“The next 10 years are going to be more challenging than the past 30,” says David Rolls, the Group Executive of Commercial Development at Mirvac. “It’s challenging and exciting all at the same time.”
Rolls is referring to the way new technologies are about to change the way we work forever, upgrading the workplace to a wireless ecosystem that chooses its employees rather than the other way around.
While this may sound very futuristic, Rolls isn’t the only one banking on the smart-office concept.
Architects and workplace commentators across the globe agree that the next generation of wireless technology will liberate employees from the traditional office space, freeing them from the desktop PC, landline phone and for that matter, the entire desk.
One concept which is a hot topic among this group is “jellybean working”.
The idea which was developed by Phillip Ross, a workplace futurologist at Ungroup, centres around digital intelligence embedded into office buildings to identify the needs of an employee.
Rolls explains wireless and cloud-based computing would enable a building to select which office an employee should work in according to what they need to get done during the day.
“If you want to work in a green space and be quiet, then you might get a green jelly bean and that identifies where you will sit in the building. Then what happens is that automatically the technology will link the green jelly beans together,” he says.
While this technology is still five or so years away, Rolls says it is defining future trends for office development.
“It’s all about providing flexibility to smaller companies that don’t necessarily want to have fixed term leases. They just want rent space, desks or spots,” he said.
“[The offices] are bit like a Qantas lounge. If you’re registered and you’ve got a membership then you go in and you work where you want to work.
“It’s fully wi-fi connected and usually open plan, and you can access all your files from the cloud, get a coffee, print stuff and rent meeting rooms – they’re pretty mobile.
“It’s like a property version of Uber.”
He said this way of working is not only saving employers money on fit out costs but also caters for a new generation of workers who demand more flexibility in the way they work.
“[SMEs] can’t predict how big or small they’re going to be because they are growing at a rate, which in the case of tech companies, can be double every year.
“And now that wireless is getting better and better, it is now an acceptable way of working in an office.”
Rolls said modern workplaces are being designed without the need for data cables at desks, ports for landline handsets or even power outlets.
“Everyone uses mobile now and soon you won’t need power because we’ll potentially get wireless power,” he says referring to the new products being designed by IKEA.
“There are no restrictions,” he said adding that offices are gradually moving to “a more comfortable space”.
Green spaces, antique furniture, meditation rooms, a club-lounge atmosphere and various spaces to stand up or sit down were all on his list of up-and-coming features of the modern office.
And while he said it is easier to incorporate these features in new buildings, older offices can still benefit “if people can utilise the technology in the right way”.
“It’s the forward thinking, modern service-based organisations that are getting rid of old offices and introducing more flexible working,” he said.
So what is the most impressive workplace he has seen and is it a great goal for others to strive towards?
“The Commonwealth Bank Place at the Darling quarter of Sydney,” he said.
“If anything, it’s probably too successful,” said Rolls explaining that because it’s such a great place to work, they have to control the number of people working there at any given day.
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