Information technology is altering every facet of daily life – and there are few places where it’s happening faster than in the humble office.
Advances in computing power, storage capacity and network connectivity have already changed the game for many office workers. With the pace of these advances steadily increasing, the office of the future will be a very different place.
Today, as well as being a place to conduct business, many offices also serve as a 'home' for staff for a large portion of their week. The office is the place where people undertake work tasks, meet with colleagues and clients, and also socialise.
In the coming years, rather than being tied to a single office location, more workers will engage in so-called 'Anywhere Work'. By harnessing video conferencing and collabouration tools, they will spend time in a variety of places, as and when their roles require it. While such tools have been available for some years now, in a few years' time, corporate cultures will have changed to allow their usage to be much more prevalent.
Such a change will have big implications for companies. Rather than needing sufficient space in a central business district (CBD) location to house all their staff, many will shift to using different types and designs of office space. Instead of having individual offices and desks for each staff member, 'Social Offices' will become the norm. Here, office workers will have communal office spaces and workspaces can be reserved, by the hour or the day, by teams working on various projects. At other times they will work from remote locations, or from their homes.
These changed work patterns will also have implications for cities. Where some CBD areas are currently struggling to meet rising power demands, as workforce patterns change, this pressure may be reduced. Fewer people travelling into the city each day for work will also reduce pressure on roads and public transportation links.
From a technology infrastructure perspective, the office of the future will be very different as well. Just as staff will become more dispersed, so too will the IT resources that support them. As a result, there will be far greater penetration of private, hybrid and public cloud-based services and applications.
Rather than IT infrastructure being housed in CBD offices, they will have increasingly shifted to purpose-built data centres. These data centres, already underpinning many companies, will offer improvements in energy-efficiency and reliability. They will also be able to flexibly deal with future changes in organisational demand.
These data centres will benefit the office workers of the future through reduced downtime and improved risk mitigation. The security measures put in place by data centre operators take into consideration key factors such as geographical location and critical mechanical and engineering systems.
In the working world of the future, data centres connected by high-speed networks will be the critical IT infrastructure that supports everything - from collabourating with colleagues to storing and analysing the vast troves of 'big data' that will be used to spot trends and drive new initiatives and revenue streams for business.