Office of Tomorrow

January 23rd, 2018

Whether we will admit it or not, most of us carry around a mental suitcase packed with peculiar fears and strange phobias. Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) had afflicted millions long before Stephen King dreamed of placing Pennywise in our neighborhood sewers, while pogonophobia (fear of beards) is on the decline, based on trips to the local coffee shop (and perhaps thanks in part to the pioneering work of James Harden).  Meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find people who aren’t dealing with nomophobia, which is the fear of losing the ability to use one’s mobile phone, due to low battery or no cell service.

However, if there’s one fear we rarely address, it’s chronophobia, or the fear of the future. This generalized anxiety is natural and can be spurred by anything from that presentation you’re supposed to give next week that you haven’t prepared all the way to that 401K which may not be receiving the care and nourishment that financial professionals prescribe on television commercials. It can be overwhelming.

However, it’s essential to take the time to consider what the future could look like so that the vision and mission for your products and services aligns with what is coming down the pike. From an operational standpoint, it means taking the time to consider what you might need for the office of the future. Simple planning can help you manage your chronophobia.

Goodbye to the Office of Yesterday

Fifty years ago, parents could often predict what answers they’d receive when asking a child what they wanted to be when they grew up.

“I want to be a doctor.”

“I’m going to be a teacher.”

“I’ll pitch for the Dodgers.”

But with each succeeding generation, disruptive technologies make it more challenging to predict what kind of work our children and grandchildren will do. Kids in the 1990s weren’t clamoring to become principal back-end engineers, data scientists, or VR developers, but they are the ones who are filling these positions today. Looking ahead, we feel fairly confident in predicting the need for doctors, nurses, and teachers but we also know some jobs will go the way of the Pullman porter and the door-to-door scissors grinder.

The office is also changing, with a retired army of accessories and tools once considered necessities now disappearing from our desks, including:

  • Calculators
  • Rolodexes
  • Yellow pages
  • Maps
  • Clocks
  • Dictionaries
For many workers, these once ubiquitous items have been made obsolete by the smartphone, which, along with the computer, are the only essential items most office workers claim to need. Since most things we need to do our jobs can be carried out using our phones and laptops, we have created a newfound flexibility that will likely have a profound impact on the office environments of the future. And VoIP will be at the center of this modular communication infrastructure, as traditional desk phones designed for the PSTN become as rare as manual typewriters.

Peering into the Office of Tomorrow

If you were building a call center 30 years ago, you would have needed to expend a lot of time and energy to get it off the ground. Planning would have involved calculating how many agents to hire, finding the right office space(s), leasing or purchasing the phone equipment each agent would use and any networking equipment the IT group required, and then making arrangements with one of the large telecom providers to come and get you set up. Once those workstations were in place, and the agents were up and running, adjusting the layout of the office was a multi-week (or multi-month) headache.

Today, with a cloud-hosted IP-PBX, a reliable SIP provider--such as the 3CX IP PBX powered by Voxtelesys--and a robust Wi-Fi network, you could set up a call center in a weekend. The same applies to just about any small and midsize business.

The start-up culture is justifiably lampooned on shows like Silicon Valley, but tomorrow’s offices may look more like these spaces, without the ping pong tables or free dry cleaning.

This may mean that employees won’t have a dedicated cube, office, or workstation. Instead, when they arrive at work, they will seek an open place to park their laptop or go to specific areas based on what they want to accomplish during the day. A marketing team may need an open space with whiteboards for an ideation session; a UX researcher may need a small room to conduct user interviews; while a developer may choose a quiet pod to churn out some code. Rather than thinking about the office like standardized classrooms with desks lined up in rows, the office of tomorrow will look more like a playground, with multiple types of areas for individuals and teams to utilize based on the task they need to accomplish or the problem that needs to be solved.

These offices might look very different from traditional offices, but, regardless of their size, shape, and décor, they will share certain core characteristics. They will be:

  • Connected – If the network is down, the company is down.
  • Adaptable - If the company pivots, the office must be able to pivot alongside it.
  • Mobile – With more employees working from home, or finding coworking spaces when they need more human contact, the software, and tools they use need to be mobile-friendly.
We may think about the physical environment as where workers spend their day, but it’s more accurate to say they are spending their day in SaaS platforms like Office365/Teams, Salesforce, Zendesk, Box, and Slack.  Uninterrupted, anywhere access is already crucial to ensuring the health of your business. Having reliable VoIP systems that support video calls, global webinars, virtual and augmented reality systems, and gamified learning for training and development will be considered table stakes for the office of tomorrow.

Remembering the Human Side

As we consider the office of tomorrow, it’s a good idea to listen to the complaints of today. Companies that have jumped headlong into open office plans and co-located teams have had to deal with a host of new problems, which often boil down to the fact that we’re dealing with humans.

A study published last year by Oxford Economics suggests that open offices can hurt productivity, as employees futilely fight against chatter, noise, and distractions. It turns out that the ability to focus and work without interruptions is the key factor in a healthy work environment. Instead of Ping-Pong and free popcorn, this will be the trait that separates the office of tomorrow from the office of today.

If you’re suffering from chronophobia, contact us so we can partner with you in solving your business VoIP needs of today while preparing to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

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Office of Tomorrow