The world of work is constantly changing, but every once in a while comes a watershed moment that changes things forever: the industrial revolution. The railroad. The car. The desktop computer. The Internet. And as a next step: hybrid work?
The transformation of the office began with the digital revolution and the introduction of personal computers in the 1970s. But it is only in recent years that the shift towards hybrid working has accelerated thanks to technological advances and the pandemic. Hybrid working is here to stay: whether it’s a home office, a traditional office or coworking spaces.
At a time when virtual and digital work platforms are becoming increasingly important, we have to ask ourselves what exactly the future of work will look like and what role technology solutions and physical offices will play in the future. How will we successfully bridge the gap between the virtual and real workplace and the metaverse in the future?
The office as a digital place
Today’s office is no longer a fixed physical place – rather it has transformed into a digital construct. Data is no longer stored on-premises, but resides on clouds around the world. Employees can choose between different workplaces and forms: hybrid working allows employees to work both from home and from flexible workplaces, i.e. completely independent of location. The office as a place of communication is therefore becoming increasingly important: in addition to office equipment and layout, the reason why people come to the office plays a major role. The office is transformed into a place of collaboration, social exchange and creative creation. For example, meetings can take place in open spaces – with digital whiteboards, open seating and height-adjustable tables. This promotes creative exchanges in groups or during brainstorming sessions. The trend is towards collaborative spaces in which VR glasses will open the door to the metaverse tomorrow.
But the pandemic has also accelerated change: the attitude of many employees towards their working conditions has changed massively. Hybrid work has gone from a “nice to have” to a “must have”. In a recent study, more than 70% of candidates say they now insist on flexible work policies. To keep companies attractive to new talent, there’s no getting around hybrid work models. A Bavaria-based company may hire an employee living in Berlin for a task that previously would have required them to move to Munich. In a hybrid world, he can easily check in via Zoom from a coworking space or from home and visit the Munich headquarters two or three times a year. It’s not just a benefit for the employee, who no longer has to choose between a dream job and a home they love. This opens up a much wider pool of talent for companies that they can attract for themselves and their work.
Virtual desktops – next step: Metaverse?
Technology continues to be a driver of this change: specialized technologies are emerging to help organizations meet the challenges of a distributed workforce. The basic provision of a reliable digital infrastructure for all employees has become the norm over the past two years, both at home and in the office. In addition to the necessary hardware, modern businesses now provide their employees with access to digital collaboration and communication tools.
Innovative start-ups are currently testing the possibilities of linking a virtual workforce with an on-site workforce. For example, office spaces could be transformed into shared augmented workplaces in the near future. Using VR devices, employees appear in the virtual space and can thus interact with each other. Employees are already working together in spatial project rooms, pinning dynamic content to virtual walls and creating a common playground for collaboration. Other solutions offer the option of virtual check-ins and status updates to help teams do their jobs more efficiently. It is not far from the virtual image of a hologram.
The currently highly controversial “metaverse” is the next step that will change the nature of the classic office model: a glimpse into the future shows that working in front of screens will no longer be the norm, but rather interacting in an alternate universe using the virtual. reality headsets and augmented reality glasses. This means that video conferencing will be a totally different experience as our avatars will meet as holograms in whatever virtual environment we see fit – remote working will become more important. Due to the widespread expansion of 5G as a driver of development, this scenario is no longer as far into the future as one might think.
The office of the future – a place for social exchange
In summary, we can say that we are only at the beginning of a radical change. Fifty years ago, typewriters and fax machines were the norm in offices – in fifty years, perhaps the metaverse will be the norm for collaboration. What has not changed over the years: the role of the office as a place of social exchange. Studies have shown that many remote workers lack spontaneous interactions with their colleagues. This applies not only to private matters, but also to work on joint projects. In an increasingly digital world of collaboration, the office is becoming more and more the central point of exchanges between people. Tomorrow, the office will be a place of creative exchange, a sense of belonging to a company and a platform for entering the world of work via digital technologies. Companies that rely on flexible working solutions today are therefore well on their way to being able to react quickly to changes in the world of work in the future.