Everyone wants to know the future. We accept change is constant. The goal is anticipating change before it arrives. Putting your shades on before the sun appears. Putting your brolly up before the first raindrops land on your freshly coiffured bonce (or beard). Success in design, business and life relies on intuition.

‘The 24 hour garage is dead’

I read an article this week on the death of parking, discussing driverless cars and their knock-on effects. Driverless cars are shared, vastly reducing traffic whilst optimising usage and efficiency. No time wasted searching for a parking space and less traffic means less time commuting. Obsolete car parks are demolished, freeing up valuable urban land for redevelopment. With parking spaces now redundant, the masterplans of urban sprawls across the globe change forever. Bus, truck and taxi drivers are out of a job (cue Union outcry). Where we go for bad coffee and a Rustlers burger at 3am is beyond me – the 24 hour garage is dead.

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No Parking: literally

I digress. You get the picture.

Apply this thinking to the office. By 2030, what office features become obsolete? What voids or opportunities are created by their absence and how does the office change? Consider these five themes; all currently trending in workplace design:

  1. Wellbeing 
  2. The Internet of Things (IOT)
  3. Automation, AI & Smart Technology
  4. Biophillic design 
  5. Collaboration, co-working, remote working

Now put your future goggles on and get in the driverless car. Destination: workplace 2030 (but where we’re going, we still need roads)

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Your driverless Merc collects you at 7.42am and logs you in to your virtual office. As you’re not driving, this is the new third space: a place to work. Your messages are displayed along with your meeting calendar as you are chauffeured to your office door, arriving promptly at 8.00am (no you can’t stop for a McDonald’s breakfast). You enter the office fresh, prepared and focused.

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This is where the Internet of Things (IOT) comes in. IOT refers to sensors and technology embedded in practically everything. Your office chair self-adjusts to your weight, size and height, then makes regular minor adjustments as you sit to ensure constant muscle movement and circulation. Your i-desk whirs into life and rises to standing height when it senses you’ve been sitting too long. The furniture is communicating with your wearable tech, which in turn gathers health metrics. The 2030 employer understands that good health optimises the workforce and in turn reduces sick days. It’s win-win.

The traditional desk is dead: replaced by the intelligent table.

In 2030 you have no monitor, keyboard or mouse. The latter were superseded by technology responding to speech recognition, as well as hand and eye movement. Your monitor was replaced by Apple idesk with touch screen adjustable height worktop. There are no wires or chargers required. The traditional desk is dead: replaced by the intelligent table.

Workspace
Vitra future office: interior walls shift to accommodate meetings

Office furniture in 2030 will be flexible and easy to reconfigure. And with cable management no longer necessary, it’s easier than ever. Suspended lightweight acoustic interior partitions shift and tilt; opening and closing to suit various layouts at the wave of a hand (or verbal command). The office is designed using a simple grid-like modular format creating interchangeable spaces. The virtual conference layout repositions walls to create a large meeting space, as 3D visual equipment connects remote workers in other locations. Ideas are shared and developed. As the meeting draws to a close, another wave of the hand and private focus spaces are created. Smart furniture responds accordingly and multiple needs are met.

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‘This office is about collaboration, free movement and flexibility.’

Office lighting, acoustic performance and temperature is optimised throughout the day. After the midday exercise class has finished and the team have taken time for lunch, task lighting gently fades in and the temperature adjusts, eliminating that early afternoon drowsy period. The air circulation is so good you don’t even smell the kippers Colin in Accounts had earlier. At 3.12pm, Sensing you are losing concentration, your smart-wristband prompts you to stretch your legs and grab a drink to rehydrate. Sitting still is for old geezers. 

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The IT server room is long gone. Instead there is an expanded comfortable business lounge with an abundance of plants and trees creating a healthy feel-good environment. Acoustic panels adjust their angle slightly to absorb noise during busy periods. The office lives and breathes.

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Employers in 2030 understand that working staff more than 8 hours a day leads to stress, decreased productivity – and risk of illness. They know their workforce struggle to resist the temptation of checking emails 24/7 so they take responsibility by limiting access to the company cloud to 40 hours per week per user.

It’s 5.30pm and your (driverless) Merc awaits. No remote working this time – you’ve been logged out. You’ve maxed out on hours today, so it’s off to the bar for a download with your mates. The car asks you if you’d like to order your usual. You’ll be there in 4 minutes…

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