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Winds of change!
Various technological developments and office practices today will change the way how we collaborate and make the business work in the times to come, writes Sanghamitra Khan
Issue Date - 01/07/2012
The new office or the future office – brings to mind a host of possibilities. The mere idea of how ‘office’ is going to look like – consider two decades from now – has caught the fancy of organisations, employees and futurists alike.

In all likelihood, the office in years to come has a high probability of going virtual, where businesses will operate through a combination of remote direct communication and address services.

The trends are already hinting at this transformation that will slowly but steadily lay down the foundation of the future office. Who knows the word ‘workplace’ might go obsolete some day.

Taking a leap into future, the focus is more on the output, adeptness and flexibility. Many forward-looking organisations have already removed productivity barriers such as mandatory office hours. Lookout for a place other than the office to be more productive is no more a sin. Also, it no more bothers organisations if their employees prefer working at a beach, lake side or at any such nontraditional places. Each individual knows best what kind of environment brings out the best in him by inspiring him to come up with more exalted solutions.

A research on mobile employees by Knoll, a leading furniture manufacturer, shows that more than 60 per cent of the respondents believed that they were most productive at home. This also indicates that about 75 per cent of them make use of the primary work location for interactions with colleagues and clients and to socialise. In fact, a beautiful background is much more thought provoking than the cubicle he or she sits in. Where our workplace is not imperative for being productive, it is our ability to communicate that becomes important.

With developing technologies, the pace of change will be further accelerated, along with sustainability issues and cost. We are at present at the peak of an evolution of the workplace, which will continue to accelerate as other different things impact the way we work.

The trends for the work and office environment are clear. New and more effective ways of working are being included in the workplace setting. Today most employees are keen to create their own workspace instead of the traditional office. And the advantages are considerable with better office environment, enhanced productivity and greatly decreased expense. A virtual office does not require the employee to be present at the office all the time; it enables him to work irrespective of the location. This makes way for reduced general costs such as those on office lease, infrastructure and other services, thereby saving expenditure, time and effort and helping organisations focus on their core business activities.

Second, a virtual office lets organisations have a great business execution address at the centre for professional companies for carrying out activities such as meeting clients, signing agreements and sending or receiving letters. The requirements for information and communication can also be met efficiently, quickly, flexibly and cost-effectively through this. All these also promote the image of the organisation amongst its clients as a thorough professional.

So how will the office of the future shape up? According to technological experts, organisations of tomorrow are going to be technical marvels. Though technology continues to get intertwined with our lives, the fundamental requirements of work have not or will not change much. Meeting spaces and computers are still required in some way or the other. And in the future we will still work and socialise with co-workers, the only difference being the ability to do so from different locations and regions of the globe in immersive video settings. Those undesirable afternoon meetings will continue to exist, but there will be more time for productive brainstorming instead of the boss trying to figure out a laptop connection.

There will eventually be a point where everyone will engage directly with the surfaces, without needing to come to office everyday. The spaces in the future would be turned into responsive tools that will help employees work faster and together more intuitively and be on the business track. The future seems to be advancing fast with newer variations such as smartphones with projection units and new innovations promising to transform the way we work and our workspaces. Social media – how individuals and organisations use it to change work – will revolutionise the face of how people work in the future.??

??The FM director and working director at Unilever presented a case study that zoomed in more on the interiors of the office at the new headquarter in Leatherhead for the UK and Ireland and less on the way employees functioned or the change management that came with the introduction of flexible working. Though there were three ways that represented how people use the office (resident, off-site and mobile), the organisation let its employees work from any place or anyhow they felt that allowed them to be more effective. This seemed as a reasonable choice that other companies too should pursue if they have the appropriate structure for performance management with the necessary training strategy to help employees adapt with the new style of working.

The adroitness has worked in the company’s favour. Though the site was closed for eight days because of heavy snowing for two years, they did not lose orders because employees were able to work from separate locations. ??

The trends that are in place today in various organisations indicate more and more towards a future where location of the working space will be less of an issue as long as employees are content and motivated to put forth their best. The technologies that are coming up and the various innovative practices in line with those promise to revolutionise in the future the way we have our offices set up.
Sanghamitra Khan           

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