Img: Pierre Audoin Consultants (PAC) 
As millennials begin to enter the working world in their droves, they carry with them new ideas as to what a functional office environment should provide. It may be all too easy to dismiss this as the hang-ups of a picky generation that will soon be ironed out once they experience the professional working landscape, but to do so would be to sorely misjudge the situation. Rather, employers should be taking steps to accommodate this shift in the expectations of the workforce, lest they be left out in the cold by a generation of workers who have no intent to join their company due to what they view as somewhat archaic working practices.

Fortunately for those who may be unsure as to what this shift in expectations truly entails, European research firm Pierre Audoin Consultants (PAC) recently published their ‘Workplace 2025’ White Paper, which provides valuable insight into the evolving demands of the future workforce.

The report highlights five key areas which are expected to reshape the workplace by the year 2025, which are as follows:

1. “The Lifestyle Workplace” (Social Change)

The first expected shift in the workplace concerns the relationships that employers cultivate with their employees. Rather than perceiving themselves simply as a member of a particular company, the modern worker seeks to be recognised for the skills they provide within their professional network, and valued more as an individual. With this comes the expectation that employers should do more to meet the needs of their workforce, rather than the other way round, and will primarily present in the forms of three societal changes.

The first of these societal changes is that flexible working practices will become the norm across the vast majority of industries. Sure for some fields this is simply not feasible, but where possible it will soon be demanded.

There will also be an increased focus on health and well-being both physical and mental within the office environment as employers and employees become increasingly aware of the true ramifications of a poorly designed workplace.

Lastly, generating a positive “employee experience” will become the measure of success in regards to workplace design and operations. This shift will see HR managers taking an ever-more-active role in the workplace design process as business leaders attempt to create an environment which promotes not only a productive workforce, but a healthy one too.

2. “The Intelligent Workplace” (Technology Change)

The next shift is one you may expect, as increasingly advanced technology will begin to work its way into the professional landscape and fundamentally change the way in which many tasks and processes are completed. This integrated technology will be present in just about every area and aspect of the business, slotting in seamlessly in an effort to streamline operations. Ensuring that your workforce is prepared for this major change will be of paramount importance to the future success of your business.

Amongst current technological advancements the rise of artificial intelligence, or AI, is perhaps the most publicised and debated, and for good reason. The integration of AI into the working world will reshape the business landscape, and while there remains much debate as to whether such technologies will ultimately prove to be a good idea, a lack of preparation is sure to hurt your business whatever the eventual outcome may be. That being said, every major leap in technological advancement has historically been meet with the distinct air of worry, and the world hasn’t ended yet, so such technologies are likely to integrate themselves seamlessly into the modern world.

AI is in fact expected to become so prevalent that employees will eventually make use of intelligent assistants to take the pain out of the working day, completing more mundane tasks in their stead and allowing workers to better prioritise their time. These electronic assistants will likely be incorporated into many aspects of life, able to re-book meetings, arrange schedules, connect with other necessary software, find parking spaces or even drive your car for you. The possibilities truly seem endless, and so you can be sure to expect a substantial shift in how we go about our lives both in work and out.

Cyber security will also become a matter of increased importance as a widespread reliance on technology presents new vulnerabilities. Essential networks will have to be protected, and so constant authentication will become the driving force behind a new wave of non-intrusive cyber security solutions.

3. “The Low-impact Workplace” (Environmental Change)

Of course AI technologies cannot solve everything, and when it comes to the ailing health of our planet it will remain up to us to do something about it via the careful application of eco-friendly working practices, technologies, and manufacturing methods. ‘Going green’ is already seen as an important and necessary change, and this mind-set will only be further cemented in future years as the true scope of the damage we have caused becomes more apparent. This widespread desire for sustainable living will become so strong that companies can expect to experience; divestment, penalties, or even a full-on boycott of their products/services if they fail to act appropriately in response.

For one, work patterns will change as businesses strive to meet environmental targets. “By 2025, providing a detailed breakdown of carbon emissions and disclosing the potential financial cost and impact of climate-related risks will become a standard part of quarterly and annual reporting,” the report states, and so companies will take a more active approach in combatting their emissions so as to avoid any negative ramifications as a result of poor public opinion or official sanctions. Software expenditure will shift towards a “software-as-a-service” approach rather than individual companies hosting their own servers in an effort to achieve better efficiency, while work times themselves may change so as to use more energy during off-peak times.

The rise of virtual workplaces will change how people communicate with colleagues and clients, cutting out the need for lengthy, expensive, environmentally-damaging and time-consuming commutes. Sophisticated technologies and 3D cameras will allow avatars to seamlessly integrate into physical offices and provide a whole new method of collaboration, regardless of base location.

Also, office buildings themselves will become increasingly ‘smart’ as technologies and software are integrated into the premises in order to further improve efficiency both in terms of environmental impact and workforce productivity. Air-conditioning will automatically turn on and off in response to environmental conditions, motion-sensitive lighting systems will ensure that energy is not wasted lighting unused areas, and computers may even be able to power on and off in response to the presence of nearby workers. All-in-all, such technologies have the potential to substantially reduce the carbon footprint of most modern businesses.

4. “The Boundary-less Workplace” (Business & Industry Change)

The workplace structure of today will, in the near future, potentially cease to exist in its current form altogether as a more fluid approach takes its place. Traditional industry models will be broken down, with new models of collaboration will fundamentally change how we approach the working day.

“A major study of CXO-level executives by Fujitsu found that more than half expect their business to have a different form in five years’ time, while three quarters expect the industry in which they operate to fundamentally change,” the report states. This basically means that by 2025, a large number of companies expect to have changed their core products and services in response to shifting consumer demand, and many industries will not exist in their recognisable form of today. Hierarchies will be broken down and departments will meld into new configurations that play better to their strengths.

While collaboration within individual companies will continue to rise, so too will collaborative efforts with outside organisations. New technologies will drive an era of co-creation between industries as they each apply their talents to craft their product or service to perfection and entirely new industries will likely emerge as a result.

Global crowdsourcing efforts are also expected to rise to the forefront, as the fastest-growing companies do so by tapping into an increasingly rich and diverse pool of skilled workers. The face of recruitment will change, with companies shifting to the use of sophisticated algorithms in an effort to identify those individual best suited to a specific role.

5. “The Cross-generational Workplace” (Demographic Change)

By 2025 the generations dubbed ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ will dominate much of the professional landscape, and these new entrants to the working world will have to be adequately catered to; due to the very nature of the world in which they have grown up their expectations are very different from previous generations.

Having said that, workforces will also become increasingly diverse in terms of age-range as employees continue to work well into their 60s and 70s; this will lead to a need for more variation within the office environment in order to meet the needs of all, with all manner of spaces from breakout areas to outside spaces to more traditional office setups each being a requirement for any large scale business.

How we train and acquire skills will likely change as well as augmented reality allows workers to learn in the manner best suited to them as an individual, whilst also providing older workers with any easier way to pass on the skills acquired throughout their career.

The full White Paper, which provides further detail on the aforementioned points as well as giving some additional recommendations, is available for download via this link.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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