What will the future of the office look like?

Man on laptop at home drinking coffee at a desk

With technology becoming more advanced every day, our working habits are changing at a rate unparalleled to any time in history previously. We are having to change and adapt to new surroundings and environments. So why would your office carry on looking the same? Even though no one can be sure what the office of the future will look like, we can already take a pretty educated guess.

With the aim to uncover what the workplace of the future looks like, PowWowNow delved into research and interviewed experts and young professionals to outline the changes society is bringing to the workplace.

Professor Feng Li, chair of information management at Cass Business School London, Jon Loftin, head of unified communications at PowWowNow and business coach Ruth Kudzi were able to add their valuable insights to this research.

Millennials will make 75 per cent of the workforce in 2025, bringing a significant change to labour. Research also reveals that 70 per cent of this workforce wants flexible working options.

64 per cent of millennials want the office to change to remote working

In 2014, The Flexible Working Regulations established the right for employees in the UK to request flexible working, driving a lot of young people to become freelancers and work from different places – may it be from home, a coffee shop or even a beach in Australia.

The office as we know it is therefore in a radical change. Today, 64 per cent of Millennials wish to work from home, and another 66 per cent would like to be able to make their working hours more flexible.

Therefore, businesses today need to respond to these demands in order to increase their employee loyalty. A research study conducted by Deloitte found that there was a strong correlation between flexible working offering and employee loyalty, with over 55 per cent of millennials expected to stay more than five years when given more flexibility at work.

Closing the gender gap with remote working

With remote working becoming more in demand from employees, and the outlook forecast that over half of millennial’s are looking to work remotely, the question is, will women with children or who are planning to start families benefit from this shift in attitude to work?

Women are taking time out of the workplace or working part-time in order to take on family responsibilities. This is a key driver of the gender pay gap; which recently fell to a record low of 8.6 per cent, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics. Remote working can be the key to removing the obstacles that often face women in the workplace when returning into work after starting a family, with options of remote work.

Helping women to have more of a flexible approach to their roles can allow the employee to maintain their work-life balance and ultimately allow them the opportunity to become leaders in the workplace. The workplace of the future could definitely provide a more equal approach to mothers in the workplace and remote working is the approach that can start the conversation.

43 per cent of Gen Y consider freelancing as an alternative to a full-time job

On the flipside, this flexibility means that a lot of companies are now also opting for freelancers to outsource short-term projects. Another reason for choosing freelance activities is apparently the better pay, with around 56 per cent of millennials choosing to be a freelancer for financial reasons. As this seems to bear more professional and personal opportunities, 43 per cent of Gen Y are considering the gig economy as an alternative to full-time employment.

One of the main reasons for this switch in working patterns could be down to people not having enough time to enjoy their hobbies

Despite the gig economy’s increasing popularity, there are also risks to it that both companies and remote workers need to consider.

Ruth Kudzi stated: “Remote working isn’t wholly positive, because I think there might be personality types where the office provides the only social support they get, and could cause an epidemic of loneliness, which is the most detrimental thing for your health. But for most people, having control over how they work will be massively beneficial. A business needs to take this into account with their employee training plan.”

“With ever more web platforms mediating between freelancers and companies and enabling them to rate each other, the gig economy shines a light on good and bad workers and employers, pulling up and professionalising the entire industry,” added Laurent Gibb, CEO at Staff Heroes.

“Employers need to understand that they need to treat all workers, permanent or gig in the same way and make it accessible for everyone to join and work for them.”

Wearables and VR are likely to revolutionise the way we work

Start-ups are often seen as the new way we work and are therefore often associated with flexible working.

Jon Loftin, claimed workers’ quick adoption of new technology at home is accelerating workplaces’ typically slow uptake. And that could extend to virtual reality (VR) and wearables:

“Wearable tech could be incorporated in some way in the future. It’s difficult to see an improvement beyond a tablet computer because a screen is necessary. VR might come into the workplace at some point, it would be helpful when discussing issues with customers, not being limited to a flat image.”

Yet, Prof. Feng Lui thinks that body language is still very important and still requires physical meetings. Although VR could help improve these aspects, he claims that research has shown that e-meetings are more efficient if you already know each other before, rather than getting to know business partners through the electronic way.

52 per cent of millennials consider work culture as the most important factor when choosing a workplace

The office is not entirely dead, yet. As technology and the gig economy have made our schedules heavier than ever, Millennials are now putting emphasis on work culture, with 52 per cent of them claiming that a positive work culture is important when they choose to work for a company.

In contrast to the many generations before, Gen Y doesn’t want to work any longer for the sole sake of earning money – they are also looking to work for a purpose and with people, they like to become friends with. Therefore, fostering a work community has never been as important as today.

Sara Hazelwood, sales and marketing manager at SugarVida, added: “In our company, we tend to all meet for big ‘away days’ or ‘weekends’ to build inspiration. For instance, we recently went to Denmark and rented out a summer beach house to get the brain going!”

However, businesses should be aware that simply promoting this won’t do the trick anymore, as many recruitment services offer the public ratings for employers.

It is therefore vital for a business today to form a plan on how to attract skilled young professionals and how to foster an environment in which they can express themselves to stay loyal to the company. With 18 per cent of young professionals wishing their company would become more diverse, hiring people from different backgrounds is an important step that many businesses worldwide unfortunately still need to embrace.