Result & Infographic
Motivation to Research this Topic
COVID-19 has accelerated earlier trends in flexible work arrangements and workplace design, such as activity-based working, working from co-working spaces, and remote working. The radical imperative to work from home has enabled workers to experience the benefits of choosing where they work. This led to a radical change in work behavior and new expectations of employees regarding the future of work. The purpose of the office – the value it should deliver – is now being actively challenged as working partially remotely becomes the new norm. The world of work is currently in a transformation phase to adapt to the arisen demands. It is critical that the workplace adapt to the changing demands of telecommuting in terms of location, space and technical equipment.
What concepts, ideas and technological innovations influence the future workplace and its environment?
I uses an exploratory approach entailing a literature review of 57 papers, industry reports, etc. and formal qualitative research through analyzing 29 document retrieved from conferences, expert presentations and workplace visits and 9 semi-structured interviews with experts in the field. I identified a selection of experts in the field that is most representative for the phenomenon under study. I ensured to include relevant industries to the research question, namely the sectors: start-up, conservative large corporation, co-working, consulting, and future-oriented furniture manufacturer.
The research aim was to identify future workplace concepts that consider the impact of current flexible work behaviors. In particular, I contrasted the two resulting workplace scenarios, the workplace of the near future and the workplace of the distant future, based on their possible individual redesign concepts. The near and distant future scenario differs primarily in the degree of technology adoption and the associated value placed on face-to-face interaction. The findings suggest that a complete disappearance of the physical office is unlikely even in the distant future, but that work might largely take place in the virtual office.
1. The Possible Near Future Workplace
The workplace of the near future adapts to the trends and developments that are currently emerging and evolving. Flexibility, technology and sustainability are its guiding principles. The needs and well-being of the employee are at the center of this approach. The work task determines the work location. Thus, the office competes with the home and third places for the employees' presence. Hybrid working is the new norm. The office environment is dominated by activity-based working to provide the right space for each activity. Time in the office will be primarily dedicated to collaboration and social engagement. The office needs to inspire and motivate employees and provide a space where they can connect and interact with their colleagues to create a shared identity. It will be a place with a comfortable, pleasant, homely atmosphere that incorporates plants and health-promoting aspects as an integral part of the building and spaces, and where technology is used smartly implemented. The redesign process could be performed by an AI program that analyzes the facility and its spaces to create an optimal heuristic layout proposal (startup: Brickbyte). This is a cheaper, faster and easier way to make changes to the design requirements.
2. The Possible Distant Future Workplace
As adaptation continues, the previous trends shaping the workplace of the near future may intensify. In the workplace of the distant future, it will likely be possible to work from anywhere. This might result in an even larger disperse across different geographic locations. Complete flexibility could be achieved through tremendous advances in technology. Metaverse, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc., enable immersive work by creating virtual work environments. Employees would meet in a virtual space represented by avatars, their personal digital twin. In this digital environment, the employee would spend most of his or her working time. The space adapts to the employee's individual preferences. Here, employees can work, interact with other avatars (their colleagues) and socialize. This would enable a whole new way of working. My findings suggest that despite the dominance of technology, it is unlikely that physical workplaces will disappear completely. In the distant future, therefore, the office could become more focused on social interaction and trust-building within the team. The physical workplace could evolve into an ecosystem of spaces, with a workplace design guided by the needs and values of the different communities.
Contributions and Implications to existing research and the practice
- Confirmation of the results of previous studies
- Starting point of distant future might be when content of human work significantly changes
- Findings suggest that the office will not disappear in the distant future, as the value of face-to-face interaction is likely to increase
- No one-size-fits-all solution in the workplace redesign strategy
- Aligmnet of work location, workplace and workspace to match corporate culture
- Acknowledge employees’ needs for mental and physical health, well-being, and sustainability
- Include technology in the workplace as spatial distrubution likely increases
- Provide identity in workplace and workspace