Mobile workers are flocking to coworking office space. With the rise of mobile working, that would seem to bode well for coworking. But where do coworking offices fit into the future of work?
In the second of a two-part series, we caught up with Jim Long, director of Herman Miller Creative Office, a firm that provides designs, technologies and strategic services to help people do great things and organizations perform their best. We asked for his take on that question – as well as what the future of work looks like and how furniture fits into the mix.
See Part 1 here: Does Coworking Need to Evolve to Survive?
OfficingToday: What does the future of work look like?
Jim Long: There are many different possible futures for work. Some seem more likely than others. The era we are entering could very well be called “the age of screens.” They are everywhere – and more and more powerful screens are with us all of the time.
Work is conducted on, and through, screens. This makes possible an unprecedented breadth and depth of connectivity with others, and we are now inundated with new data about the world. This will change the organization of work and our workspaces in substantive ways.
A future with a different emphasis could be called the “era of assistants.” In this future, algorithms embodied as robots or avatars provide solutions to problems, facilitate decision-making, measure performance, and in general, take care of most routine tasks. In this future, more and more work focuses on the non-routine, which requires collaboration.
Workspaces will evolve to support cooperation, the creation of collective intelligence, and a wide range of face-to-face and group interactions. The allocation of space in offices will continue to shift from individual space to group and community spaces, to further promote collaboration.
OfficingToday: How do coworking offices fit into the future of work?
Jim Long: The proliferation of coworking points to a structural shift in the world of work and in what a meaningful work experience ought to be. As coworking offices add variety to the breadth of working alternatives, they are an integral part of the future of work.
One view of the future of work suggests more open platform sources, more contract work, less dependence on traditional forms of employment, and more temporary teaming arrangements. In this version of the future, coworking is a viable way to get work done in these “alternative” arrangements.
People choose workplaces because of their potential to improve performance, so workplaces that encourage co-creation and rapid iteration are valuable in an increasingly complex and competitive business landscape. Coworking offers a sense of community and access to valuable knowledge networks, which can benefit knowledge workers.
OfficingToday: How is furniture evolving to accommodate these trends?
Jim Long: Furniture has evolved to include publicly situated and interactive workstations, as well as quieter areas with individual desks and storage, to reflect a variety of worker needs and to encourage serendipitous meetings. The furniture in these offices must be flexible and customizable, and it must behave as a catalyst for interaction.
Work happens everywhere now – the office is a state of mind. In addition to the tools and technologies that allow coworking to take place, workers desire (and benefit from) the “accelerated serendipity” and community that come with co-location.