It was one of the great promises of the Internet. Technology would allow users to connect and access information from any place, so they wouldn’t need to go to a place with a special work infrastructure, like offices, and everyone would be able to work from wherever they wanted to, from home or from the top of a mountain. The years go by though and that just hasn’t happened, at least for the majority of workers.
Also, 42% of office workers have never done teleworking, compared to 7% who have done it regularly, according to a recent study. Furthermore, teleworking is a controversial subject even in large technological companies, as we can see by the changing trend at Yahoo regarding this point.
Faced with this situation, predicting how work will change in the future with respect to freedom of location to carry out our activity does not seem like an easy task, though admittedly it is very important due to its major impact on the quality of life of workers, on the power companies have to retain talent and also on the economy in general. Regarding this last point, think of the size of the real estate rental market, which will otherwise have a complicated economic future.
This is why the study asked a handful of adults (+18 years of age) if offices would disappear in the future, and the result could not have been more even, as you will see in Figure 1.
Figure 1.- Do you think that one day offices will be a thing of the past?
It is worth looking at the answers according to the profile of the users. It is noteworthy, for example, that the youngest, those between 18 and 24 years of age, who are used to being hooked on digital media all day long and who have probably never worked in an office, are the ones who most fiercely defend the existence of offices (only 32% think they will disappear). While 45% of those older 55 years of age, more than half way through their working lives and with a better idea of what work involves, who have personally experienced all types of work tendencies with mixed results, reckon that offices will disappear, 33% of them believe that it will happen before 10 years’ time.
We do not know if it is the enthusiasm of the young, with their great need to socialise and who see their role models on TV series working in offices, which leads them to opt for the office model. Or if, in the case of the older respondents, it is their disenchantment with the world of the office, with its schemes and its inefficiencies, which leads them to take the opposite opinion.
Moreover, major companies are starting to create idyllic work spaces in which users feel as good, or better, than they do at home, for example in the building The Edge in Amsterdam, which includes a perfect setting and is considered the greenest office in the world. Other experts prefer to think that in some years we will be working on university-style campuses, where leisure and work are combined.
Figure 2.- The Edge’s offices in Amsterdam
Either way, the debate is open, current technologies allow us to be connected at a distance by multiple channels, and in the future the quality will be even better, maybe even involving holographic techniques. Faced with this prospect, does it really make sense for us all to go and work in the same place? Won’t it be like those couples who go to a restaurant together but end up chatting on their Smartphones?