Ergonomic chairs, Wi-Fi, copiers that work—we’ve come a long way from the uncomfortable, productivity-challenged workspaces of decades past. And if current developments are any indication, offices in the future will be even more employee-friendly. Check out some features that may soon be coming to a desk near you.
1. KEYBOARD OBSOLESCENCE
With software getting increasingly adept at perceiving user commands with voice, handwriting, and optical recognition, you may not need to do as much typing as you’re used to. Developers are even working on motion control technology that can manipulate mouse cursors.
2. HEALTH MONITORING
Feeling fatigued but want to keep plowing through? Wearable devices are on the way that can alert the wearer—or the supervisor—that productivity is about to be reduced owing to an afternoon slump. Breaks can be scheduled based on real-time needs, not guesswork.
3. GOODBYE, DESKS
With concerns over employees spending too much time in sedentary positions, more companies are looking at shared work spaces that encourage mobility and standing. The result: Employees that are constantly on the move throughout the work day.
4. HELLO, PODS
Not everyone thrives in an open floor plan environment. Workers who need more privacy to concentrate might benefit from stations that can open or retract depending on the worker’s needs, offering a more insulated experience on demand.
5. E-WHITE BOARDS
Large writing spaces can help brainstorming sessions move forward, but you won’t necessarily need to be in the room to contribute: Conference meetings can be simulcast to laptops for absent or remote employees via the boards, which any participant can look at or contribute to using his or her computer.
6. COFFEE ON DEMAND
Tired of visiting the coffeemaker? It may eventually come to you. Some forward-thinking firms have designs on portable caffeine machines that can travel to workers about to commence a project and give them a little extra nudge in the right direction.
7. AN END TO PASSWORDS
While fingerprint scanning is already in use in some applications, the office of the future is destined to have security bypassed via finger-scanning or optical recognition.
8. WIRELESS PANTS
As the need to recharge communications devices on the fly grows, companies are looking to make reupping one’s battery easier than ever. One solution: pants and skirts that can recharge wireless devices.
Given the choice, we usually don’t spend our days seated in one position. New office chairs might be flexible enough to allow employees to sit, recline, or even lay down depending on their preferences. Smart chairs also might let you know when you’ve been idle too long and encourage you to get up and get moving.
10. LATER, ELEVATORS
Keeping in line with an increased focus on movement, office buildings might do away entirely with elevators, requiring employees who need to ascend a few floors to do it via the stairs.
11. CROSSING PATHS
To help encourage connectivity and collaboration, more offices are opting for designs in which there are only a handful of ways to get from one part of the building to another. That means more chances to “run into” colleagues, strike up a conversation, and facilitate more interactive projects.
12. 3-D PRINTING
Instead of emailing design files to third parties, offices will be able to visualize project ideas by sending concepts directly to a 3-D printer, offering a tangible jumping off point for collaborators.
13. THIRD SPACE
To engage in more casual business meetings or to simply get a break from the workday, more offices could conceivably include a “third space” in their schematics—a hybrid work/play waystation with refreshments (and Wi-Fi) that keeps you plugged in while you tune out.
14. NATURAL SURROUNDINGS
Supporting the idea that humans are better able to connect with an environment that “feels” like nature, companies are increasingly opting for real-wood furniture, piped-in water sounds, and views into lush green landscapes—all intended to diminish the feeling of being trapped under fluorescent lighting.
15. A REMOTE YOU
Your commute may get a whole lot easier if plans for tangible avatars take hold. These devices mount a screen on top of a portable, motorized device, allowing absent employees to roam around the office and communicate with co-workers while being more than just a disembodied voice on a conference call.