Baby-boomers and millennials can you remember your first office job? Your work desk, computer and telephone? Now look around you. Our workplaces are constantly evolving to keep up with the fast-moving times and AR seems to be taking the helm.

The workplace five years from now is likely to be a relatively familiar space, reflecting some of today’s major concerns. Chief among them is connectivity. Metal Box Factory in Southwark was one of the first buildings in London to be rated Wired Certified Platinum, an international standard for cutting-edge digital infrastructure. Here, Workspace customers are some of the best connected in the city with superfast broadband speeds.

Best-selling author and futurist Jacob Morgan predicts that the next five years will be the dawn of a much more impactful shift towards the technology-orientated workplace of the future.

Augmented reality will advance beyond the realms of the popular Snapchat filter. Virtual reality may not replace the video conference and standard client product presentation just yet, but it has the potential to do so in the longer term as functionality improves.

Business Development Manager at creative and digital agency Forefront International at Grand Union Studios, Stefano Manganini, also sees this vision as a not too distant future. He predicts the next five years will signal the start of a movement towards the use of virtual reality in the office.

“The office space itself is going to become less and less relevant. What will become increasingly relevant, however, is the connection the workspace is able to give you to the rest of the world.

“Augmented reality will allow you to work within a flexible environment where it won’t even feel like you’re at work. You could be transported to the other side of the world, if you wish,” he says.

“You could still be in your office, but once you put on the glasses – or whatever they will be – you’ll feel like you’re on a beach, or a mountain, or wherever you feel comfortable. This is the first stage, but it’s hard to predict what exciting technological developments the future will hold.”

John Robson, Head of Asset Management at Workspace, believes information on customer movements can better inform the design of business centres.

“Our digital infrastructure allows customers to gain access to Wi-Fi wherever they are in the building through their mobile devices. In turn, this generates masses of information detailing the flow of people through the space – ultimately allowing us to better understand our customers. For example, if we see people congregating in a certain area, we might put in more meeting tables and seating or insert a breakout space. This sort of data will become increasingly valuable to office providers.”

“The office space itself is going to become less and less relevant. What will become increasingly relevant, however, is the connection the workspace is able to give you to the rest of the world”

Sensor technology will give office managers more hard data on how staff use the spaces provided to them. If people like to meet and chat on the stairs, that might mean the office needs to add more relaxed meeting spaces. Empty desks could be reworked into collaborative spaces, with permanent desks replaced by hot-desking.

Although the use of advanced technology opens up myriad business opportunities, we should “never underestimate the importance of personal contact with people,” advices Morgan. As AR begins to transform our workplace, the fact still remains: people require face-to-face interaction to thrive. To enhance productivity, the use of futuristic technology is all about balance.  

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