The Future of Work

By Hannah Wakeman

6 November 2013

Guest Post by Barry Harvey

The past & present of work

Before the industrial revolution, people worked individually or in small groups. In communities, each would specialise and trade with those who had different skills. In the industrial age, mass production became the norm, with many people involved in producing the same product. In this environment, the factory or office was sacrosanct.

With social and technological changes over the last two decades or so, working practices, to some extent, now seem to be reverting back to a more specialised and local working method, except that local can now mean working with someone on the other side of the planet.

Sociological change

In sociological terms, individual values and expectations have also changed, with an increasing demand for better balance between work, family and social needs and a reluctance to be tied to the office doing repetitive work at set times.

A global online survey conducted by Chess Media Group this year illustrated these points:

  • 80% of people expect flexible working to improve their work and family life balance
  • 77% of people expect flexible working to improve their work satisfaction
  • 68% of people expect flexible working to give them greater personal happiness
  • 85% expected improved productivity and efficiency


Technological Development

The internet and mobile technology have brought about a great many developments like cloud computing, social media, video, email, mobile devices, apps and greater connectivity through mobile networks, wireless, blue-tooth, which contribute to a changed landscape for work and play.

Whole industries are growing up around these changes, providing touch-down work space, virtual desktop and telecoms services, software and applications that mean each worker can carry their office around with them, wherever they go.

Many companies have already seen the benefits of flexible working, which include happier and more productive employees and real estate cost savings. This is flexibility not just in terms of when you work but where you work, with measurement based on output rather than time at desk.

BT’s 2007 Workstlye case study (Flexible Working, 2007) clearly illustrate many of these points:

  • 70% of staff are flexible workers
  • Home workers handle 20% more calls and take 63% less sick leave than office-based staff
  • 99% retention rate following maternity leave
  • Over €725m a year saved through reduced office estate
  • €104m a year saved in reduced accommodation costs from home working


What of the office?

The office of the future is the ultimate in flexibility. Use of virtual desktop services, VOIP phones, mobile phones and other mobile devices, cloud computing, will all play a part in creating your office wherever and whenever you need it to be.

There may never be a full recovery of office space as it was known before the recession, due to the cost, commitment and inflexibility of traditional office leasing. The many empty office buildings in Bristol alone are testament to this. However, offices will still work and still be needed: as an administrative, strategic and logistical hub: to facilitate meetings and collaborative work between colleagues and clients and as a place of work for those who cannot or don’t want to work from home.

Thanks to guest blogger and friend Barry Harvey of the Colston Office Centre


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