What will the office of the future look like?

Now is a great time to think about what the new work normal is going to be like and how we can ensure that it works just as well outside the office as it does in it.

So, it’s happening. Twitter announced that most of their employees will be able to work from home forever. The first pebble to fall in a remote working avalanche. 

Then Facebook said they expect 50% of their staff to work from home in 10 years’ time. And in swift succession, Shopify’s CEO tweeted that most of the Shopify team will continue to work remotely even after their offices reopen in 2021.

In Gartner’s survey of 317 CFO’s and business finance leaders, 74% expect at least 5% of their workforce to work from home. And many predict much higher percentages.

 

No going back

Global Workplace Analytics estimates 56% of U.S workers have jobs that are compatible with remote working. Their president, Kate Lister, says, “25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.” 

A HuffPost/YouGov survey on people’s working preferences showed that 38% of people wanted a mix of working from home and working from the office, 26% said they wanted to work from home all the time. Only 27% said they wanted to work from the office all the time

Although no one would wish for change to come under these particular circumstances, Kate Lister says, “The genie is out of the bottle and it’s not likely to go back in.”

Not just a reconstruction

At this moment, most companies are trying to recreate what they used to do in the office online. They have added Zoom and Slack to their operations, but little else has changed. Like trying to hang fallen leaves back on a tree, instead of seeking new growth. 

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Automattic (Wordpress, WooCommerce) speaks on Sam Harris’ podcast about the new future of work. He says that the 9-5 office model was inherited from factories, which required a person to be present on a production line. But this is a 19th century practice. For years companies have been forcing this model to work. And like forcing a millennial into a 19th century century ball gown, it doesn’t quite feel right. 

We need systems that work just as well outside the office as in it. But more than that, we need a new approach to what we think of as ‘the office.’ Because for many of us, it’s no longer a place.

An office in the cloud

For years we’ve been talking about paperless offices. Now we’re only a few steps away from taking away the hard drives as well. 

According to a Digital Guardian report, from 11th March to 15th April, employees uploaded 336TB of data to the cloud, “a 72% increase from the previous two months.” It would be surprising if this trend did not continue, and it is unlikely that we will want to go back. 

Cloud spaces mean better security, a faster workflow and even create new opportunities for collaboration. And this allows one of the greatest changes to our future workspaces.

A space where everyone is heard

It’s time-consuming for everyone to speak in a large meeting. And even if there is time, many voices are still missed. Matt Mullenweg says it’s often the highest ranked people who speak the most, and men more than women. But digital collaboration creates space “for the introverts and for those for whom English is not their first language.”

While Zoom calls are not much of an upgrade, other forms of digital collaboration - whether shared documents, internal forums or tailor-made solutions - offer a chance for everyone’s insight to shape key decisions. What can be difficult to vocalise among competing voices can be said clearly on the right non-verbal platform.

Matt Mullenweg says that through digital collaboration, “Decisions can take a little longer to make,” but “the decisions are better.”

At the moment, the focus for many businesses is on getting by. But it can also be the time to ditch old practices and old software that doesn’t serve us well. The systems we put in place to survive now will lay a foundation that businesses can continue to build upon. Book a call with one of our tech experts and we can figure out what digital tools your business needs to make the most of the new norm.

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