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Build Your Career Office Life

What the Workplace of the Future Will Look Like

The American workplace is changing quickly, leaving many people wondering what the office of the future will look like. / Credit: Futuristic workspace image via Shutterstock

With all of the technological advances and evolving styles of communication and management, the modern American workplace is drastically different from what it was just a decade ago. But the business world is still changing, perhaps even more quickly now than ever before.

"Mobile and social are driving a huge cultural shift and, in fact, are creating a whole new work style," said Oudi Antebi, senior vice president of products at social business software provider Jive. "People aren't chained to their desks the way they were even five years ago. As a modern, mobile workforce, we're shedding the desktop and clunky software in for systems and tools that give us the freedom to work with anyone."

What will the office of tomorrow look like? Two experts speculated about trends in technological tools, office layout and company culture that will shape the workplace in the coming years. [3 Ways to Improve Your Company Culture]

Today's workers use many different technological tools to work together. For many organizations, email is still the primary method of communication, but this could change in the near future.

"We'll still be using an inbox five years from now, but it will look vastly different than today's antiquated email experience, which is cumbersome and limited," he told Business News Daily. "There are countless startups focused on reimagining email inboxes, building real-time messaging for the workplace and tackling the challenge of weaving together disparate cloud services into a more unified experience. I believe those tools will come together to provide the answer to the question, what's after email?"

Antebi believes that business software will evolve to provide a more personalized, consumerlike experience for end users.

"[There is] new emphasis on designing enterprise platforms and tools that will enable workers to collaborate seamlessly with colleagues and customers across devices, across teams and across the world," he said. "Enterprise apps [will be] all about user experience and building products that people love. Software must deliver new innovation quickly with minimal work on the user's end." 

In recent years, the corporate world has begun to shift away from cubicles and C-suite offices in favor of a more open office environment. While it's certainly more cost-effective to eliminate physical barriers, John Michael, vice president of furniture and general manager of business interiors for Staples Advantage, believes there's another reason companies are implementing this type of layout.

"The most recent workforce generation is [comprised of] digital natives who have engaged with technology all their lives," he said. "They're used to multitasking, and like to engage and collaborate with co-workers. An open office encourages this type of dynamic among employees."

Baby boomer and Generation X executives sometimes have difficulty with the idea of an open work environment, as the more traditional closed-door office is often associated with status and privacy, Michael said. An open layout that includes private spaces for meetings and confidential discussions allows for the best of the old and the new, he said.

"Open plans are less about having individual work stations and more about having work settings," Michael told Business News Daily. "Employees need the ability to move from setting to setting that supports the type of work they're doing at the time."

Collaboration has become the cultural goal of many companies today, and for good reason: A collaborative work environment leads to more productivity, creativity and innovation.

"Collaboration yields exponential benefits, sparks new ideas that would have never arisen from within a silo, and creates new opportunities for employees to share and use information," Antebi said. "Beyond that, collaboration makes workers feel more connected to their colleagues and company, and allows them to build meaningful relationships that enhance their lives both professionally and personally."

As Michael noted, an open office layout better accommodates group work activity, and goes hand in hand with a collaborative culture. Whether you're deciding how to design the workspace or figuring out how to tackle a project, gathering input from as much of the team as possible is key to promoting this type of environment.

"Be inclusive in terms of understanding both workflow needs and the personal needs of employees," Michael said. "When people see that their input is valued and used, it helps create buy-in, and you'll have a more successful outcome."

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the managing editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.

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