Monday 6 January 2020 5:06 am

Will the office become redundant in the 2020s?

Eugene Tavyev is founder and chief executive of Spacepool.

According to a survey by the Trade Union Congress, the number of people who regularly work from home in the UK has increased by 27 per cent over the past 10 years. 

As more and more companies acknowledge the benefits of flexible working, the technology enabling it continues to advance, offering remote workers improved connectivity. 

Last year, the UK saw the arrival of 5G home broadband, offering a faster internet connection. 5G coverage is expected to become comprehensive in 2020, as it is being rolled out beyond London to include Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, and other major UK cities.

This technological advancement is set to have a positive effect on remote working, enabling users to enjoy higher-quality video conferencing or download big files in seconds. 

However, does all this mean that the traditional office is set to become obsolete in the 2020s? 

It is safe to assume that the number of remote workers will continue to rise as companies strive to attract the best talent, increase productivity, and cut costs. But evidence suggests that office working hasn’t lost its appeal. 

Based on research by London School of Economics, working from home can make staff feel isolated and stunt their career progression due to the lack of regular face-to-face communication. 

Frequent catch-ups via Skype or video conferencing could be the answer to this question, but technology — however advanced and sophisticated — is not a sufficient substitute for real-life interactions and spontaneous conversations. The same study also found that younger workers are more eager to work from the office, as it helps them learn more quickly.

Clearly, being able to interact with fellow human beings, build contacts, and get involved in ad-hoc projects is much easier to achieve in an office environment. It may be tempting for some to work in their pyjamas all year round, but many people prefer to organise their lives into separate realms — that of work and private life. 

Removing the boundary between the two makes it more difficult for staff to recharge and leave the day-to-day frustrations of work behind. The perfect balance could be achieved in an office environment, but not as we know it.

Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed an increased focus on flexible working arrangements with hot desks, breakout areas, phone booths, and free-flowing coffee. Some office-space providers have gone as far as offering tenants a cinema, spa,  gym, carefully-selected scents, and abundant indoor greenery. This has been done to make work feel more like home and encourage a more social work environment.  

Providing employees with high-quality office space that’s adapted to their needs should be front of mind among successful business leaders who want to attract and retain top-notch staff. Workspaces are ultimately communities, and we should have all the tools to create an environment that fosters creativity and productivity. 

Improved connectivity is great news for those occasionally working from home, and will undoubtedly help make remote working simple. 

However, both companies and individuals continue to see the value in having a bricks-and-mortar office, crucial to the business’s identity and the employee’s sense of belonging.

Main image credit: Getty

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