Is There Any Life Left in the Office?

Is there any life left in the office?

No, I’m not talking about a scene from a zombie film, with mobs of mutant creatures shuffling past banks of empty desks on the hunt for smartly-dressed executives. Scrub that image from your mind: I’m talking instead about the future of the office—does a physical office make sense anymore, in a world where remote work keeps getting better?

There’s been much discussion of late around how “work is something we do, not somewhere we go.” Many companies, including some of the world’s hippest brands, have begun to follow this precept.

I do agree with them, up to a certain point: You should be able to work from anywhere — home, office, coffee shop, garden, pub. OK, maybe the pub is just wishful thinking, but I believe that pretty much wherever you choose to work from, you can be as engaged as you would be in the office.

That said, I do think physical offices will continue to exist. In fact, I would argue that not only is there life left in the office, but that the office itself will undergo a reincarnation.

Work in the Year 2000

If you’re curious about the workplace of the future, simply compare the way we work today with the way we worked just 15 years ago.

In the year 2000, work was very much tied to the physical office. Your work computer was likely a PC tower; you made work-related calls over a desk phone and could only access your work email at the office. For the average person, once they left work for the day, that was it. There was no easy mechanism to continue working at home.

Today, work and non-work are more fluid. Most of us carry smartphones 24/7, and can easy check and respond to work email at the tap of a button. Work-related voice calls and IMs are automatically routed to our smartphones. Laptop computers allow us to take our entire work environment home or on the road. Ubiquitous broadband connections mean we can connect to video conferences pretty much anywhere.

And yet, though controversial, I firmly believe physical offices will never disappear completely. Instead, in a world where work is no longer tied to a physical location, co-working with your colleagues will become a choice with its own distinct merits, rather than a requirement.

Smart Offices are the Foundation for the Future

Imagine that office of the near future — the impact of intelligent, communications-enabled systems on the office will be profound.

Imagine a workspace that’s aware of you as an individual, whether you’re an employee, partner, customer or supplier. Imagine an office that recognizes who is entering the building, what physical access they require, what devices they have with them, and what information they might need.

This office will alert you when someone who might be useful to a project you’re working on enters the building; and could even automatically set up a meeting with that person. Just think about what this could do for employee engagement!

The truth is, the Internet of Things and our move toward Smart Buildings and Smart Cities is already here.

Take, for example, our intelligent lighting solution. Avaya is collaborating with other companies on a solution that leverages Ethernet cabling, Power over Ethernet and LED to make lighting one of the many “things” on an Internet of Things-enabled network. Sensors in this solution detect occupancy and vacancy and determine areas that need more or less lighting for the optimum user experience.

Advancements like these, and others, will make the office a more efficient and attractive option for employers and employees of the future, and thereby a place they’re more likely to invest in and choose to work from.

Given that sophisticated communications-enabled technologies empower businesses to reap the benefits of more productive, collaborative environments, I would wager that we won’t be seeing empty offices (or zombie-ridden ones) anytime in the near, or distant, future.

Want more? Click here: “Nemertes and Avaya Webinar: Work from Anywhere – Really!

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