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Want to Know How Workplaces Will Look Like by 2040? With artificial intelligence and analytics playing a greater role in workplaces and determining lifestyle patterns, various productivity-oriented transitions are already taking place

By Jaiprakash Aildasani

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The 21st-century business landscape has changed drastically, and the emergence of "smart' and "connected' technology has been at the core of this transition. Hence, it is a natural course of progression that workplaces are also witnessing similar levels of innovation and out-of-the-box technological integrations. Aspects such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connected devices, biometric access systems and entrances, clean-energy, smart HVAC cooling and heating systems, among others, are increasingly becoming the standard in modern offices. Sensors based mapping and monitoring systems that ensure optimum space-utilization are already being used in modern warehouses by leading ecommerce companies such as Amazon and they will also become a standard feature of the future office spaces.

With artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics playing a greater role in workplaces and determining lifestyle patterns, various productivity-oriented transitions are already taking place.

About twenty years into the future, around 2040, work will revolve around the employee. A report by Johnson Controls details out the following predictions.

  • In 2040, the emphasis will be on productivity and output, instead of where and how the work is being done—be it work hubs or even at home. Hyper-connectivity will be the name of the game with each aspect customized to ensure maximum productivity.
  • There will be introduction of "flexi-work contracts', allowing employees the freedom to choose their work hours so long as the projects are completed.
  • Sustainable and efficient resource management will assume importance. Workplaces of the future will not allow for business inefficiency.

The transition is already taking place.

Work is the output of our efforts, not locations

The conventions of meeting or performing office tasks have changed completely with the advent of the millennial workforce. Doing video conference calls while on the move or communicating via emails and chat tools while having lunch at a fancy restaurant have become common elements of a modern corporate executive's day. This technology-enabled communication saves valuable time, effort and resources that might otherwise get spent on non-essential meetings or discussions that could be easily conducted digitally.

Most of the modern employers/employees consider it a norm to access files and data through their smartphones, sending emails or exchanging files using their laptop computers while dashing from one meeting to another. The integration of cloud-technology into the internal company networks has enabled the millennial workforce to digitally connect with their colleagues in real-time irrespective of their location.

Moving away from the desk

The "desk' concept that defined workspaces in the 20th century is increasingly becoming obsolete in the contemporary offices. Today, the emphasis is on optimizing output while ensuring employee satisfaction. It is common to see the modern campuses have multiple facilities, and open-plan workspaces. An employee is considered to be "in-office' once he/she enters the campus and seat-independent working is gaining prevalence. The focus is now on timely completion of assigned tasks and projects. Companies that have sprawling campuses use combinations of cameras, sensors and digital map technologies to help their employees locate each other and they keep interacting with each other through digital internal communication networks or apps.

Employee logins are now switching from the conventional swipe-based access cards to Bluetooth-based access control systems. Employees can also access the company's network using biometric logins from any location in the world. Cloud-based connectivity has also enabled a large chunk of employees to work remotely from their homes and perform at par with on-premises employees.

Work as you will

Cloud-based technology has turned every place into a workspace, and we have options such as virtual desktops that allow employees to work as per their suitability. Some people are early risers who find it difficult to work late hours and others are at their best working late into the night, but struggle if forced to rise with the sun. Flexi-hours allow all of them to deliver their best and ensure optimum productivity for the business.

This adaptive approach is also instrumental in creating a level playing field for all employees. Those with kids can align their work hours with the school schedules or those that spend hours on their commute don't need to worry about reaching office late. Further, at times familial responsibilities like an ailing family member might necessitate doctor appointments and hospital visits that interfere with office timings. Modern offices are also becoming informal with options such as flexi-hours, furnishing and interiors replete with sofas, loungers, and even nap corners that make a person feel at home, rather than in an office. It is the integration of such thoughtfully adaptive and alternate designs which are high on comfort and productivity and enhance the abilities of employees across all age groups to improve their output.

Tech-driven workplaces

Smart sensor-based monitoring systems can bring down power consumption by switching lights and machines off when they are not in use or reduce their brightness in accordance to the availability of natural light. Similarly, smart air-conditioners that adjust their cooling according to the number of people present, and ventilation systems that maintain a constant airflow in high and low traffic areas of a building, are already enabling companies to manage resources better. What makes these futuristic workplaces even more alluring is the fact that all these functions can be centrally controlled via the single-sensor technology that is replacing multiple sensors. Another benefit of such a smart sensor based technology is that the user data generated by such sensors can be easily shared between the various stakeholders.

Green technology such as integration of bio-filtration systems, and green walls are optimizing the air quality and maintaining cooler building interiors. Enhanced materials that deflect heat or dust are also being increasingly adopted to enhance sustainability at workplaces. By 2040, such technologies and processes will become the standard in office spaces and the present day Green and LEED certifications will become redundant.

In conclusion

Modern workspaces are predominantly about superior productivity and optimum employee experience. Technology is playing a transformational role in making this possible by removing the barriers of space and time. In the years ahead, the proliferation of technologies such as IoT, AI and Big Data further will lead to highly sustainable, ergonomic and seamless workspaces. These offices of the future will integrate conventional office buildings with employees' homes and outdoor places through cutting-edge technology that will be focused on putting the premium on superior human resource experience and productivity.

Jaiprakash Aildasani

Regional Managing Director, Space Matrix

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