It's confirmed: 'Work from anywhere' is the future of work

The era of a fixed workplace, aka office, is coming to an end

Shot of a young woman using a laptop while working from home. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Shot of a young woman using a laptop while working from home. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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While new technologies have changed how people work in offices, the impact of COVID-19 is likely to change workspaces providing more flexibility to workers in terms of space and time.

The era of a fixed workplace, aka office, is coming to an end, providing workers new choices and spaces which will enhance productivity and creativity, commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE said in its annual report titled Global Outlook 2030: Fluid Workspace.

Recent technological advances along with enhanced connectivity have replaced the physical environment with a virtual one that can be accessed anywhere, and this is the differentiator that is providing workplace flexibility, said the report, adding that workers today are more dependent on technology to carry out their daily responsibilities instead of a physical workplace.

To stress on the diminishing relevance of the office, CBRE underscores a data point: Global shipment rates for laptop computers have outpaced desktops by more than 50 percent for at least a decade, according to International Data Corporation. Additionally, tablets have become the preferred personal device, with 2018 sales up by more than 600 percent from 2010— illustrating the highly mobile culture that has developed over the past decade.

Nicholas Maclean, Managing Director of CBRE for Middle East North Africa and Turkey, said the workplace in the future will compete for use among an even more diverse and mobile workforce. “To contend with the myriad of connectivity available in a 5G world, it must be the best venue to connect with colleagues, experience brand and mission, and get work done,” he said.

The other trend identified by the report is the de-centralisation of corporate headquarters. With the help of technology, highly skilled workers see the world as their office. The workers may visit their corporate headquarters less frequently but when they do, they will expect to collaborate with co-workers for intense, uninterrupted periods during which certain projects must get done, it said.

As more employees are de-centralised from HQ the likelihood they will need to find a familiar, appealing space to be productive will increase, and will push the boundaries of what an office is, it added.

CBRE predicts productive flex spaces will continue to proliferate near fitness centres, malls, urban cores and client sites, and will become a key offering under this new work model.

“In effect, new spaces will appeal to workers because they’ll make them feel less like a guest and more like a member when moving between locations. As such, companies that are reimagining their spaces must also invest in technology to keep track of these moving parts,” it said.

Organisations will have to figure out what portion of their portfolios is best suited for long-term committed space and what portion is flexible, just-in-time space, all the while providing a sense of place for their employees, it said commenting on the future of offices.

CBRE highlights the importance of commute in the future of work by stating that working from anywhere means working in trains, aircraft and - in the coming decades - autonomous vehicles (AVs). The 5G connectivity and high-performance devices would enable work from anywhere at any time, it said.

Already, workers in many markets have become more productive while traveling in technology-enabled transportation networks. The UAE is preparing to have the first country-wide regulations in place for autonomous vehicles by 2021 and a recent poll by YouGov states that nearly half of the UAE residents are likely to own a self-driving car in the next five years, if they are available.

Despite these near-term uncertainties, CBRE sees one certainty, offices have switched from passive adaptor to proactive responder mode to meet the demands, preferences and lifestyles of emerging generation, the exact opposite of the one-size-fits-all “paper factory” of the past.

(Writing by Atique Naqvi, editing by Seban Scaria


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