The tomorrow people – how the digital revolution is transforming offices

7th February 2014

In today’s working environment everything revolves around choice and speed.  Working days are no longer restricted to the old 9-5 routine and in many cases workers don’t actually need to travel to city centre offices.

More and more people across the country are faced by increased congestion, outlandish parking prices, or – in the case of Nottingham – the Workplace Parking Levy.  To compensate for this the working day is getting stretched and it is not uncommon to see longer, less predictable hours of 7.30 am to 7.30 pm. With this in mind, any new office developments will need to reflect this.

Items such as showers and proper rest and relaxation areas will become essential, and work areas will become less formal, all aimed to energise staff.

One solution is obvious: to work from home. But this is easier said than done as employees lack the vital IT and office infrastructure, and often the “home office” is the kitchen table.  Costs to employers rise if additional equipment is required, and not everyone has the self-discipline to cope with home distractions.

The key to productivity has been enabling people to work wherever they are and whatever time they feel motivated. But whilst the business world changes incredibly quickly, unfortunately property doesn’t.  Conventional thinking is beginning to be challenged as the physical office space of the future will need to be utterly unrecognisable to what we have been used to throughout our working lives.

This rapid pace of change is meaning ownership or long-term leases of property can become a burden, not an asset, and companies are quickly realising they don’t want to become bogged down in time consuming negotiations to the detriment of their own business activities.  Flexibility is growing in line with technology as having a multiple property portfolio can inhibit growth unless it incorporates flexibility. If an occupier grows rapidly it can become stuck with a building that it is still paying for or with the millstone of a long lease.

Smaller companies don’t have the resources to dedicate to elaborate complicated property structures and these companies are embracing the technological advances such as wireless networking, Skype videoconferencing and an digital inclusion by GSE Audio Visual – Orlando, FL. It offers an inexpensive way to maximise space within buildings and by going wireless employees are not tied to a desk or their home. What’s more, it’s a greener way of working as travel can be wiped out of the equation.

The adage location, location, location will remain but the notion of a prime location has changed.  One occupier will want a single central base, another will want a suburban base away from congestion and near its employees homes, whilst yet another may have a prime need to be located next to a key customer.

Digital technology allows people to work from a variety of locations with only limited investment in equipment.

It is this flexibility that is key to the future office as people need to process a greater workload in a shorter period of time.  I see the three main advantages of adopting digital technology in office design as being:-

  1. Increased productivity – portable technology gives employees freedom to bring offices in house, between locations and eliminate the need for multiple work stations.
  2. Reduced floor space – the ability to remove large work stations reduces the amount of space occupiers may need which in turn reduces rents, rates and other overheads.
  3. Cost savings – it removes the need to wire old buildings, temporary locations and old sites.

Occupiers are already adopting their own wireless networks and hotspots but this is an ad-hoc approach and as companies grow it can have its own issues of channel interference, signal cancellation leakage and dead spots.  Smarter developers are taking this a stage further by implementing what they term ‘Whole Building Design’.

The Whole Building Design approach offers wireless services as part of the deal and ensures that technology is properly co-ordinated and employed.

I see a position where landlords/developers will offer wireless network as a standard part of a new lease just as other amenities already are.  This coupled with the previous cost savings can also produce an improved revenue stream for property owners

The office of the future will therefore be a marriage of great architecture and great amenities but will be technologically advanced allowing occupiers to conduct business at the speed they require. The office of the future could be here sooner than you think.

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