The office has dramatically changed over the last twenty years. What begun with the arrival of the internet, has led to a global economy, impacting every aspect of our working lives. Technological advances and the rise of the digital age has seen the traditional 9 to 5 and assigned office cubical be replaced by shared office spaces and virtual meetings.
This shifting landscape has had a lasting impact on the office environment; however, this doesn’t mean the office as we know it today will be rendered obsolete. Instead, I believe that the office will undergo a state of metamorphosis and continue changing as we do.
The changing office
The turn of the century saw the office environment transform a number of times. The introduction of personal computers and laptops gave us flexibility, allowing for more control over our work hours. The addition of technology such as webcams, cloud storage and Skype opened up a world of international meetings and gave us the freedom to work from a desk, a coffee shop or home.
Along with upgrading our office processes, we upgraded our work spaces. We moved away from the dark office cubical, and in favour of lighter, brighter and open spaced offices. These changes were the beginning of a continual adaptation process, which has led to the office we know today.
The modern office
Arguably, the advent of mobile and cloud based technology has had the biggest impact on the office environment (save the internet). Remote working has become an integral part to the modern office, allowing employees to set work hours around their personal schedule. A recent study found 83% of employees reported that productivity was boosted by flexible hours rather than reduced by them.
Remote working has meant ‘the office’ is no longer considered a concrete space, but rather wherever you have access to the internet and your computer, laptop, iPad or mobile phone. Mobile technology is not the only source of this new flexible office environment as the global economy has seen businesses change their working hours to meet different time zones.
Increasing office mobility has led to a rise in co-working spaces such as WeWork and Club Workspace. Businesses are choosing shared spaces and hot desking over the traditional office setting as these spaces are created to meet growing technological needs. This is another example of the office environment adapting to changing styles of working. The advantages that these bring ensures that these trends will continue to grow; for example, co-working spaces can accommodate changes to the size of your team and don't require a firm commitment to lease. Moreover, such office settings create a sense of community instead of the isolation that often comes with growing a business or freelancing. It also encourages networking, which in turn can help your business grow exponentially.
The mobile office
The speed at which technology is developing means that the future of the office environment will continue adapting to business needs. Growing mobility will result in an increasing number of employees working outside the office and indeed traditional office hours. Employees will opt to work from home, abroad or a hot desk at a co-working space.
Outsourcing, which is already increasing in popularity, will become the norm as employers will contract out different sectors of their business. There are already a number of these services available such as SmartPA which provides PA and secretarial services as well as Service Partner One which provides office management services. There are a variety of benefits to outsourcing such as lower costs, increased efficiency and the ability to start new projects quickly.
The office of the future could also mean fewer face-to-face meetings as the global economy grows. Businesses might opt for virtual meetups, often outside traditional work hours to continue competing on a global scale.
Mobile technology will continue developing, giving businesses new opportunities to adopt a flexible style of working. While the office environment has drastically changed over the last decade, it’s in no danger of extinction. What began with the digital age will continue, as the work space consistently reinvents itself to meet changing business needs.