When a global provider of real estate services peers into the future, what comes into focus above all else is flexibility—a flexible workplace unlike any yet seen in the real world. In this world, real estate facilities are consumed by employees, employees, entrepreneurs and working free spirits. Ownership of facilities, where it does exist, is joint, and far more work is performed with far more efficiency and accuracy at the “hive” or, as we know it, the home.
This is what emerges from Smart Workplace 2040: Rise of the Workspace Consumer, a truly exhaustive effort by Johnson Controls Global Workplace Solutions unit to determine how and where people will work in 2040.
That’s not so far off, which is what makes the research especially intriguing.
It isn’t pie-in-the-sky research either, but a study pulled together from surveys, workshops, analysis of existing data, picking the brains of experts, and then a bit of extrapolation by the study’s authors.
“The workplace of 2040 is far more agile, the presence of technology is ultra predominant and human beings are highly reliant on it. Yet the technology is “shy”, not intrusive, transparent, and highly reliable,” the report tells us.
“By 2040, we will not own facilities, we will consume them. Our Real Estate portfolio will resemble a network of workplaces, and our workplace will be a coworking environment spread across an eco-campus. The Smart Workplace 2040 anticipates important changes to our working environment. A concerted response from CREM and FM, Workplace and HR functions will help to ensure that businesses are fully prepared for the changes ahead.”
Among the predictions of the research:
The home becomes a hyper-connected and adaptive place to work, “responsive to the environment and its users, supporting multiple requirements simultaneously;”
Workers will make use of “complex software applications [that will] suggest what they should do to maximize performance;”
“True offline time,” or personal time, “is both a luxury and a necessity. Being physically present is perceived as more authentic, a privilege” rather than a requirement;
“Adaptive white noise technology makes it possible to have a first rate telepresence session in an open environment,” thus eliminating concerns about what's going on around the flexible worker;
Consumers “are literally building their own products, bought through their smartphones using mobile web applications, and printed on demand;”
Commuting comes under pressure not only because of the time and energy consumed, and restrictions on driving and parking, but because flexible workspace concepts render it unnecessary in most cases;
New leaps forward in applying technology to work that eliminate many of the accepted concepts of when, where and how work is accomplished.
Naturally, real estate use is a focus of the report. Hot desking, hoteling, choose your term—these concepts now in place will be taken to the next level and beyond as human capital, or employees, demand to work when and where it best suits them because that will best suit the outcome of their effort.
Management will finally let go of the need to see butts in seats, and will release the potential for productivity and creativity that has been held back by conforming to an outdated workspace model.
Here are recommendations from the study that, the authors believe, will prepare those who follow them to take advantage of what's coming ahead of schedule.
Consider a dispersed real estate model that deploys mixed facilities and multi purpose environments to allow fast response to utilization patterns and demands;
Design shared facilities to answer a broader demand from users dispersed across a large geographical region: co-working facilities, access to local collaboration hubs, leisure and entertainment facilities within close amenities;
Design social, cohesive and adaptive working environment empowering users and teams across different work contexts and collaboration modes;
Develop intuitive user interfaces to enhance user experiences: immersive solutions and services, technology based services.
To support this workspace realignment, the study recommends that companies review their work processes and assets to develop “a range of services designed around the web and mobile interfaces to respond to a new demand of highly connected users” and to “integrate invisible shy technologies in facilities: to track user activities, record user experience and respond in real time to user demand” in an unobtrusive, subtle manner.
The full study can be accessed here.