The office of the future: how technology is changing the lives of workers
Technology is changing many things and even the world of work is not spared. Elements such as cloud and mobility are very profoundly transforming companies, and the office of the future (far away) will be completely different, even for the more traditional professions and businesses.
Until a decade ago, there were few alternative ways of thinking about work in the company, because to work it was essential to be physically present in the office, so you can attend meetings, consult the documents and collaborate with colleagues.
Today the way of working is different compared to only 5 years ago: it is possible to attend meetings by telephone or computer, with people connected from all over the world, accessing documents that are on the network and are often accessible even remotely; and if you need to coordinate with other people, there are countless online tools to share work, or even the screen, simultaneously.And this is just the beginning of how life in the company is changing thanks to technology.
Some companies today have implemented substantial changes for their employees in terms of business mobility and smart-working, trying to ride the wave of this interesting phenomenon, but for others the goal is still far away. In the latter, however, workers who spend 8 hours in the office are not however exempt from the expectations created by the new rhythms of “modern work”, mobile, fast and always connected. They have a cell phone and a computer always on and are therefore “available” even outside the office hours or during the holidays, blurring the boundaries between professional life and private life. It is a hybrid situation, halfway between past and future, which can create stress and unproductiveness. The gradual but definitive transition towards the office of the future, enabled by the new technologies available, will allow us to resolve this ambiguity and ultimately improve not only the working life but also the private life.
The more traditional office jobs will change profoundly (and they are already doing so), if not in the tasks certainly in the mode of execution. What will the work be like in the company, therefore, with the ever-expanding advent of the office of the future? Let’s try to tell it through a possible typical day.
Let’s say you could wake up early in your bed, take a hearty breakfast and get dressed all the time. But you could also stay in your pajamas (or at least avoid the tie) because your move to the office can be only one room, or you can go to work at the internet café in the house (or every city bar); or maybe you’ll start looking at e-mails from home, then going to the office when you like it and if necessary for some reason, skipping rush-hour traffic. You will not have to worry about the mid-morning meeting, because it will be normal to participate where you like best from the computer, as the corporate spaces will all be optimized for this with solutions like Intel® Unite ™ for smart meeting rooms.
All the things you do today from the desk in the office will be just as easy to do, once you’re used to it. Collaboration with colleagues and meetings, for example, can be even more productive, given the ability to transfer files in an instant even at incredible distances, collaborate in real time with multiple people, or even make the meeting sitting on a bench in the park thanks to free Wi-Fi scattered around the city. It will then be possible to quickly scan objects and immediately make the digital version appear on the computer thanks to the integrated 3D scanning in the devices, work on the model obtained and then print the modified project again – of course with a small and powerful 3D printer, available in every future and office.
In general, the office of the future will not be the sofa at home, nor the nearest Starbucks, but not even what we call today “office”. It will be a middle ground between the 3 things, or rather, all 3 things depending on the moments and needs. The traditional working spaces will continue to exist, even if they tend to integrate more and more common spaces and private spaces without a clear distinction (the so-called hybrid office). The difference will be the way of the workers to live it, going from being a place where it is obligatory to go to one where one is free to go. And, in this concept, there is all the difference in the world.
If you then want to take a break to go running after lunch, or for a visit to the doctor, or to play with your child, it will not be a problem because your office time will not be from 9 to 6, but you will create it it is more convenient, managing the work with colleagues thanks to special and numerous applications. On the other hand your virtual assistant, who will know your interests, your agenda and the projects you follow, will be ready to take over while you are not there, ordering incoming emails, suggesting useful additions to the projects you are working on and helping to organize your time at its best.
If, again, you were unable to go to an appointment with someone but you still want to have him next to you in the same room where you are, you could go further and, with a pair of glasses Augmented Reality, the hologram of your colleague ( or your boss, as long as you want it) will look incredibly next to you in your dining room.
None of this is to be invented, in reality, so technically it is not even about the office of the future: everything is already possible today. Some companies (especially innovative startups or some large multinationals) are already using or experimenting with some of these possibilities, and in the coming years further technological developments could bring new and surprising scenarios. It is only necessary to wait for them to be adopted, but, as can be seen from the following infographic, according to a study promoted by Ricoh, it will be normal as early as 2036.
And security? If we all go around with the most important business secrets in the smartphone or the Cloud, how will we prevent them being stolen? Here too, high-tech companies have already thought about it, and an example you probably already have on your phone: scanning the fingerprint integrated into the device. Many devices powered by next-generation Intel® Core ™ processors are already equipped with a multi-factor authentication system, Intel® Authenticate ™, in which in addition to PIN and classic secret application you have the possibility to set the fingerprint recognition digital, the most innovative facial recognition or the integration with another device (egsmartwatch or computer) to verify the identity. The company data, then, will all be available on the network, on the Cloud, but this will be protected by powerful programs to ensure total security. Of course, it may seem more risky, but to tell the truth it is not any different from the risks that you run today with paper documents (often unconsciously thrown into the trash in public places) or saved on the company computer (and so loved by hackers). Security evolves hand in hand with the emergence of new threats.
Many researches around the world, such as the one commissioned by Regus on the consequences of working flexibility, demonstrate how productivity in contexts in which it was decided to base work on smart-working, on the flexibility of hours and location and on the greater organizational autonomy, can only increase, as well as turnover. If this is true for companies, which clearly can benefit from a significant cost reduction with this approach, the results are even more extraordinary for employees. The vast majority of workers who benefit from flexible work report feeling more active and motivated, achieving a better work-life balance, and ultimately working better. It is a matter of habit, like almost everything in life, and all this will one day be normal (in some companies, in part, it is already today). And in fact, trying to imagine this imaginary office of the future, you immediately realize the wonderful opportunity it represents for a more balanced and serene private and working life.