More standing. Fewer meetings: 5 smart office trends for 2019 and beyond
A strange thing is happening to offices run by Silicon Valley companies. The big tech players are re-thinking their work environments. How? By concealing the very tech that made them so successful.
Look at Dropbox’s recently-opened Austin HQ. It’s all leather sofas, swirly carpets and bookshelves.
It looks like your Granny’s house.
But this is deceptive. The design may scream ‘analogue’ – and it’s certainly configured to make workers feel happy and productive – but there’s serious tech underneath the faux leather.
It takes the very best of unified communications (UC) to make workplaces feel this relaxed. Believe us, we know. As a specialist in cloud UC, we can see how technology can improve the way employees work together. But we also see how the office layout can improve it too.
We believe this kind of smart working will move into the mainstream soon.
We have conversations with our customers about it all the time. In the past, chief information officers made all the decisions about office tech. Increasingly, architects and interior designers are having a say too.
Things are changing. Faster than you might think. With that, here are our five smart working trends for 2019/20:
1) More ‘resimercial’ design
First came Brangelina, Kimye and Brexit. Now here’s another portmanteau word you’ll need to get used to. ‘Resimercial’, a mash-up of ‘residential’ and ‘commercial’ neatly describes the phenomenon we outlined in the intro. In short: making the office feel more like the home.
Perhaps it’s inevitable. In the smartphone era, employees have taken more work home with them. We shouldn’t be surprised if employers want to make the office feel like a living room.
So expect more paintings, bookshelves and squishy furniture. Expect deeper thinking on lighting, noise level and temperature. And remember that these environments work best when underpinned by tech that connect people seamlessly wherever they are.
2) Meetings will get smaller, smarter and less frequent
Here’s another trend pioneered by the digital giants. These companies spend countless hours optimising user experiences. Increasingly, they apply the same rigour to workplace culture. And they’ve concluded the following: most meetings suck.
A lot of the time, get-togethers are simply unnecessary. It’s easier to share ideas by video or using workplace collaboration tools. But when there’s no alternative to meetings, you can at least do them better.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has some ideas. He stipulates: no meeting should contain more people than can eat two pizzas, no powerpoint, and everyone has to read a short memo (in plain English) in advance of the meeting that sums up what the session is about so they come prepared to add some value to the conversation.
By all accounts, this system is extremely effective. We think it’s the start of something.
3) You’ll stand up more
Yes, this sounds a little weird. However, with a growing focus on health in the workplace, experts agree that sitting down all day is bad for your well-being. What’s more, there’s also evidence that sitting makes you lazy.
Standing, by contrast, will make you a little restless and therefore more efficient. Now, a cohort of furniture companies has responded to this. Firms such as UpDesk, GeekDesk, Humanscale, and VariDesk have designed desks that can change height. They can even send you alerts to tell you if you’ve been sitting or standing too long.
They’re on to something. We’ll see more of this in 2019/20.
4) There will be less talking, unless it’s with computers
It’s official: Millennials are taking over the workforce. Research by Pew reveals that this generation (aged 21 to 36 in 2017) now contributes more than one-in-three American workers. Evidence suggests Millennials are changing workplace culture too. How? By reducing the noise level.
The Millennial generation prefers messaging to speaking. Now, they’re bringing this philosophy to the office. They are embracing workplace messaging tools, collaboration software and chatbots.
It’s difficult to see the person-to-person messaging trend reversing. But person-to-computer? Well, that’s different. The market for voice activated devices is flying. Juniper Research says the sector will grow from an estimated $2.5 billion in 2017 to over $10 billion by 2022.
Voice is the ultimate universal ‘API’ for communicating with smart devices. In future, manufacturers will embed voice into previously dumb products: heaters, windows, doors and so on. That process should accelerate in 2019, not least because the smart speaker companies are targeting business. Yes, watch out for Alexa for Business.
5) An analogue ‘counter revolution’
Do you know there is a substantial ring binder ‘community’ on YouTube. There are dozens of videos showing how to organise and take notes. They get hundreds of thousands of views.
What’s going on here? Well, partly it’s a nostalgia for real ‘analogue’ things. The same desire that’s driving people back to vinyl and books. But there’s also evidence that, in some cases, these analogue tools are simply better than their digital equivalents. For example, researchers have found that students who take notes in longhand retain information better than those who use a laptop.
Could the same re-assessment of analogue tools hit the workplace? Of course it could. UC tech is great. And it will continue to improve. But there will always be a place for paper, pencils and flip boards. Be prepared for a re-balance