It’s undeniable that the traditional office has been transformed by a modern approach to facilities management and the use of technology and tailored software is taken for granted – especially by the millennial generation. Powerful desktop and laptop computers, cell phones, wearables and messaging software such as email and Skype are now standard workplace tools allowing users to communicate across time zones, cultures and languages – all in an instant.

However, for those that remember the mid-1990’s or before will recognise the existence of traditional office space – still used by the vast majority of global organisations of all sizes. But will the next stage in technological development force this to go the way of the typewriter and the fax machine? Is it already happening or will there always be a place for the communal office space?

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Transforming the office environment

Realistically a version of the traditional office space will always be required – Apple for example clearly believe in the collaborative office space having made a substantial investment in 1 Infinite Loop and the technology to create and support workspaces at home have long been embraced. That said – how will the technology available today and the technology of tomorrow help define the modern workspace?

The rise of collaboration hubs, located outside of an organisation’s central office, continue to grow and offer wide-ranging benefits including a reduction in commuter time for employees. The hub approach also enables companies based in an expensive or secluded area (of the country) to hire workers without facing the restriction of staff living in proximity to the head office. This increased talent pool potential can be hugely beneficial to any organisation and allows employees to pick and choose where they work – empowering a workforce through choice and responsibility.

“Flexible working definitely has an impact, but you need to get the balance right. Otherwise, employees will feel an increasing sense of disconnection if they’re working away”

Philip Tidd – Head of Consulting at architecture, design and consulting firm Gensler

Taking a flexible approach to home working

The number of people working from home, for at least a portion of the week, will continue to rise in the UK as almost eight out of ten employees now work for a company that offers some flexible working, according to The Flex Factor report. It’s also what workers want – flexible hours came top of an employee wish list in a Crown Workplace Relocation survey.

It’s also no coincidence that flexible working practices are being embraced while the popularity of open-plan offices increases and by adopting a flexible working culture, businesses can also foster collaborative workplaces, according to The Future Workplace report by The Future Laboratory. The research found that to attract and retain high-calibre employees – companies need to promote a more collaborative environment, such as hot-desking, hosting ideas workshops and regularly rotating teams.

It doesn’t mean that the traditional workplace with one desk per person and enclosed offices are a redundant model, argues Professor Jeremy Myerson, professor of design at the Royal College of Art. He said: “The workplace design depends on the organisational culture. There are still lots of traditional firms with a high degree of process, and they need people working individually, so enclosed offices are a good idea there. However, most organisations have gone open-plan, but it doesn’t work for some employees as it can be distracting.”

But it’s essential to find the right balance. The number of people working flexibly and connecting to the organisation will continue to increase, says Philip Tidd, head of consulting at architecture, design and consulting firm Gensler, commenting: “Flexible working definitely has an impact, but you need to get the balance right. Otherwise, employees will feel an increasing sense of disconnection if they’re working away.”

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Millennials have re-imagined the workplace to be a more comfortable and inviting area. Before, businesses would use cubicles or your basic desk and chair alone in a room, but now, offices are designed to be open spaces that invite collaboration, and according to Forbes, the recent rise of this office model trend is due to millennials, predicting more than 26,000 new spaces by 2020.

There’s a distinct trend towards escaping tradition in the workplace, whether it’s in the form of office design, working hours/patterns or changing venues. Mobile working is most definitely here to stay, with meetings conducted more outside of the boardroom with collaboration enhanced by technology advancements.

Office working will always be here as there is now more choice, flexibility and cost-saving options readily available, which will continue to be mined by organisations and employees of all shapes and sizes – within the UK and across the world.

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