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THE CHANGING SHAPE OF THE WORKPLACE

13/09/2019

Max Eaglen is a Director at Platform,

 

It wasn’t that long ago that “getting a job for life” was the aspiration of those leaving school and college.  From gaining an apprenticeship to being part of the furniture, having a salary, a pension scheme and the golden handshake – you were living the working dream.

 

We all know that the working world has changed and with technology acting as the enabler those in employment are moving jobs more now than ever – with a LV report revealing that the average UK worker changes roles once every five years, equating to around 9.4 jobs a lifetime. The ability to work “anywhere, anytime”, combined with many finding their roles made redundant by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and others wanting to opt out of the “9-to-5” means the likelihood is more temporary and less permanent roles emerging in the future workplace. A trend backed by the Office for National Statistics that estimates there is currently nearly 5 million self-employed in the UK (equating to around 15% of the workforce)1 up from 3.3 million (12%) in 20012.

 

So, what does this mean in terms of workplace? Is this the demise of the office?  At Platform where we help clients such as Vodafone, British Gas and Centrica Business solutions visualise their working world of the future – we think not. We think it means changing our ideas and beliefs of what the office means and building a space that can be wholly cooperative, that allows fluidity of working while giving flexibility yet function.  In fact, this is what we have created working with Vodafone on its Digital Innovation Hub, a technology incubator for start-ups and entrepreneurs based in Manchester’s Media City.

 

The launch of the Digital Working Hub

Billed as the workplace of the future, “the Vodafone Digital Innovation Hub will provide entrepreneurs with access to network experts, the latest technologies, including 5G, IoT and high-speed fibre and a space to work together and exchange ideas.3

 

Yet, the creation of the Digital Innovation Hub and Media City are far more than just places for those wanting to work independently. They highlight a new beginning in the world of work where cities become more agile to accommodate those working within it.  We helped Vodafone imagine just what this city might look like with V-City, a 3D visualisation created by Platform for Vodafone that uses IoT and 5G to show a snapshot of the future. Complete with smart, connected infrastructure, drone deliveries, driverless cars and 4k streaming video, it helps organisations to plan for the future and assess some of the challenges and opportunities ahead.

 

The launch of digital working hubs signifies the need for people to have face-to-face interaction with their colleagues, but not be confined to the traditional office environment. It creates a space for those moving through their working lives but not being constricted by it. The “lifestyle, travel and hospitality platform” Salina takes this one step further by blurring the lines between work and play by offering spaces you can travel to, yet live, work and co-exist for as long or as little as you want.

 

Collaborative hubs are not in themselves new. However, what if they were the office norm allowing workers to move from one city to the other? To travel while working and to use the power of the community, just maybe not their organisation’s community?  It brings a new meaning to “working away from home” and a new way of thinking of the office space.

 

What does the future workspace look like?

So, what might this new office space look like?  It goes without saying that tech will enable it allowing not only connectivity with colleagues working remotely, but those working in different continents across different time zones.

 

Taking learnings from those around you, language will no longer be a barrier as your virtual assistant translates in real-time allowing you to have conversations and meetings with those who have never spoken your native tongue.

 

Artificial Intelligence will take mundane, repetitive or highly complex, big data tasks and find meaningful patterns within them that help enhance decision making or deliver better insights into our business and our customers. Imagine VR and AR being seamlessly woven into the workplace to allow scenario planning, training via virtual visualisation and an enhanced sense of environment with VR/REAL bringing true immersive content that understands the user’s location.  This kind of full immersive technology gives rise to a much more mobile and distributed workforce and a more freelance economy of specialists contracted to deliver specific tranches of work.

 

Teams will be virtual, organic and machine based but not all, not yet.

 

The social agenda creeps higher up the priority list

As our technology races ahead and machine learning permeates throughout the workforce we will still have the need for places that better serve our creative, communal desire for human contact and face to face interaction. The ‘social’ agenda will inevitably creep higher up the list as priority for keeping a productive, successful happy workforce and if we are to avoid the possible dystopian scenarios such as the emergence of the Useless Class (people that cannot find employment means they are unable to maintain or improve their standard of living) predicted by the likes of Yuval Harari, we need to be mindful of the need to create spaces for not just as workplace solutions but social solutions helping to boost interaction, creation, innovation and dialogue and really consider the isolation risk threatened by remote working.

As last decade saw the end of the “job for life”, this decade the end to the “9-to-5” maybe the next decade will see the end of the office as we know it but open up a world of offices that we move fluidly through, collaborating and engaging with different communities.  Giving workers the chance to move and change working environments as they feel fit, it could boost creativity, help share best practice and see us becoming a global workforce like never before.

 

Max Eaglen is a Director at Platform, leaders in workplace design who help their clients look further ahead through the use of future insights.  Clients include Vodafone, HCL Technologies and AEG.

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