20 years and counting? Research predicts offices will soon no longer exist

How would having the flexibility to work from where you like impact your life? How about your health, family and general well-being? For some, the idea of remote working is an aspiration that a recent survey suggests could become the norm within the next 20 years.

You are reading an article from the rise of flexible working series, to read more about this you can visit the series homepage.

Following this month’s focus on the rise of flexible working, Virgin commissioned YouGov to conduct a survey exploring people’s attitudes towards working from home and the future of offices. There’s no doubt that people have a desire to work remotely but surprisingly, it’s not Generation Y who see this change on the horizon. According to the survey, only 6% of 18 - 24 year olds strongly agree with the statement ‘that office working will be a thing of the past’, whereas 28% display subtle optimism as they ‘tend to agree’.

With 7% of this age group strongly disagreeing and 19% confirming that they just didn’t know whether office working will be a thing of the past or not; are we to assume that the flexible working movement may not take off as we first thought? Well, perhaps, if we are to place our emphasis on the thinking of next generation of entrepreneurs and CEOs. However, if we give more weight to the opinions of the older generation, who are arguably better suited to predict such changes, we may be inclined to think differently.

There’s no doubt that people have a desire to work remotely but surprisingly, it’s not Generation Y who see this change on the horizon.

When presented with the same statement on office working, only 7% of over 55s strongly agreed with it, however, a large proportion (42%) did say that they ‘tended’ to agree with the statement. With 6% of over 55s strongly disagreein, could the wisdom of the older generation provide an insight into what’s to come regarding flexible working?

Richard Branson himself certainly thinks that flexible working is the future, as he confirmed on his blog recently: "I’m a big advocate of letting your team work from wherever suits them best – whether that’s at home, in the office, or on the top of a mountain!"

So will we be packing our climbing gear alongside our laptops any time soon? Well, according to those 18-24 olds who agreed that offices will be a thing of the past, 11% think this evolution will happen within the next 5 years, 21% believe within the next 10 years and 38% think offices will be a thing of the past within the next 20 years. With 23% predicting this in more than 20 years’ time and 7% saying that they don’t know, how soon will we start to see companies bidding farewell to offices all together?

And it’s not just the younger generation who predict this 20 year progression. Some 8% of over 55s believe offices will be a thing of the past in the next 5 years, 33% predict in the next 10 years and 45% of over 55s believe offices will be a thing of the past in the next 20 years.

But what do you think? Are you surprised by these results? Will we soon have the flexibility to choose our workplaces? And how might this impact on a company’s productivity and internal communication? Do you think that a twenty year progression is an accurate timeframe for such a huge change in our working culture? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the future of flexible working.

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