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The office of the future

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For some, offices epitomise the words boring, homogenous and restricted. The physical offices we work in are often places where other people’s decisions override our own, and your personal choice is restricted to the height of your chair. But this is not the way it needs to be, and increasingly, we’re seeing more and more employers that want their staff to get the most from where they work. This ultimately means having a work space that reflects individual preferences.

The Google offices are some of the most famous examples of this. Rooms are filled with comfy seating, decked out to resemble old British pubs, shabby chic cafes or outdoor retreats. These are buildings designed to give staff more options about how and where they work – a choice for the workers, to get the most from themselves and their working day.

At a recent British Council for Offices conference, delegates looked at the next generation of “intelligent” buildings. This included buildings with food growing on the walls, and digital rooms that interact with occupants, changing according to their preferences. They may include self-cleaning concrete, or algae growing from the walls that absorbs CO2, and can then be used as biomass to power the building.

One thing that will be a fundamental aspect of these “offices of the future” will be the telecoms and IT integrated within them. Offices now are synonymous with computers – we cannot function without them, and IT and telecoms is one area in which we are already seeing personal preference and flexibility in the workplace. The introduction of Cloud-based networks, storage and telephony systems mean that restrictions about hardware are reduced. And increasingly, Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is becoming something that staffs are demanding. A network that merges seamlessly across mobiles, tablets and laptops, across company equipment and staff’s own, will be essential for offices that want personal choice to be integral to their office space.

Work is increasingly becoming “what you do” rather than “where you go”. Whether that means working from home, on the move, or in an “office of the future”, flexibility of computer networks will be essential to making it a practical reality for businesses.

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