DUBAI- Our working lives are at a point of inexorable change. Technologies are disrupting our traditional work patterns to such a degree that soon the term ‘office’ will become obsolete. In its place will be a new model for work – a flexible and collaborative environment where the mobile device is the tool around which everything else will flow.
Much of this change has been triggered by the new breed of worker, #GenMobile, who are putting mobility at the centre of their working and personal lives.
These are workers who expect the world to work and think like they do, in ways that are collaborative and creative, but also local, agile and socially and civically aware.
#GenMobile see themselves as innovators, and expect their employers to be too, eschewing the nine-to-five and instead working wherever and whenever they can connect to the cloud.
But if #GenMobile doesn’t need an office, what do they need? Working with insight consultancy The Future Laboratory, Chris Kozup, Senior Director at Aruba Networks pinpoints some key trends that will shape the workplace of tomorrow globally and undoubtedly in the Middle East as well:
The blending of business and leisure
Until recently, non-hierarchical and collaborative workplaces were solely the reserve of tech giants like Google. But thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices, high-speed Wi-Fi and cloud computing, the merging of business and leisure has sparked a total rethink of how we structure our working day. Companies are embracing subtle social engineering to create ‘serendipity corners’ and ‘chance-encounter corridors’, because people no longer have to be attached to a plug or a wire.
Businesses are also finding that the more they can make work feel like a leisure activity, the more productive staff will be. Look at Adobe for example, who took design cues from US diner booths for their meeting rooms. By evoking the pleasure of leisure time, they’ve found that people can dine on ideas, rather than labour over them, and do better work because of it.
The frictionless office space
If #GenMobile workers are becoming the norm, mixing business and leisure pursuits into one space, then it’s no surprise that the nature of workforces will also change.
From ‘frictionless foyer’ brands such as CitizenM, to Impact Hub Westminster with its open tables, talks and events, work is now about villages and communities, rather than departments and headquarters.
What we’re seeing now is an employee-centric model of working, where employers are using new practices that favour collaboration over competition, productivity over presenteeism, and invention over inhibition.
You could even go as far as to say that as we become ‘cloud collaborators’ rather than cogs in a machine. We no longer work simply because we have to, but because we enjoy doing it.
Part of that enjoyment comes from the fact that without oppressive hierarchies, we can now become ‘Flexecutives’.
We can work in temporary jobs, yet full-time roles, brought together as equals to design a product, launch a brand, or engineer a start-up, then move onto the next task when it’s complete.
It’s fast-paced, the rewards come quickly, and the work never gets stale.
Dawn of the Age of Everywhere
The office used to be the place where things happened, but you, the employee, had to do all the work. The Internet of Things is changing all that. To use author Adam Greenfield’s term, the Age of Everywhere is upon us, where everything electronic is connected to the web.
Predictive devices are already communicating with one another to make our working lives increasingly seamless, and taking away much of the drudgery that gives work a bad name.
Some complain there’s no time for creative thinking, because we’re continually distracted by essential but menial tasks. Yet imagine a device that automatically locks your front door behind you, starts your car, pre-orders your latte when it realises you’re headed to the café, then automatically informs your colleagues you’re going to be late for a meeting when you hit traffic.
The Internet of Things will anticipate our objectives, learn our behaviour, then create the perfect environment where we can concentrate on what’s most important – ideas.
The Personal Information Economy
At the centre of everything we’ve talked about here is data. It is becoming the business world’s most valuable commodity, and everyone wants to get their hands on it. Already we are seeing businesses using it to pre-empt consumer behaviour, and companies are harvesting it from co-workers, clients, and even competitors, to enhance productivity.
But rather than privacy too becoming a thing of the past, new businesses are emerging focused on data stewardship, storing your personal information and keeping it out of the reach of businesses.
The data will be back in your hands, yet we will understand just how much it can improve our lives, and we’ll share it because we choose to.
So where are you going to work?
The future workspace will look less like an office and more like a multi-purpose apartment or leisure park, where brands work collaboratively, feeding off each other’s innovation and productivity. By sharing space, we’ll share ideas, and this will create even better ones.
Our research indicates that only 14% of businesses globally having moved to this collaborative style of working. But as this transition accelerates, IT must be prepared to deliver the All Wireless Workplace to meet the needs of the frictionless office.
This technology will release us from the very physical and restrictive demands of wires, cabling and desktops, allowing businesses and corporations to be more cultural, artisanal, social, and ultimately, more human.
We thought technology would enslave us, but really, it’s about to set us free.