What changes can we expect in the workspace of the future?

Rethinking the present – and future – of the workspace, and what it means for your business.

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The time to think about the workspace of the future is now

Technology has allowed us to question whether our workspace has to be an office at all. Download Canon’s guide to understand how you can best plan for the future of the workspace.

Download Guide

The time to think about the workspace of the future is now

The workspace reimagined

As we sit and wonder what all this change and disruption means for the future of our offices, ways of working and life as we know it, there’s been a lot of talk about “getting back to work 1 ”. Well, for the most part, teams have been able to work and have proven - at scale - that an office wasn’t a necessary feature of making that happen. It’s technology that has enabled businesses to stay afloat in times of crisis. So, what does this mean for the future of our businesses and are we about to see the death of the office?

Actually, it’s unlikely. The ongoing debate for the last decade or so has been about whether the office was a dying feature of an archaic system, but was that ever really an accurate reality? In the short term, there are some struggles to be faced in terms of enabling our teams to work together, whilst staying apart physically. But a longer-term view shows us that we do now have an opportunity to reimagine our workspaces, using the insight we’ve gained from listening to and observing our teams during this time.

Delivering a modern workspace

Zoning in on the short-term future, business leaders will be considering what space they realistically need. Early indications show that whilst having less physical real estate is an easy way of saving costs, the necessity for social distance and a new trend toward less crowded spaces is leading some businesses to consider increasing the office space they have available. This could be in the traditional way or by adding other kinds of remote working spaces to accommodate collaborative, but wellbeing-focused working.

Home working is also a factor for consideration. While the emotional impact of the enforced situation has been well documented, we’ve also seen some of the stress triggers employees face in the office fading away in this environment. In fact, a strong majority of people have said that the flexibility of working from home has allowed them to be more productive at work, at the same time as creating more of a work-life balance.

That said, it’s not the perfect situation for everyone, as many still report missing that communal element. Simply: learning from your peers, casual interaction and informal creative collaboration are much harder to achieve in a remote scenario 2 . It’s even those small, but crucial, conveniences, like having access to a printer 3 . However, despite these being some of the key drivers for employees wanting to go back to an office space, it’s likely that they’ll be looking to do so under different terms than before. Second only to concerns about health and cleanliness, is the fear of losing that newly gained flexibility and work-life balance 4 . With workforces now spanning four generations, it’s worth considering a setup that allows for adaption based on preferences and purpose.

Now is an ideal time to start looking at how you can bridge the gap between home and the more traditional office, creating environments with people in mind. Somewhere that your team is happy to spend time without feeling the pressure and formality of the way things used to be. Consider how to keep your spaces interactive, encouraging collaboration and creativity. Don’t just think “workspace”, think “high performance enablement space”.

The workspace reimagined

Technology goes hand-in-hand with change

Digital transformation opened up more agility in terms of how people worked prior to the pandemic, where every big change in ways of working was in line with ongoing developments in technology. We’re now starting to see it unlock a whole new world of possibilities in terms of where people work and new ways of working we perhaps hadn’t foreseen. It’s no longer a case of turning up, doing your work, going home and repeating that framework5.

Key technology breakthroughs like video calling and cloud collaboration had already begun to disrupt traditional working environments, making space for remote working practices to be a viable solution for many businesses. Now, the way we choose to live is more and more influencing how we want to work. So we can expect things to accelerate to the next level as further innovations go hand-in-hand with creating workspaces that reflect a more lifestyle-based approach6.

We could begin to see spaces being broken up into more purposefully designed areas. Sometimes you might need a quiet space where you can sit down and focus, this could mean the introduction of quiet zones with no phones or talking allowed. Or even special “concentration pods”. Sometimes you might want to have an informal collaboration session - enter areas filled with brain-stimulating toys and technology and digital whiteboards embedded in chairs and tables. Sometimes you might just want to have a casual catch up with a colleague, so are we going see more of an expansion into hospitality-style formats?

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The innovators of the pack are looking at everything from AR and holographic experiences to virtual workspaces in co-located office buildings. We can expect to see AI security guards and app-controlled meeting rooms. Smart sensors that use real-time data to optimise heat and lighting, not just to save costs, but that also adapt to individual users’ needs. In-built voice and facial recognition services, wearables with mood sensors. Facebook has even been looking at creating a hyper-realistic virtual reality office environment, where workers would interact as avatars using VR headsets7.

When you look at the opportunities afforded by technological advancements in the workspace, you can start to see how it can positively affect and combine key business focus areas like productivity, sustainability, cost efficiency, employee satisfaction and wellbeing.

But, we do need to remember that investing in any technology for your workspaces requires a clear strategy, not just shifting everything you have now into a digital framework.

So where do we go from here?

For many of us, a super digitised, high tech environment is not something that’s likely to be on the cards in the near future. However, that doesn’t mean that a collaborative, high performance-enabling setup should be out of reach. Much as digital transformation is a journey, so is adapting your working practices. Thanks to ongoing advances in the cloud space freeing up information from being a location-based issue, having a blend of remote, hub and office-based working is a cost-effective, scalable and flexible reality. It is also one of the best ways of providing an element of future proofing should we continue to see global-level events disrupting our business climates. Ultimately, the more room you create for adaption, the more able you are to thrive, whatever comes your way.

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