of the office?

how technology is shaping the workplace of the future

Today, the cloud has become impossible to ignore. While we're always hearing about how technology is going to change everything, it now seems that innovative approaches to how we live, work and play are having a drastic impact on everyday life.

What does the workplace look like in a world where physical location has become unimportant, and where people are able to connect seamlessly from almost anywhere on the planet?

Past Prophecies

In a 1969 episode of Tomorrow's World, James Burke asked what the office of the future might look like. It featured:

Physically sending files around the office using motorised storage units.

Archiving of files using photographs.

Using portable cassette recorders to send audio messages to others.

It's easy to see how the thinking behind these concepts would eventually lead to digital file transfers, scanning and voicemail, and we know how vastly those innovations have shaped today's world of work. James Burke's view of the future was one in which technology had rendered human interaction largely redundant, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Below, we'll see how technology is driving an age of collaboration independent of the confines of the office, and how further innovations are shaping workspace design.

rise of the telecommuter

Since technology has made remote work a reality, telecommuting has consistently been on the increase.

Percentage of American workforce working from home:

The same trend can be seen in other countries:

Number of UK workers telecommuting at least some of the time

Based on a CBI survey, the percentage of employers offering telework to employees has increased drastically:


In a 2012 white paper, Citrix Systems examined the proportion of employers providing or expanding telework options around the world. They found:

Percentage of workers commuting to an office every day in 2012:


In the same period, the percentage of those working in a corporate office at least once a week fell:

While you might expect telecommuting to be most popular with tech-savvy youngsters, Kenexa research found that those aged 36-45 are most likely to work from home.

It's also a privilege mostly enjoyed by those who've been with their company for 3-5 years.

of company employees working from home earn £38,000 and up.

Those in the finance and business services industries are most likely to work outside of the office, each accounting for 12% of overall telecommuters.

What's driving these trends?

Not all companies are embracing the drive toward greater working flexibility:

In 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer put an end to the company's work-from-home policy, and has since argued that workers are 'more collaborative and innovative' when they're together.

Also in 2013, Google CFO Patrick Pichette, when asked 'how many people telecommute at Google?' responded 'As few as possible.'

Despite the opposition of these major players, the data appears to paint a more positive picture of remote working. According to Inc. Magazine:

of workers want to work from home at least part-time

Gender of telecommuters
53% males 47% females

Workers putting in more than 40 hours a week:

Home workers are:
11-20% more productive when working on creative tasks


6-10% less productive when working on repetitive tasks

of managers believe that workers are more productive when given the flexibility to choose when and how they work.

The work-from-home boom is also having some interesting effects on costs both for employers and workers. Inc. Magazine also reports that:

Yearly savings to telecommuting employees:

Yearly savings to employers:


of small business leaders report saving £590 or more each month thanks to telecommuting employees.

If all US employees with compatible jobs worked half of their hours from home, the national savings would be

... and the savings in terms of oil would equal 37% of US Persian Gulf imports

One US study found that remote workers reported greater satisfaction across a range of areas:
Remote and home-based workers  vs  Office workers
Not considering leaving their job in the next 12 months
Satisfied with their company as a place to work
Communication in their company was open, honest and two-way
Believed that their managers showed concern for their well-being and morale

Telecommuting actually increased during the financial recession, rather than declining as many had predicted.

Workers are willing to make some surprising sacrifices for the privilege of working from home:

Would forego free meals
Would take a reduction in holiday
Would take a smaller salary

A 2011 Cisco study places the number of workers who'd take a smaller salary much higher:

Proportion of users willing to take a lower salary in return for flexible working privileges:
A Citrix survey of those who've never worked remotely found that 32% would give up alcohol in order to work remotely at least one day.

What does the future hold?

The cloud is having huge implications for our workspaces. Where do the experts see this trend heading?

Regus, a firm providing shared workspaces, envision commuters of the future working in their self-driving cars, with front seats swivelling to create a four-person meeting space.

According to Herman Miller, 70% of office architects and designers believe that new types of group work are the most important considerations in modern workspace design.

Microsoft believe that workspaces are changing from places where employees access necessary data and equipment to places centred around collaboration and interaction with colleagues.

Real estate brokerage CBRE undertook an experiment with their LA office to pioneer a new approach to office design.
  1. They opted for an 'untethered' design, in which workers are not assigned specific desks or offices. Instead, they're free to roam the office and set up near colleagues working on similar tasks.
  2. Fresh air is pumped into the air conditioning systems, healthy snacks are provided, and 'hydration stations' dotted around the space.
CBRE say that building this type of office is 15% more expensive per square foot. However, the company is expected to save 30% on rent and other office capital expenditures.

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, ideals of transparency are driving a trend toward open-plan spaces with a minimum of physical barriers.

Client-focused areas are being moved to the heart of the office, allowing visitors to see work taking place as soon as they arrive.

An OfficeTeam survey of executives found that:
Believe that future workers will be required to work more hours than they do now Believe future workers will be required to work fewer hours
of executives surveyed thought that workers of the future would be expected remain in close contact while on vacation.
Huddle, a collaboration platform firm, think that 'work networks' will become a thing of the past as firms shift to cloud-based systems.

According to Kinvey, by 2017, half of employers will require that employees use their own devices for work purposes.