From large multinational corporations to small businesses and one-person startups the traditional concept of the office and the workplace is evolving.
Whether it’s a sales person equipped with the mobile devices and connectivity to work while on the road or a startup keeping costs down by using one of the many new creative co-working spaces and hubs that are appearing in our cities there are now more flexible options than ever for the worker on the go.
Of course we’ve had things like shared office spaces and rented desk facilities for many years, so what’s changed now? Here are three trends driving this:
1. The freelance army
There are a growing number of self-employed or freelance workers, startups and entrepreneurs who are not beholden to the traditional concept of the corporate workplace. In the UK there are around 4.5 million people who are self-employed – a figure that has risen sharply (by 10 per cent) since the start of the downturn in 2008 – and there are 1.6 million freelancers according to contractor’s group the PCG. They want the freedom and flexibility to work from wherever they want.
2. Connectivity and the cloud
Reliable, fast wireless connectivity and smaller, lighter, smarter phones and computing devices have freed many of us from the shackles of being completely reliant on a PC at our desk. Combined with big technology trends such as cloud computing and virtualisation it means we can access our documents, emails and business information on the go and make more productive use of our time.
3. The office is dead, long live the office
We’re not actually talking about the death of the office here. For many years to come there will still be the need for certain staff to be physically at one corporate office location. While self-employment is on the rise bear in mind that the majority – 31.8 million – of the 39 million working age population in the UK is still in traditional full-time employment. So we’re not all about to become based from our spare bedroom office or the local Starbucks. But for this new generation of mobile workers and freelancers who don’t need the traditional office there is still the basic need for social contact, for networking and ‘water cooler’ conversations. This has led to the rise of new types of collaborative, connected and creative shared workspaces and hubs where self-employed freelancers and small businesses can network and share ideas.
Technological innovation will continue to drive this trend, as will the cultural and demographic influence of the digitally native Millennials and Gen Y as they enter the workforce and eventually rise through the ranks to become the leaders of tomorrow. These changes will also be driven to some extent by necessity such as the pressures on our urban infrastructure and public transport networks.
One thing is certain. The workplace of the future will be more diverse, connected, collaborative, productive and flexible.