What does the office of the future look like?

In an age where we track and measure so many aspects of our lives, and with technology becoming increasingly infused with our experience, the smart office is set to make a huge impact. 

Smart offices herald significant changes not only for our careers and success, but for our health and personal wellness. What could be more of a priority, given so many of us are spending over one third of our waking lives at the workplace?

Human first design, bio-hacking and an emphasis on user experience have each come to define how new products are built, as well as how we live. Increasingly we all look for the best technology charged solutions to optimize our time, efficiency, health and happiness. You only have to look to the popularity of personal fitness trackers, apps for mindfulness and meditation, and even online dating to see how quickly innovation is changing our daily lifestyle.

The smart office revolution is the next frontier of innovation and optimised human experience.

Sitting is the new smoking

First came the standing desk – championed by software developers in Silicon Valley – reported to fight disease, while adding two years to the life of workers who give up sitting sedentary. It had early adopters in the tech industry, before the output benefits such as increased levels of concentration, reduced and higher energy levels became more widely known in other sectors.

Backed by research from the Mayo Clinic, it seems spending more of your day standing reduces the risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Perhaps a little overstated, but the cumulative effects of a sedentary work day have led some to suggest, 'sitting is the new smoking'. So now that we know that standing desks are likely to be prominent in the future generation of workspaces, what else can we expect?

3D printing

Rapidly emerging next is the 3D printer, effectively meaning that almost anything a worker needs within a high technology office could be materialized the same day. The implications are enormous, as industries will be transformed by the ability to obtain needed resources quickly. Shipping, packaging and courier services are all set to be disrupted by the increasing popularity and efficiency of 3D printing.

Read more: Focus on community, not floorplans

Imagine you need to demo a working prototype to a client and find that just before your presentation one crucial component is missing. In the past, this would have likely equalled a fail, or at very least an assistant frantically running to suppliers to find the missing piece. Offices that have already adopted 3D printing are finding themselves to be increasingly self-sufficient and fully resourced in a way that has previously been impossible. 

Google's New York office leads the way in fusing technology and design by featuring a virtual bookshelf where employees can peruse a screen before picking out any book to read inside the company's "library". A recurring theme in workspace innovation is collaborative space and again Google is not surprisingly a forerunner in quirky design, with the intention of fostering communication between disparate teams. The office has rooms in the themes of different Manhattan neighbourhoods, including one resembling a tiny New York rail road apartment, and hallways that feature real subway grates and fire hydrants. All in order to create ‘accidental conversation’ between engineering, design and product teams.

Internet of Things and DNA profiles

Sophie Hackford, Director of WIRED Consulting, has the latest insights to come out of MIT, and suggests that smart data will be one of the biggest innovations in the offices of the future.

"The future of work will be transformed by a step change in computing power, as we move beyond the problem-solving constraints of classical computers and harness the peculiarities of the quantum world to build quantum computers," explains Hackford. "These should radically change the kinds of questions we can ask of machines, as they will have almost unlimited computational power relative to even the fastest supercomputers today."

Read more: What really makes a good office space?

Smart data will mean that sales teams will be linking their own consumer and client databases to larger trends in the market, effectively creating what are now being called DNA profiles of customers.

To put the landscape in true perspective, by 2020, the Internet of Things will have given us 35 billion connected devices, and our workspaces will be at the forefront of this change. Access to data on everything from your team's performance to your own cortisol levels will be available at literally the push of a button. Looking forward, could smart offices not only make us all more effective professionals, but increase our wellbeing and happiness? The answer is a resounding yes.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.


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