-for-all (that certain someone who helps themselves to what’s available).
This concept doesn’t require new site construction or even a renovation of an existing building. Most are designed to add to the current structure — like this basic blueprint from Organic Grid+.
As solar panels and wind turbines become more affordable, companies will take advantage of the opportunity to save money in the long run. Leveraging this trend are companies like SolarWindow Technologies. They are developing rapid-payback electricity generating windows to tap into a market opportunity with massive potential — 85 million towers and detached homes in America.
A glance inside this structure of the future finds a very open and adaptable environment where employees can meet in what seems more like a lounge than an office. Plants growing throughout the office help clean the air and brighten moods. Scaling the vertical garden at your lunch break incorporates physical activity that will appeal to the very active culture of the future. Sensor technology will engage when passing by a vegetable or fruit, a wearable device might detect low nutrients, sending a notification to the wearer to maintain energy levels.
Introverts and the Open Space Office
While open spaces have become more common in the workspace, it is quite evident that not everyone is an extrovert – some prefer privacy and a quiet area to work. Hybrid Office came up with a few winning ideas that allow for a balance between introvert and extrovert-friendly spaces.
This design allows for creativeness and collaboration to spread throughout the office, while some workers can concentrate on work without being disrupted.
Conference Rooms of the Future
New technology transforms the conference room of the past. Maybe Minority Report, which was released in 2002, wasn’t too far off.
Organic Grid+ showcases an open meeting room concept with a touchscreen, or possibly gesture-operated, large screen for presentations.
Meeting room whiteboards in the future office are not boards at all but interactive spaces with remote attendees to conduct a truly virtual brainstorming meeting where input comes from many different locations. Then you can save the information to the cloud or your computer and share with ease. The smart boards of today will become obsolete.
Top Management Degrees created this infographic that conceptualizes ideas in “A Look at the Workplace of the Future.”
Companies like Cisco and Musion have been working on holographic telepresence to take the virtual conference to a whole new level, as you can see here:
Napping and the Future Office
Wearables monitor activity and health levels, and send an alert when energy levels are low or rest is needed to maintain health and productivity. Maybe Spain is onto something with siestas and how they improve productivity.
While three-hour breaks won’t work anytime soon in westernized corporate culture, it is known that other parts of the world don’t subscribe to that mindset. There are plenty of offices around the globe, Hubspot being one, that are adapting to the idea of naptime for employees. The founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah tweets:
My first official nap today in the HubSpot Nap Room. Bookable, like a conf. room Very nice, and very necessary. pic.twitter.com/AGZDFgVx0e
Some companies are even adopting a “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) policy, so that employees can seamlessly work between home and the office. This trend will continue to increase in popularity as Gartner predicts that in 2015, half of businesses will have their employees use their own devices for work.
Other companies are starting to outsource tasks overseas with using services like Upwork and Elance that make it easy to find and remotely manage freelance workers from around the world. Skype is helping to simplify the language barrier with their translator function that actually translates video calls in real-time.
As America has outsourced more than 2.6 million jobs offshore, more companies will begin relying on robots to complete work. There are already robots available for business and consumer use, but robots’ skill sets will only continue to evolve in the workplace. They will change the world, and in turn the workplace, as we know it.
Physical tasks aren’t the only function robots will serve. They will also be able to take over human resources departments. Robots will be able to use “big data” and increasingly advanced algorithms to analyze thousands of resumes and curricula vitae, quickly determining the best fits for a given position and predicting their longevity at a company.
Next-Generation Office Desk and Printer
There are several ways companies are moving away from personal desks. One way that has demonstrated positive results is “hot desking.” Hot desking refers to the practice of removing individual desks from an office, resulting in fewer desks than employees. Employees are still able to work in several areas around the office, including lounges, meeting rooms, cafeterias, and at standing tables.
Companies that are able to go paperless and provide storage space for personal items are the most compatible for hot desking. The practice also works at companies that have employees that are regularly out of the office.
With the rising health concerns surrounding employees remaining sedentary all day long, many industrial designers have come up with alternative solutions to improve workplace health. An artistic concept design was developed in Holland that portrays “The End of Sitting,” as you can see below:
Removing desks entirely isn’t the only alternative to sitting behind a desk throughout the majority of the workday. Many products on the market allow individuals to stand at their desks, or even employ a “treadmill desk” or walk station.
The BBC, Google, and Apple are adopting the concept of open spaces and fewer desks, among many other well-known businesses. In an interview in The Guardian, Phillip Tidd from design and architecture firm Gensler said that the amount of time spent sitting behind a desk is rapidly changing. The objective is creating the appropriate balance between an open plan and a personal space to minimize distraction and enhance focus.
In the future, when working at a computer (wherever it may be situated), users won’t have to type in a password anymore. Intel is creating Identity Protection Technology with Multi-Factor Authentication that uses facial or eye recognition along with smartphones, smartwatches, fingerprint readers, and the strength of signal from a Bluetooth connection to confirm an individual’s identity. Hopefully this will help to minimize many of the ways an identity can be stolen, as hackers won’t be able rely on stealing a password to hack accounts of victims.
Paper printers may become obsolete in the future, as future generations use digital devices in an effort to “go green” and reduce waste. 3D printers are already here, and will continue to evolve.
The Future is Closer Than It May Seem
The future has always been an interest of media and entertainment, as seen in “The Jetsons,” “Continuum,” “Minority Report,” “I Robot,” and more. It seems incredible, but many of the predictions from the past that were viewed as impossible are now becoming reality.
Any emerging technology that will help businesses save money—and keep employees healthy, happy, and more productive—is something business owners of the future will view as worth the investment.