What will be the office design trend after Activity Based Working (ABW) has had its run? The home office writ large? Bouncy castles and tyre swings? Slippery slides and trapeze chairs?
What if the ‘trend’ is that the office itself finally disappears? Completely gone.
Are we already seeing the first signs of a new collaborative knowledge economy that will eventually see the demise of not only the office but also of most ’employer-employee’ relationships?
Ok, I just used my weekly quota of question marks, so consider this: the ABW approach is continuing to trend towards remote and flexible working – we can work from anywhere with internet connection; Collaborative Consumption is teaching us about online collaboration and sharing; Outsourcing, freelancing and work sharing is teaching us that work can be done remotely 24/7, by strangers. In short, we are re-building the information-age version of sharing.
Already we are seeing worker Hubs pop up, where a collection of un-connected workers share a collaborative space, mostly in the interests of pooling resources but also to network, share tasks and target larger jobs together.
Put all of this together and we get a ‘snowflake’ knowledge economy – a ‘dynamic pay-per-task network’ of individual workers, all with unique yet complimentary skill sets and experiences, combining their convergent, divergent and creative minds towards a specific task, paid for by a customer. Upon completion they disperse and take other forms to suit their next commissions. More volatile and less reliable, but also potential to provide ‘best-in-class’, flexible, agile and crowd-sourced solutions that can pack some serious punch.
Sound a bit far-fetched? Well, I have friends who’s children are already working this way. They’re plugged in (but wireless), connected (but ‘officeless’), employable (but not salaried) and employed (engaged). So what sort of work environments will we be designing for in the near future? Cities full of artificial beaches perhaps – or might we see a boom in food & beverage outlets that cater for the café worker?
This could be the most sustainable and energy efficient direction the office has ever taken.