We may not have gone paperless, as everyone has been predicting since we first ditched the typewriter, and we may not all be working from home, but the ease of connectivity and collaboration has helped build a globalised workforce that’s always at least been partially connected to the office. But what will the office look like in 15 years’ time?
As screens become flexible and ever thinner, they’ll start popping up everywhere in the office. Desks, walls, doors – basically any flat surface has the potential to be a screen, whether it’s a standard monitor or an interactive touchscreen. Cubicles and offices will become customisable and meetings will take place wherever employees gather, using the nearest wall.
It won’t always suit an open plan space, but improvements in voice recognition should prove invaluable to certain office workers. Note taking and the minutes of a meeting could be picked up automatically by the room – a function activated as soon as you say a keyword. Even in a cubicle, tuning the tech to your own voice and using sensitive microphones will allow workers to talk instead of type.
Interactive holograms could make the office a much more active place. A recent Elon Musk prototype hologram desk allowed him to look at SpaceX rocket parts from all angles and move the three-dimensional representation with his hand. With an improved version, everything from blueprints to graphs could be viewed and manipulated as a projection above your desk, allowing you to move around as you work.
The Internet of Things means there will be sensors and chips in everything, including office furniture. With sensors in chairs, desks and wearables worn by office workers your furniture will be able to tell if you’re comfortable and working happily or need the temperature of your office raised, your seat adjusted or your desk height changed – all without you doing a thing.
With a driverless car, office workers will be able to work anywhere, anytime. The ‘passenger’ seat could be set up as a little mobile office, with a touchscreen desk on the dashboard. Larger cars could even be set up as full offices, with swivelling chairs to accommodate a number of workers.
The office of the future could be a clean and tidy place featuring wireless charging, wireless touchscreen monitors and wireless docking. More importantly for bosses, employees won’t be wasting their time crawling under desks searching for sockets or holding up presentations while they look for the HDMI cable.
The office of the future is likely to be an exciting space, with increased connectivity, active collaboration and personalised environments. Sadly for workers, it’s also likely to follow you 24/7, to your car, your home and everywhere else you go.