November 8, 2019
In 2019, we are well into the internet age and solutions for working at home are plentiful. But workers around the world still flock to offices every day. The percentage of U.S. employees who works from home increased from 3.3% to only 5.2% in 2017, according to census data.
So, it isn’t unreasonable to expect that by 2050, offices will still exist. A recent report from the Financial Times explored what the office landscape will look like in another 30 years.
“We don’t have to go to work to work. I’ll go to the office when I want to support my sense of belonging, of community,” Despina Katsikakis, head of occupier business performance at property agent Cushman & Wakefield told the Financial Times. “This means our whole perception of the office as a building needs to shift to the office being a network of physical and virtual places that supports me to do my best work.”
The report postulates that the shift in the office landscape to a network of places will bring “reconfigurability” to the office. Scores of desks in open spaces will enable the environment to adapt to workers’ needs. Flexible workspace provider Knotel already offers a semblance of this, in moveable furniture that includes phone booths and modular walls.
Further, by 2050, the workspace will be adapted to each individual. From the air, lights and desks to even coffee, each will be personally tailored to every member of the staff.
Dutch property developer Edge Technologies is already employing some of this technology. At the firm’s office property in Amsterdam, a smartphone app helps employees find a car parking space and desks. The app also adjusts the environment to suit individuals.
“While much of this technology already exists, the pace of innovation will accelerate over the next 20 years,” Guy Grainger, chief executive for Europe, Middle East and Africa for JLL, the property consultants, told the Financial Times. “The speed at which workplaces will change is correlated with the speed of our adoption of new technologies and ways of working. The next generation are digital natives and they’re a different animal.”
As for jobs being replaced by artificial intelligence, the report says that AI will eliminate some office jobs like tax preparation, but humans will be left with jobs that require problem-solving, social and emotional response and creativity.
Desks will still be a feature of the office of 2050, but chairs may vanish, Grainger also said. Standing desks will be main fixtures of offices he claims, as well as benches scattered about.
Privacy may also suffer as a result of the modernized office of 2050. Sensors that track movement and the use of office facilities are already common, but the following and tracking of individual workers is becoming more common as well.
But, the high-tech offices of 2050 may not be for everyone, said the report. The number of employees actually working in such smart spaces may diminish with the growth of the freelance and gig economies.
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