The Office of 2020

For our first blog post of 2015, Katherine Hamilton looks forward – five years forward, to be exact – to the office of 2020, and what it might look like.

office2020Photo: Microsoft Envisioning Lab by Long Zheng, used under Creative Commons

It’s an idea that has been floated by Microsoft, and has really interested us lately. A lot can happen in five years, which means the possibilities for what our daily working lives might be like in 2020 are endless.

Working in the IT sector has never been more exciting. Every day it seems as though we are embracing new technological innovations which truly have the potential to revolutionise the way we work and interact with each other. With the rise of social media and mobile technology it only makes sense that tomorrow’s office will need to adapt to remain effective.

So what will the Office of 2020 look like? Here are five suggestions:

1. Flexible, mobile working will become the norm

We predict that by 2020 the 9-5 workday will be a thing of the past. The focus on flexible and mobile working is already happening with businesses realising the benefits of having genuine workplace flexibility. In fact, 80% of managers who were surveyed by IBM in a recent study agreed that real, flexible working improved productivity. At CompanyNet we have already implemented a flexible working policy and we consider it a great success. Of course we aren’t the only ones, non-profit HR organization WorldatWork claim that companies that implement a flexible culture experience less turnover and greater employee satisfaction.

In addition to the human benefits, such as employees taking less time off work to deal with appointments, childcare etc. The advancement in telecommunications technology means that there’s now little difference between working at home compared to sitting in the office. In fact, it gives SMEs the chance to be more global than ever before as employees are not tied to a core location but free to work from other cities or continents, and across time-zones. Technology such as Lync and Office 365 will only continue to develop to accommodate this.

2. Cloud technology will replace networks

Perhaps the most radical suggestion on the list is the idea that cloud technology will eventually eclipse, or even replace networks. Andy, our Managing Director is a firm supporter of this and will happily tell you the future is in the Cloud. As are collaboration platform firm Huddle who suggested that work networks could die out as more firms shift to cloud based systems.

We’ve discussed the benefits of cloud technology in previous blogs but in this context, the reasons for the move towards the Cloud seem clear. As more and more companies offer flexible and mobile working as an alternative to being office based, Cloud technology seems primed to supply the tools which will accommodate this. Accessing your data from wherever you happen to be will be vital, so having it stored in a work-based network will hamper this whereas with technology such as SharePoint and Office 365, wherever you log in, can be your office.

3. The right information will find us

According to this article in Forbes magazine, a major inhibitor to growth is the interface of the workplace. The article suggests that because people are not working on the most important things at the optimal time, efficiency is lost. The reason for this is that employees don’t know what they need to know, unless they search for it. This is an interesting conundrum, because if you don’t know that you need to know it, why would you search for it? In the Office of 2020 it will be the other way around, information will find you. Today information is lost in vast amounts because people are simply unaware of where to find it. At CompanyNet this is something we are very excited about changing. New technology such as Delve, an Office 365 tool, has transformed the way we share information in the company. Whereas before, attachments via email may have ended up lost in the maelstrom of time, now a search for “Powerpoint presentations” will harvest all files which relate to this by a host of different users. Meaning the collective intelligence of the company really comes into its own.

Forbes also suggests that Big Data will become Smart Data, and all of the information that is aggregated by social platforms such as SharePoint and Yammer and email will soon be used to increase the effectiveness of the workforce.

4. The office is everywhere

Relating to the first point, there is some debate as to whether the Office of 2020 will physically exist. This may sound far-fetched but with the development of mobile technology, your office truly is wherever you open your device, whether that be in a coffee shop, your own home, or the car. As suggested in this Business Computing World article, when it comes to physical workspaces, in 2020 your car might also double as the new meeting room. Prototypes of self-driving cars already exist and hands-free technology is an acceptable part of the daily commute; is it too much to envision a world where your car could provide meeting space? Perhaps not.

5. Adaptive workspaces will adjust for the user

The office as we know it today has not changed much in the last 50 years. But if the physical office is to survive into the future it will have to adapt and react to the needs of its users. This could mean any number of things, from simply making the space your employees work in more pleasant to implementing technology that will change how you interact with a space. Pumping fresh air into air conditioning units, or installing virtual windows in dark offices could improve productivity and staff satisfaction just as much as flexible work patterns.

Additionally, the Office of 2020 will be reactive- having a fantastic brainstorm with your team but not being able to capture the ideas as they happen may well be a thing of the past by 2020. Tools may well exist which can capture and convert real time conversations into text or data. There’s really no end to the ways technology could influence how you use a space.

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