When people talk about the future in regard to technological advancement, images of flying cars and Minority Report screens still come to mind. In a world where the term exponential growth gets batted around as computer processing power continues to double every 12 to 18 months and, we learn to embrace a life where we can ask ‘Alexa’, Google or Siri to do anything from turning our lights off to reordering our last takeaway.
Alongside these advancements, businesses are also continually evolving, looking for ways to optimise their service and adopt more efficient work practices. Technology is at the forefront of this evolution as business leaders seek to keep their fingers on the pulse and become even more connected.
We will take a look at some of the technologies that are being integrated into the modern workplace and what the future holds for the traditional office.
VR (Virtual Reality)
It seems everyone has an opinion about VR that is usually centred around its longevity and usefulness in the real world and rightly so!
In its current form, VR is still in its infancy as a technology at the consumer level. It is however estimated that by 2020 the VR market in the UK will be worth around £354 million, so it is widely believed that VR is here to stay. While most people picture gaming and films as the two principal functions of VR, the technology is set to find its way into offices around the globe having an impact on everything from training to sales.
VR has already made its way into the hands of estate agents where they use virtual reality to show potential buyers around properties. Companies such as Ikea are beginning to produce virtual home makeovers which will help customers see the products in different layouts and scenarios before they buy.
Training has seen a considerable impact from VR across multiple sectors. Samsung uses it’s ‘GearVR’ headsets to train its staff on how to deal with customers. Several football teams use VR to review their performances and there is huge potential for the training of doctors, nurses and surgeons.
We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the professional uses for VR from employee meditation during breaks or the ability to be unchained from your desk and work in space or on a beach free from distractions. Future meetings may be held face to face in virtual environments from opposite sides of the world and recruiters can show applicants exactly what their new role would be like without them even stepping foot into the office.
AR (Augmented Reality)
Perhaps even more exciting than VR comes the great advancements that have been seen in augmented reality with it slated to increase employee productivity, safety and satisfaction whilst improving sales and training.
AR was first brought to the attention of the masses through the game ‘Pokemon GO’ which allowed players to play the game in the real world, taking the image shown to them by their phone camera and overlaying monsters from the game. This game took the world by storm accruing more than $470 million in revenue since its launch in 2016 and launched augmented reality into the spotlight.
As with its virtual counterpart, AR can have many uses in the workplace. Engineers and manufacturers can see their productivity increase, take the repair of a piece of equipment for example. With AR, instructions are overlaid on to the physical object and the person is guided through the process in real time.
In creative and design industries, replacing traditional computers with AR headsets can allow employees to manipulate 3D designs with much greater fluidity using gestures. New product CAD designs can be shown off to potential buyers in a way that would let them interact and explore the product, receive overlaid information on certain aspects of the design and view animations of the product in action whilst viewing a cross-section for example. Furniture companies will be able to show customers exactly what their products would look like in the customers home before they make a purchase.
Tying the technology into office design also holds exciting prospects. The ability to show potential clients how their new space could look would be a powerful sales tool. In terms of the actual design and build with augmented reality headsets there won’t be a need for traditional desks and offices making the scope for new and innovative workplace design much, much wider.
With mobile devices now being completely integrated into society, (to the point where a lot of us would turn around and drive miles and miles back home to pick up our phone because the thought of not having it for a day was too much to bear) more and more companies have taken to the idea of remote working.
With smartphones, tablets, smart wearables and laptops all with the latest computer wizardry powering them along with larger capacity, more efficient batteries the ability to work untethered from a desk has never been greater. As time marches on it wouldn’t be surprising to see the traditional office completely transformed into a space that caters more towards collaboration and meetings. Communal areas could be the focal point of an office with the desk lined rooms of today relegated to the reserves.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
AI is more prevalent than ever with the introduction of smart speakers such as ‘Google Home’ and ‘Amazon Echo’ along with robots such as Sophia that have made their way into the headlines, however not everything has to be world domination seeking robots, with advancements in artificial intelligence it is possible to envision the ‘smart office’ where an employees office is actually an app on their phone or tablet. With a decreasing need for desk space employees could book out desks. AI could then notice that person has been working closely with another employee and book them desks close together, so they can continue to collaborate efficiently. Sensors can manage everything from temperature and energy use to employee timekeeping and the management of lighting.
With technologies such as 3D mapping and indoor GPS navigating office space and finding free areas could be easier than ever before using live, interactive 3D maps.
It is safe to say that what we have covered above is only a small section of what is possible in the future of the workplace and as companies work practices evolve it is important that office design does too in order to keep creating innovative, efficient places to work that help get the best out of the people they house.
By Andrew Mairs - Marketing Executive