According to last year’s Dell and Intel Future Workforce Study, 44 percent of respondents said their workplace wasn’t high-tech enough; 70 percent of millennials said they wanted to be working in a “smart office” in the next five years.
They might not have long to wait — although it will obviously vary by industry and employer, advancements in technology may soon make it cheaper to become an early adopter than to wait and see.
1. Wearable technology that leaves today’s mobile devices in its dust
The conference tables of the future might get a lot less cluttered. That’s because, according to some experts, laptops and tablets may soon be supplanted by smartwatches and other wearables.
“[By 2020], it is hard to imagine that the display, processing, interface, and communication capabilities of these wearable devices won’t match and likely surpass what we can do with today’s tablets and phablets (phone /tablet hybrids),” said Peter Hirst, associate dean of executive education at MIT Sloan School of Management, at Inc. Hirst says this tech is “tantalizingly close already.”
2. Office ID badges that double as Big Brother
Employee analytics companies like Humanyze, which came out of the MIT Media Lab, will enable employers to monitor workers’ every move (or close to it) through employee lanyards and badges. Sensors will pick up motion and monitor the tone of wearers’ conversations — if not necessarily every word they say. The goal, of course, will be to increase productivity.
Those concerned about privacy can take some comfort in the fact that early technology in this area appears to be largely opt-in.
“Those are things we hammer home,” said Ben Waber, CEO of Humanyze in an interview with The Washington Post last year. “If you don’t give people choice, if you don’t aggregate instead of showing individual data, any benefit would be dwarfed by the negative reaction people will have of you coming in with this very sophisticated sensor.”
3. Drones that surveil employees, deliver packages, etc.
And speaking of Big Brother, get ready for drones that patrol the office, dropping off mail, keeping tabs on workers, or connecting employees with their colleagues who are working offsite. Even more terrifying, they’re going to get a lot smaller than the ones you typically see these days — maybe as small as an insect, according to experts.
4. Virtual reality that makes training easier
Businesses are already using virtual reality for training workers from surgeons to hair stylists, but as the technology continues to grow more ubiquitous — and cheaper — expect more employers to get on board. VR also has obvious applications for meetings between coworkers who live and work in different parts of the world.
5. Green technologies that save energy
Your dad was right: turning off the lights when you leave the room really does save a buck or two, not to mention helping the environment. But new technologies may make it so that you never have to look for a light switch at the office again. Current, a GE company, is developing technologies that sense when workers are in a room, and turn on or off lights accordingly — as well as developing heat maps that show how often a room is used.
Tell Us What You Think
What do you expect the future office to be like? What technology are you already benefiting from at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.