The current crop of web workers might be the pioneers on the virtual work trail, but it seems that the general working population believes that it’s not too far behind. A new study commissioned by Virgin Business Media reveals that 58 percent of U.K. workers think the offices of today will not exist in ten years’ time.
The study was commissioned to celebrate the tenth anniversary of smash-hit British sitcom The Office (upon which the U.S. show is based). It surveyed 1,000 U.K. workers about how their working lives have changed over the last ten years, and how they expect them to change over the next ten years, primarily looking at the impacts of technology. As well as sounding the death knell for traditional offices, the survey also revealed that 56 percent of respondents believed that they would spend less time commuting in 2021, presumably because they believe they will spend more time working remotely. Technology has had a significant impact on the lives of the workers surveyed, with the overwhelming majority — 83 percent — feeling that technology had enabled them to become more productive in the last ten years. It seems that the consumerization of the workplace is well underway, too, with 56 percent of workers feeling that consumer and business technology will have merged by 2021, and 62 percent believing that they would use just one device to handle both their personal and work life in ten years’ time.
Virgin Business Media’s study correlates with the findings of a joint report from Regus and Unwired called VWork: Measuring the benefits of agility at work, which Jess wrote about recently. The VWork study surveyed 600 businesspeople and also concluded that the traditional office (as we know it, at least) is headed for extinction, with Philip Ross, CEO of Unwired, suggesting that in the future increasing numbers of workers are likely to be given a stipend to purchase their own office space (Darrell wrote about the benefits of such schemes recently). Interestingly, the VWork study reveals that only 12.3 percent of people would like to work from home.
As more workers become untethered, thanks to the web and mobile technology, it’s likely that we’ll see companies changing their use of office space. We’re already witnessing coworking spaces springing up in cities worldwide to accommodate increasing numbers of virtual workers, and forward-thinking companies are also revising how they use their campuses as more staff move into remote working arrangements. As Mark Heraghty, managing director of Virgin Business Media, notes, “[j]ust like the dinosaurs, the office may soon be resigned to the history books, with six in ten workers predicting that they won’t exist by 2021 … As employers search for more agile and effective ways of running their businesses, we’re increasingly finding that firms are swapping expensive office spaces in favor of a virtual workplace, where all activities can be conducted remotely.” But will traditional offices really become extinct by 2021? I’m curious to hear whether you agree with the workers surveyed in the Virgin Business Media study, so please take a minute to answer the poll.