Technology is evolving at an exponential pace and forcing businesses to adapt on a daily basis. At this pace, it’s fascinating to imagine how technology will impact office design on a longer timeline. While it’s hard to predict the state of technology even six months down the road, here are 6 ways that technology might shape the office of the future.
3D Printed Offices
While this one may seem far-fetched, a fully-functional 3D-printed office has already been built in Dubai – and it was substantially less labour intensive than typical construction methods.
Using a special cement mixture, the 2,700 square foot building was created by a 20-foot by 120-foot by 40-foot printer. The building, which will be the temporary headquarters of Dubai Future Foundation, cost around $140,000 to create. It was built in 17 days and installed in two. It required a team of only 18 from inception to completion: one to monitor the printer functionality, seven to install the building components, and ten electricians and specialists to handle mechanical and electrical engineering.
It is estimated that this technique could cut labour costs by 50 to 80 percent and building costs by nearly the same margin. While still a prototype, this could be a glimpse at the office of the future as these technologies continue to develop. In fact, Dubai has pledged to have 25% of its buildings 3D printed by 2030.
Offices Designed by Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence isn’t just a concept from a sci-fi movie. In fact, it’s already playing a role in the design of office spaces in today’s business world – right here in Canada.
A local company polled 250 employees on their preferences pertaining to everything from lighting [would link back to a part Streamline article that includes this], open space versus cubicles, who they would like to sit near, tech amenities and more. They then plugged the information into an AI program that churned up 10,000 office designs based on those specific preferences – with details as small as strategically placed plants to improve privacy.
While still in its early stages, artificial intelligence is a growing field with ever-evolving potential and applications – including leveraging a company’s understanding of its employees to develop office spaces that cater directly to the employee experience.
The fundamental necessity for creating better AI is to continually make it “smarter” through the addition of new information. As AI continues to develop, so too will the ways in which it acquires the information it needs to function more efficiently.
In the future, offices will likely be equipped with sensor technology that can detect employee morale and preferences, analyze productivity to determine how and when employees work best, and even detect restlessness, boredom, stress, poor posture or too much screen time. In real time, changes in temperature, lighting, air quality or office smell will be applied instantaneously to alter conditions and make employees more comfortable.
In the bigger picture, this information will allow employers to tweak office design, and even functionality and processes to transform workspaces into places that employees want to be and operate in ways that maximize comfort, morale, and wellbeing.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
The concepts of virtual reality and augmented reality have gained serious momentum in recent years and that doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, as the applications for these technologies expand, VR and AR will likely find a growing place in offices.
From enhanced employee training through hands-on experience that doesn’t risk interrupting the physical flow of business to enhanced efficiency in conferencing and bringing together remote teams, the opportunity for companies to leverage this technology is becoming more feasible – and more logical.
Perhaps most fascinating of all is the opportunity to use VR and AR to minimize workplace distractions by creating a visual workspace that would not only eliminate the need for multiple computer screens but also block out distractions and enhance employee productivity. In fact, this could allow employees to access their data in 3D – literally walking colleagues through renderings, graphic design mockups or even financial figures.
Return to Private Offices
From a lower-tech perspective, office design could see a return to private office space rather than open-concept layouts. The idea of easy collaboration created by an open concept layout can be an effective tool, but distractions can also be abundant in this kind of environment. This is why employees are beginning to push back on the elimination of privacy and the plethora of distractions of today’s typical office layout. To ensure a productive workforce, future office design may shift back towards greater privacy.
State of Flow
The term “flow” was introduced in the 90s and can best be described as “being in the zone.” From a business perspective, this means being completely present in the task at hand to create better productivity and better outcomes of work.
With the increasing amount of hours typically spent at work coupled with growing amounts of technology and an expectation of higher employee output, the act of entering this “state of flow” may begin to be incorporated into office design in unusual ways – such as sensory deprivation tanks that remove neuro-stimulation and allow employees to regroup and find their focus.
While we likely won’t see any decrease in technology, we may see an increase in controlled technologies such as these that allow employees to briefly escape stimulus to increase productivity and morale overall.
As technology continues to evolve, so too will its applications in the business world. From the design and development of physical spaces to implementations of technology that enhances employee wellbeing, technology will doubtlessly play a huge role in the office of the future and the way designers approach such projects.