Our expectations of workplaces and how we use them are continuously evolving. Events and global pressures have allowed us to challenge their purpose. 

Following the pandemic, a predominant pattern that sees employees use the office between Tuesday and Thursday has formed. Yet, in the short term, global pressures may once again cause this to change. In an effort to reduce their heating bills, will employees return to the office more frequently? Would this set the stage for seasonal peaks in office usage? In the longer term, how will businesses respond to a workforce increasingly aspiring to global mobility and sustainable practices?

The answers to such questions are, of course, uncertain. However, it remains clear that the 9-5, Monday-Friday office pattern is truly dead, and that workspaces must become more adaptable, connected, and sustainable. Technology is facilitating this transformation. 

Offices that learn

The digitalisation of workspaces has already begun. Today, we are enrolling bespoke apps for entire buildings that allow users to book meeting rooms and event spaces, or request servicing. But to truly maximise the potential of workspace, we must leap into the Internet of Things (IoT), fully integrating a building’s facilities, users, and infrastructure. 

IoT technologies give us the ability to collect data on the usage of different parts of a building, providing integral insight into how to adapt space to the needs of its users. Equipped with such data, workspace providers can recognise the types of space in short supply, responding by transforming low-demand facilities into high-demand ones. It also allows them to ensure that there are adequate staffing levels at any given time. 

Such technologies will also be directly integrated into the infrastructure of the building, a necessary consideration as we move towards a more sustainable future. Indeed, this includes smart technology such as sensor-control lighting. But, looking ahead, this will enable far grander green objectives. Buildings, equipped with their own renewable energy sources – be it solar panels or wind turbines on roofs – will process data on occupancy and power usage to determine when to store and distribute energy. 

IoT technologies are the basis of a more digitally enlightened and sustainable workspace. But what about when we can’t all make it into the office at once? 

You’ve booked meta-room #3…

Rather than live around work, individuals are increasingly seeking freedom to work around their lives – a concept that our 19th Century ancestors could have only dreamed of.  The rise of flexible working has opened the possibility to work abroad, travel, or move to a new part of the country while keeping a job. Though these are not the only factors that sometimes keep us apart: businesses with international operations and partners consistently have to travel, which leads to added costs and a higher carbon footprint. 

At present, we rely upon video calls to transcend physical distance. While the most effective communicators can make this work, this is no replacement for human contact. But technology’s new dawn is arriving: the metaverse will blur the lines between the physical and digital more than we can anticipate. 

While this is more concept than reality right now, we are slowly marching towards Star Wars hologram-like interactions that will feel more real than ever before. Workspaces will have to ensure that they have the facilities to accommodate this. How this might look is hard to say, but future offices are likely to be equipped with a combination of traditional and meta meeting rooms. In the latter, deals will be struck with international clients, interviews will be held with candidates around the globe and company meetings will be attended by those both in-person and at home. 

Inside the offices of tomorrow, equipped with both wooden and virtual (meta) desks, it will be difficult to tell if the colleagues sitting alongside us are at home or in the same room. Spooky? Perhaps it seems that way now, but for the generations who inherit this technology, it will be just another part of everyday life. Clearly, such technologies will set a new frontier for flexible working, and workspaces must have the infrastructure to facilitate it. 

Beamery expands leadership team with chief people officer

Connecting the whole building

At present, the different organisations within an office building are woefully under-connected to one another – large businesses are separated across different floors, each with its own undersubscribed facilities, while there may be, if fortunate, a floor or two of flexible workspace. This is an egregiously missed opportunity to inspire a sense of community. 

We must return to the purest objective of the office as a place where people are brought together to collaborate and connect. Better solutions will offer more efficient use of space and attract users across the whole building to access the highest-grade facilities and social hotspots. There is a huge opportunity to connect all the users of a building through its functionality, using digital means to invite access and build a community. 

Flexible workspaces are the best way to achieve this. In the years to come, the vast majority of office buildings will have an element of flexible workspace, catering to businesses’ needs as well as acting as the connective hub of its wider community. 

Overall, technological innovations are set to transform the workspaces of the future. These are inspired by a sense of purpose that places adaptability, connectivity and sustainability at its core. They will help businesses extend their reach, both in terms of hiring and development. With reality-shattering transformations, such as the metaverse, set to reach the workspace this century, workspace providers must remember that technology exists to support the human interactions that are so vital for business health. The foundations of businesses cannot be built on technology, as it is employees who must provide this bedrock; technology, however, can provide mighty support.

What does a healthy digital workplace look like?