Here’s what offices of the future will look like


There is little doubt that the face of business in Australia is changing. The so-called “knowledge economy” is gradually coming to the fore, simultaneously creating new opportunities and bringing an end to out-dated practices.

State and Federal government programs are playing a role in this transformation – take for example the Turnbull Government’s National Science and Innovation Agenda, containing strong rhetoric in support of technology-focussed start-ups and making public data free to encourage private innovation.

In this world of technology­-fuelled start-ups, the office itself may not disappear, but its form and its practices are facing their greatest pressure to evolve since the emergence of the modern workplace.

The question is this: how do workers and workplaces fit into this view of the future, when more and more work can be done by intelligent machines instead of people, or only performed by highly qualified people in partnership with such technologies?

Five million fewer jobs

In June 2014, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) predicted that technological advances could replace 5 million Australian jobs in the coming two decades.
Even those surviving businesses still employing people will inevitably become internet ­propelled ‘learning organisations’, finding new things to do in less costly ways, with ever fewer heads.

Massive advances in ‘machine learning’ – machines learning from machines, crunching unprecedentedly massive data sets – compound the problem in a world in which, say, driverless cars are already a reality.

So, the consequences for employers and workers aside, what happens as demand for office space shrinks and technology ­enabled networks, marketplaces and robots become better at engaging human talent than traditional companies?
And what happens when those mobile technologies that are already contributing to the change mean those among us who still have jobs may no longer need to be at the office at all?

Commercial workspace evolving and shrinking

Activity ­based working, or ABW, – spaces that allow untethered workers to coalesce in free ­flowing groups, equipped by mobile, wireless devices – is one response.

Sometimes characterised as ‘hot ­desking’, ABW can also allow employers to shoehorn more bodies into smaller spaces, with obvious knock­-on financial effects for property interests.
Associate director of global corporate services at giant property agency CBRE, Tony Armstrong, says the potential shrinkage of employment resulting from technological change is the great challenge to commercial property of our time.

Counterpart Simon Hunt, managing director, office leasing, at Colliers International in Sydney, concurs, saying that space ­shrinkage in big tenant leases is already reality.

“The bigger tenants are becoming smaller,” Hunt explains. “A lot of the big legal and accounting firms are already taking 10­ to 15 per cent less space.”

Putting idle capacity to work

The alternative response has already emerged, Hunt says, in new players, such as WeWork, Liquid Space, third spaces, flexible spaces and membership spaces.

Liquid Space helps commercial property owners and occupiers put their available meeting and workspace out tofor use work by others.

Meanwhile, ingenious US operator WeWork takes a cut-rate lease on floors of an office building, divides it into smaller parcels and charges monthly memberships to start-ups and small companies that want to work in close proximity to each other.

Such innovations put to work the ‘idling capacity’ to be found in many industrial­ age businesses, and add a new level of pressure to which property’s legacy incumbents may find it hard to respond.

According to Scott Hawken, smart cities research cluster convenor from UNSW, University of New South Wales Smart Cities Research Cluster Convenor Scott Hawken, this sharing of office space is going to become increasingly common as the enabling technology improves.

“It’s about using that space more efficiently, and making it more comfortable, and creating more opportunities for people to interact and enjoy their cities,” Hawken says.

“At the moment, there’s a lot of wasted space in the city. There are already apps emerging that make the use of space more flexible – just think Airbnb,. bBut now being applied in new ways, to manage commercial space.” He thinks that this could extend, but also to maybe allow to encompass gatherings in public spaces, as well.”.

But wait, there’s more!

Future of workplace strategy

Yet even then, the internet is not yet done with the property industry, and through this, “workplace strategy” is emerging as both a new management discipline and science.

It embraces the ways in which building design, modern technology and new ways of working come together to deliver the future of work.

And it is going to be big. Watch this space.

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Here’s what offices of the future will look like


There is little doubt that the face of business in Australia is changing. The so-called “knowledge economy” is gradually coming to the fore, simultaneously creating new opportunities and bringing an end to out-dated practices.

State and Federal government programs are playing a role in this transformation – take for example the Turnbull Government’s National Science and Innovation Agenda, containing strong rhetoric in support of technology-focussed start-ups and making public data free to encourage private innovation.

In this world of technology­-fuelled start-ups, the office itself may not disappear, but its form and its practices are facing their greatest pressure to evolve since the emergence of the modern workplace.

The question is this: how do workers and workplaces fit into this view of the future, when more and more work can be done by intelligent machines instead of people, or only performed by highly qualified people in partnership with such technologies?

Five million fewer jobs

In June 2014, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) predicted that technological advances could replace 5 million Australian jobs in the coming two decades.
Even those surviving businesses still employing people will inevitably become internet ­propelled ‘learning organisations’, finding new things to do in less costly ways, with ever fewer heads.

Massive advances in ‘machine learning’ – machines learning from machines, crunching unprecedentedly massive data sets – compound the problem in a world in which, say, driverless cars are already a reality.

So, the consequences for employers and workers aside, what happens as demand for office space shrinks and technology ­enabled networks, marketplaces and robots become better at engaging human talent than traditional companies?
And what happens when those mobile technologies that are already contributing to the change mean those among us who still have jobs may no longer need to be at the office at all?

Commercial workspace evolving and shrinking

Activity ­based working, or ABW, – spaces that allow untethered workers to coalesce in free ­flowing groups, equipped by mobile, wireless devices – is one response.

Sometimes characterised as ‘hot ­desking’, ABW can also allow employers to shoehorn more bodies into smaller spaces, with obvious knock­-on financial effects for property interests.
Associate director of global corporate services at giant property agency CBRE, Tony Armstrong, says the potential shrinkage of employment resulting from technological change is the great challenge to commercial property of our time.

Counterpart Simon Hunt, managing director, office leasing, at Colliers International in Sydney, concurs, saying that space ­shrinkage in big tenant leases is already reality.

“The bigger tenants are becoming smaller,” Hunt explains. “A lot of the big legal and accounting firms are already taking 10­ to 15 per cent less space.”

Putting idle capacity to work

The alternative response has already emerged, Hunt says, in new players, such as WeWork, Liquid Space, third spaces, flexible spaces and membership spaces.

Liquid Space helps commercial property owners and occupiers put their available meeting and workspace out tofor use work by others.

Meanwhile, ingenious US operator WeWork takes a cut-rate lease on floors of an office building, divides it into smaller parcels and charges monthly memberships to start-ups and small companies that want to work in close proximity to each other.

Such innovations put to work the ‘idling capacity’ to be found in many industrial­ age businesses, and add a new level of pressure to which property’s legacy incumbents may find it hard to respond.

According to Scott Hawken, smart cities research cluster convenor from UNSW, University of New South Wales Smart Cities Research Cluster Convenor Scott Hawken, this sharing of office space is going to become increasingly common as the enabling technology improves.

“It’s about using that space more efficiently, and making it more comfortable, and creating more opportunities for people to interact and enjoy their cities,” Hawken says.

“At the moment, there’s a lot of wasted space in the city. There are already apps emerging that make the use of space more flexible – just think Airbnb,. bBut now being applied in new ways, to manage commercial space.” He thinks that this could extend, but also to maybe allow to encompass gatherings in public spaces, as well.”.

But wait, there’s more!

Future of workplace strategy

Yet even then, the internet is not yet done with the property industry, and through this, “workplace strategy” is emerging as both a new management discipline and science.

It embraces the ways in which building design, modern technology and new ways of working come together to deliver the future of work.

And it is going to be big. Watch this space.

guest
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Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
More on HRM