by Rory Whelan | eReceptionist
Our turbulent relationship with the office is on a downturn — we just don’t love it right now. Increasingly, we are led to reimagine unconventional spaces that enable us to work in a more flexible, less restricted manner. In an effort to appeal to the largest segment of the workforce, traditional offices are being dismissed as millennials enforce their combined work and leisure values, and thrive in open spaces.
Advancing technology is certainly having an impact and our cubicle has been lost in the omnipotent cloud, forcing leaders to maintain a balance between personal communication and automation in the workplace. The goal is to create a productive, collaborative work culture, which will inevitably lead us through our break-up and make-up with the concept of the modern office.
Say hello to shared spaces
Rising numbers of corporate workers opt for freelance work or pursue the opportunity to create their own startup. But many individuals decided to work from home to avoid the office regime, only to find that they were getting pretty lonely. Enter the co-working revolution, which introduced a low-cost office solution for like-minded people.
This widespread movement has become popular across the globe, with Indonesia set to become a hotspot. Favoured by startups for its engaging environment and tailored activities, the coworking space is here to stay. Investment in this modern office concept has been received from a variety of sources, including local councils, to support the growing group of micro-businesses with five employees or less.
With over 30,000 coworking spots expected to exist in 2022, the trend is predicted to become a permanent solution to alternative working. As the high-end restaurant market starts to decline, restaurants have begun to piggy-back on the need for a space to work — at bars, booths, and anything that doesn’t involve a cubicle and office swivel chair — and open their doors to coworkers in between seatings.
Even corporations are starting to realise the benefits of flexibility, coining the term “corpoworking”, as they begin to house their workforce in shared spaces. This surge of working in unorthodox spaces is set to dramatically change the rental market.
The relationship between technology and the humble office
There are around 19 distinct technology trends forecast for next year alone, including the increased adoption of chatbots and Augmented Reality (AR). The development of — and reliance on — communication technology stems from our decreasing ability to connect with each other. Anticipating the birth of the “smart office”, experts believe we can improve the 23 days a year spent in meetings and address the disappointing statistic that 71% of office workers blame unfriendly receptionists for their negative experience. An all too human issue is being concealed by its simulated counterpart.
While some technology attempts to advance our communication, like networking apps, other Artificial Intelligence (AI) functions aim to completely remove human involvement. The debate is blurred on this, with some arguing that this is not the rise of the robot, but rather that AI will “free employees to focus on tasks that require creative thinking, emotional intelligence, intuition or problem-solving.”
The “office 2.0” has slowly transformed into “a more collaborative, community-minded work environment.” In eliminating the office, has the social nature of humans come full circle by recreating offices and labelling them as something different? The major 20-storey office development in New York suggests so.
The Future Isn’t so Much Different from the Past
Truthfully, as humans, we will always be saddled with our innate desires to derive our identity from work and contribute to the bigger picture. For whatever reason, millennials are struggling to communicate in their career, instead preferring to delegate these tasks and automate.
Despite this, it is natural for us to connect with our coworkers. But when given the chance to adopt new technology that promises to make our lives easier, we are favouring electronic communication and being left with employees who suffer from “sustained lack of human contact”. Maintaining a meaningful human connection will become a critical reality for the future workforce — one we must all be prepared for.
Without denying that the world of work is going to be different, an effort to strike a balance is necessary. Technologies like virtual call management systems allow for a flexible management style, without sacrificing the personal element of conducting business. We might be confused whether to work in the cloud, on a slide or from a traditional office, but humans still want to interact with each other — it’s a core and undeniable need. A more suitable alternative to chatbots might be a virtual receptionist, who provides a genuine connection with your customers.
As Para Mullan, Senior Project and Business Relationship Manager at CIPD, recognised,
“Robots are acclaimed as not coming with people’s emotional baggage. But humans are the ones with imagination.”
Rory Whelan is a communications expert with over twenty years experience in consultancy, television, media and telecoms. Since 2012 he has held the role of marketing manager for eReceptionist, leading the product to become the favourite call management company for UK SMEs.