2018 Predictions: The Rapidly Changing State of the Office

Rob Kirkbride,  The Business of Furniture

Rob Kirkbride, The Business of Furniture

To say the office is changing at a rapid rate is the understatement of the year. It is not hyperbole to say that the changes happening in the workplace are unprecedented. And these changes are taking place in every facet of the office, from the obvious like technology, to the not-so-obvious, like the impact of coworking on real estate.

One can expect the pace to accelerate even more in 2018. But you don’t have to be left flat-footed by the changes if you know what to expect. Here are a couple of my predictions for the coming year.

We will head to Chicago in June for the most important (and fun) NeoCon in recent memory. NeoCon will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so show goers can expect some trips down memory lane (and a whole lot of partying). I’m hearing a lot of buzz about new products this year, so expect a whole lot to look at and experience as well.

Coworking was once limited to freelancers and a handful of startups. It started as a cheap place for tech geeks to get together. That is quickly changing. In 2018, expect to see more corporations use coworking and incubator spaces in the coming year. Several companies are already doing it as a way to jump start creativity and flex their permanent office space, but in an effort to maximize space efficiency, it will snowball in 2018. By 2020, 65 percent of all major companies expect to use coworking as part of their office portfolios.

The move to coworking spaces is part of a larger trend of workers moving from the office to other spaces. Only 32 percent of employees spent all their time working in, or at their office this year. Though there have been high profile examples of companies moving workers from the office to their homes and back to the office again, the flexibility to work remotely has evolved beyond an occasional perk, with 43 percent of employees saying it’s a must-have.

“Alexa, start my meeting.” Those words might not mean much to you, but the rise of voice controlled speakers are coming to an office near you and will affect the way we work in profound ways. Amazon recently launched Alexa for Business, its foray into the virtual office where you won’t need (human) assistants. Amazon’s Echo and Google Home made it under the Christmas trees of a lot of homes this year. As people get more comfortable using these devices to answer inane questions at home, look for them to make a major impact as they move to the office, taking over everything from booking flights to scheduling meeting rooms.

Though this is a few years off, the move to driverless vehicles is a trend that will impact offices more than most expect. Look for driverless vehicle technology to continue to gain traction in 2018. It is easy to see how that will affect driving and safety on the roads, but how will driverless cars affect the way we work? Instead of wasting an hour in traffic, will our cars become a second office where we pull out our laptops (or integrated automobile computer technology) and get some real work done?