The term digital native describes a person who has grown up in the digital age and is completely at ease with technology, as opposed to someone who has acquired familiarity with digital systems as an adult (digital immigrants). Digital natives are already invading workplaces as digital transformation gathers momentum, and beginning to redefine the future of the consumer market place as well as business relationships. Basically, digital natives have lifestyles similar to that of the previous generations, the only difference lies in how they interact with technology and how frequently they log onto the virtual world.
As more and more digital natives enter the workforce, they will infuse companies with a fresh energy and a work culture that is more receptive to rapid technological changes. The advent of this new group will, in the long-term, significantly change business models as well as supply and demand, and how future workplaces handle this will determine their success.
Offices of the future will be spaces where communication is unfettered and ideas flow creatively. The idea of collaboration is gathering momentum, and the future of work will be a place where design will be focused around the idea of togetherness, communication and interaction. Cubicles and aisles will be a thing of the past, as furniture, lighting, meeting devices and computers will become more agile and lightweight to fit any space and purpose, transforming from meeting room to production studio to breakout rooms in no time. The UAE, in particular, is the hub of global talent and innovation, and with the furniture industry in the country estimated to be worth AED 1 billion, offices in the country will evolve constantly to stay ahead of the game.
By 2021, International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that 60 percent of Global 2000 companies will have adopted a future-workspace model —a flexible, intelligent, collaborative virtual/physical work environment —to improve employee experience and productivity, with 10 percent adopting workspace as a service.
The idea of Bleisure is not new; however, this trend is all set to undergo a dramatic transformation in the coming years. Bleisure is a combination of ‘business’ and ‘leisure’, where employees add on a few days of leisure to their business trip. Typically, Bleisure travelers use the extra time to explore the city they are in and soak in the sights and sounds, with a view to relax and unwind. Bleisure is also known as ‘bizcation’ in the corporate business world.
If in the past, ‘work’ meant sitting in an allotted chair in office and typing away from morning till end of day, tomorrow, ‘work’ will mean posting blogs from a beach, responding to emails from a street café or brainstorming business ideas while playing a game of golf. Bleisure exemplifies the fact that work and leisure are not mutually exclusive and that workplaces of the future must be places that encourage employees to play while they work.
According to a Skift Corporate travel innovation report, technology has made working remotely insanely easy. “Traveling and working are not mutually exclusive, and the positive feelings employees get from exploring new destinations can often translate into higher productivity and less turnover,” the report said.
With offices no longer being what they used to be, meetings and brainstorming sessions are also transforming themselves into an anywhere, everywhere concept that allows employees to stay in touch even from remote locations. Telepresence allows a user to achieve strongly the feeling of being present in a different intended location by providing them stimulus to single or multiple of their senses. In short, telepresence technology allows a user to provide inputs through audio or through actions that can be relayed to the remote location and create the intended effect at the location. In this sense, telepresence technologies are both unidirectional and bidirectional.
The World Economic Forum report about the Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2019 identified collaborative telepresence as one of the key trends that will shape workplaces of the future. “Imagine a group of people in different parts of the world smoothly interacting as if they were physically together, down to being able to feel one another’s touch,” said WEF about the technology.
Gamification involves the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-gaming contexts in order to solve problems and engage users. It can be used in many ways and works on a reward system; when players accomplish a task they are given points, achievement badges or even virtual currency. The rewards of accomplishing a task are sometimes displayed on a “leaderboard” to encourage competition.
While gamification has been a growing trend in education, marketing and HR, its immense potential to enhance employee productivity at the workplace is increasingly being recognized. Workplaces of the future will employ gamification to increase employee engagement levels and to keep employees motivated and focused.
The idea of shared workspaces will continue to thrive in the coming years as the idea of working in informal, relaxed ambience gains traction. A survey done by Small Business Labs for 2018-2022 titled ‘Global Co-working Forecast’, predicts that there will be a rapid growth of co-working spaces over the next 5 years, growing from 14,411 in 2017 to just over 30,000 in 2022. The study also predicts that the number of co-working members will grow from 1.74 million in 2017 to 5.1 million in 2022. In the UAE, the co-working space is being increasingly used by digital nomads, a term used to signify freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and small groups of people on low budgets, that would like to use a flexible space to get work done.