Trendy, Tech-Enabled & Transformative Offices: A New Norm By 2020

Amit Ramani, Founder & CEO, AwfisAmit has been a serial entrepreneur with 18 years of experience with a focus on building sustainable businesses, strategic planning, design management, and workplace & business process improvement. Prior to Awfis, he served as the Founder & Managing Director of NELSON Asia.

Acombination of new ways of working, activity-based settings and multi-locations are beginning to take-over traditional offices, giving way to modern workplaces. Innovation in the work styles of the new age workforce has changed the approach to office design. What once focused on entitlement has now given way to fulfilment of the workers choice. Evolving technology is the key driving force of this change. The three fundamental pillars that have changed the face of the industry in the last decade are artificial intelligence, mobility solutions and automation.

With innovation being at the core of success, organizations are choosing to augment the work environment with tech-enabled solutions, giving rise to a new breed of offices that are cool, edgy and interactive like never before. A dramatic shift is expected in the next 2-3 years, considering the pace of technological evolution. Shared workplaces are expected to overtake the traditional serviced offices by 2020. The top-3 metro cities, Mumbai, Bangalore and NCR, offer by far the best opportunity for creating shared spaces that will serve the just-in-time needs of young entrepreneurs, millennials, startups, as well as global firms, with their flexible lease options and location benefits.

The workplace transformation began when the rise of shared workspaces turned the archaic methods of the real estate developers with age-old customs (lock-in period, security deposit and long-term leases) leading to market disruption by creating ease, flexibility and varied options for the customer. While the commencement of shared workplaces was initially aided by the demand of entrepreneurs and freelancers, with time, the privileges and utilities of those are no longer only enjoyed by them. SMEs and corporates are now embracing the idea of shared workspaces that provide conveniences and engagement with like-minded community, delivering superior experience and increased employee productivity. They have realised that shared workspaces tend to be more sociable and not hierarchy driven, which further encourages employees to engage with other community members, leading to increased bonding and cross-pollination of ideas. Some of the trends that will drive the workspace of 2020 are discussed below.

Increased Dependency on Collaborative Technology
By 2020, workplaces will be fully integrated with IoT & AI along with more focus on activity-based settings, supporting the individual employee's work style. Millennials today are looking for high quality, high speed connectivity, reliable and covetable products at work. Collaborative and interactive technology is the need of the hour for us to meet the needs of today's millennial generation. Conventional desks and cubicles are fast being replaced with flexible setups & ergonomic furniture, and this trend is expected to increasingly grow over the next few years.

Laptops and smartphones will transform into voice-activated
assistants. Wearable technology, including wearable glasses, embedded chips, and wrist devices connected with Internet of Things (IoT) will ensure seamless connection between work surfaces and individuals. This will also lay a foundation for individuals to experience how technology is enabling accessibility from any place at any point of time. The ability of devices to adapt to individuals' preferences will ultimately provide insightful data that will further help to create workplace solutions that are customized to individual work styles. With time, space infrastructure, including lighting, air conditioning and air quality will adjust automatically to the task at hand, including the number of users and work setting.

Shared Workspaces for Corporates
While shared workplaces started-off initially aiding the demand of entrepreneurs, it is not just digital nomads and entrepreneurs taking advantage of those facilities anymore. SMEs and corporates have already started sharing office spaces, and this is where the big opportunity will be in the coming years. Simultaneous disruption and innovation in the workplace sector have led to the alternative workspaces and activity-based working concepts. The corporates looking for flexibility of lease terms, extended location for regional & sales offices, and choice for employees to work near home are fast adapting to the shared workspace solution. The SMEs are upgrading their current workspaces by relocating their complete offices into co-working, taking advantage of per seat pricing and flexibility.

Virtual workplace is becoming more of a reality and VR technology is playing an instrumental role in setting-up of virtual meetings

Workplace Flexibility Will Take the Centre Stage
Shared workspaces are all set to give more flexibility options to users, than what they're doing today. Gen-next will be on-the-go with walkable treadmill workstations, pedal tables, virtual assistant integrated desks, mobile vans, and smart sensing technologies that redefine the concept of flexibility at work. Mobile offices will lead the way for remote working and establish on-the-spot work environment anywhere and everywhere. The ability to put one's business in motion will empower workers to function on a real time basis. Consenting flexible desk assignments will let companies to function with a smaller footprint. Developing a family-friendly workplace will encourage working parents to be within office premises, while catering to their children as well.

Virtual Workspaces Will Be the Norm
Future of work will be creative, with a tinge of virtual reality. The definition of workspace has been evolving from the definition of workspace being `physical' and `virtual' Digitization is further transforming the future of work across varied dimensions. Virtual workplace is becoming more of a reality and VR technology is playing an instrumental role in setting-up of virtual meetings. An individual will be able to put on a VR headset and have access to a virtual mouse, keyboard and unlimited monitors. The use of avatars, 3D visualizations, and resilient telepresence will be the new online meeting norm, essentially creating a truly collaborative and interactive environment that web & video conferences have been unable to achieve.

Workplace Design Will Take Precedence
Ergonomics and workplace design will aim to fulfil functional requirements and influence the productivity of workers. Design will be the key factor for the disruptive innovation-driven workforce. Companies have to re-design and customise their offices in order to appeal to the next-gen workforce. While researching on emerging trends in real estate, global experts have observed that approximately 10 percent of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work in an office that is located in a good location with a good design. 50 percent of the global workforce will comprise of millennials by 2020, according to a study. A rising trend will be the incorporation of sophisticated sensors that will monitor environmental conditions, the way space is being used and even employee's emotional and physical well-being on a real time basis. This will enable future offices to shape-shift to ensure maximum efficiency, alter temperature & lighting levels and adjust automatically. Biometric sensors could provide insights into less obvious factors like anxiety, boredom and stress, as well as poor posture. Basis this information, designers can modify and create more effective interior layouts.

An ergonomically designed workplace creates a positive impact on the employees and inspires them to be passionate & efficient in their work. Shared workspaces with collective ethos will scale-up, offering a platform for diverse communities to coexist. This will help in blurring the lines of workspace, living space, entertainment spaces in relation to buildings, central business districts and cities creating future workspaces that are integrated and resonating with new age workers. From defining the future of corporate culture to the changing dynamics of office spaces, 3T (Trendy+Tech-enabled+Transformative) offices will be a differentiator in evolving the traditional workspace for the new age millennials.