Thoughts on the future of the office

You should work from home. No work from the office. A discussion rumbling on. A question that really has no right or wrong answer to it. And is it really about the office or more about how people and companies engage?

To determine the future of the office you need to think about the people using and information available to make the office, well better! There is no template for the office anymore and therefore creating new work spaces for customers & employees is the objective. Our workspaces need to evolve – they need to provide healthier spaces. They need to provide choice for our differing demands. They need to give us flexibility. 

People have found flexibility is a positive experience

Imagine a world of flexibility where you can work where works best for you depending on that task at hand. I don’t have to imagine as I’ve been doing it for over 2.5 years thanks to my employer. Flexibility has always been a big part of my working life – when March 2020 came it wasn’t really a shock to the system (or rather it wasn’t until the children had school cancelled). The acceleration of flexibility following Covid-19 for others has been interesting to watch – seeing those who doubted it living their best lives and everyone sharing what does and doesn’t work. I’m yet to meet someone against returning to the office but certainly a hybrid week looks to be normal now. 

How flexible are companies though? There is no point people wanting to work flexibly if their employer isn’t ready. The need for employees to be digitally enabled to work from another location doesn’t just happen at the click of a button.

People do need to think about their own skill base

Last month I went to a digital academy. I was a little sceptical about this however I came away from the two days with many thoughts about how me and my teams can use digital to improve quality and efficiency. The great upskilling is happening across many organisations. Technology is not taking away jobs but creating new ones. More skilled ones. 

We’re not talking about coding here. Thank god as I’d really struggle. It’s about tools that just make things easier. From a technology perspective it’s about user experience. If I can use it, then they’ve done their job well. 

Let’s not forget our communication skills though – it’s not all about a Zoom! Nothing wrong with a call. Or a face to face meeting in the right environment (and at the right distance!). 

Think of all that data

A visit to the office now feels a completely new experience. It also feels more akin to a sci-fi movie. Our movements being tracked. Our temperatures are being tracked. We are giving more information to those that we shop, learn and play with. Data has long been stated as the King. It now feels like it has been crowned. The use of data can really support a real estate strategy – both for the landlord and the customer using the building. The ability to harness the data is where the winners will be found. To create the office of the future you need to fully understand how it is used and data will allow this.

The use of data really is remarkable. If I think about my AppleWatch – just having a simple device (well maybe not simple to make) allows me to pursue a healthier lifestyle. More and more wearable devices will become the norm in the coming years – each of which provides data. Why does my device make me healthier? Simple, it provides real time information about my day. My movement. My eating habits. This data allows me to make an informed decision. 

How long before my devices can assess my environment. There are probably devices out there that already do. The sound and light levels and of course air quality in buildings. The availability of this data will facilitate key decision making about where people work. The office needs to react to this. 

So while the future of the office debate rumbles on, employers (and landlords) can look to data and the users of the space to determine how best to maximise its use – creating a space for people to work flexibly, develop and upskill themselves! 

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