We get it. Open-plan offices are unpopular. That doesn’t seem to be stopping their spread, though, with about 70 percent of offices now featuring that arrangement. Down came cubicle walls, replaced by open spaces where everyone can “collaborate.” Instead, people often find themselves distracted by co-workers’ bathroom trips and mid-afternoon laughing fits.
Will employees ever get their walls back? Since it saves businesses big money, probably not. Instead of replacing the open office, businesses will find ways to make people happier about working in them. Some of those ways will include cutting-edge technology, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR).
Here are a few examples of the open-plan evolution we’ll likely see in the future.
Make your office smarter.
IoT is already taking over homes, but it will also play a big role in the workplace. Instead of dealing with constant calls about temperature and lighting, building managers can set it so that everything adjusts automatically based on the number of people in the office, via everyday devices that are simply connected to the Internet. It’s convenient. And simple.
If the break room is important to you, as it should be, you’ll be happy to know that IoT will also revolutionize the way we drink and snack at work. Coffeepots and water coolers will be able to memorize the preferences of each worker and deliver accordingly. They may even someday be able to move around the office, keeping you at your desk instead of wearing a trail in the carpet with your hourly trips for more water and snacks.
Augment your workplace reality.
Messaging apps and videoconferencing technology is nothing new. However, in the coming years, virtual reality and augmented reality will play a big role in the workplace. Imagine sitting in your conference room and looking at the face of a client, who lives on the other side of the world, projected onto a mobile robot or perhaps as a hologram. Since remote work isn’t going away anytime soon, this will also become a way for your own team to meet without leaving their homes—although they may have to change out of their pajamas for meetings.
Hologram technology is already in the works and could appear in your own workplace around the time you’re finished setting up sooner than you think. All of this technology will make it easier for businesses to expand their staff and client base well beyond the immediate region.
Cozy up to ‘hot desking.’
Work no longer means a bunch of employees sitting at desks all day. In the future, hot desking will become the norm and eventually businesses will find ways to get creative with it.
One company uses modular desks that separate and fit together like puzzle pieces. Every day, your space could change depending on whether you’re working together or separately. Another company has a “disappearing office” that has desks that are pulled up into the ceiling to encourage employees to go home. This also clears the office floor so that it can be used for parties and gatherings.
The best offices today incorporate a variety of desk styles, from traditional to standing desks to restaurant-style booths and recliners. But the future of hot desking will go even further, including options like this fun reclining workstation and treadmill desks, which are already a fixture in some workplaces. Exercise bicycles and other aerobic equipment could be added to this, keeping you healthy while also shaking things up a bit.
The point is, when employees have plenty of options, they might actually get excited about coming into work every day.
The moving office.
In the future, sitting in the same office all day might seem as outdated as working on typewriters or tracking taxes using pen and paper. Even large corporations are leasing space in co-working centers across the world, seeing it as a beneficial supplement to the buildings they already own. Such space is the ideal option for businesses that have one or more employees working remotely in cities where they don’t have established satellite locations.
Of course, there’s also the actual moving office, called Work on Wheels. Imagine how much work you could get done if you had an office in your car. You’d need someone to drive for you to keep things safe, but driverless cars should eventually have that covered, right? Instead of spending your mornings stuck in traffic, you could sip your coffee happily at home while you wait for your office to show up in your driveway.
There have been some growing pains while workers got used to the open-plan design, but relief is coming, thanks to tech. In the future, workers will be able to find the work style they prefer, which will help them be more productive and happier in the work they do each day.