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This post was selected as the No. 1 editor’s pick in the 323rd Carnival of Personal Finance at Sustainable Personal Finance. Be sure to stop by and read all of the CoPF articles!
The following is a guest post from Joe Lewis. Enjoy!
The office has changed considerably over the last 30 years. Gone are typewriters, printed memos, and ash trays (Note from Jacob: Thanks goodness on the no ash trays!). In their place are PCs, email systems, and smoking bans! The truth is, offices are evolving at a dramatic rate, and with a new generation of workers growing up with social networks, fast Internet connection, and touch screen phones, the winds of change look set to whip up another technological storm.
So, what will the office of tomorrow look like? Will technology be powered by different energy sources? Will we still have desks? Will we even need desks? Will we all be replaced by robots that eventually develop human emotions and take over the world? Maybe not, but this article hopes to answer some of these questions fully, by taking a sneak-peak at the office of tomorrow….
Social Networking Will Replace Email
Many of today’s businesses rely heavily on email to regularly communicate and collaborate with clients and colleagues. In comparison, popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are generally viewed as a leisurely pursuit and not for work.
Many of today’s workers are continuously minimizing their Facebook profiles the second management pass their computer screens to hide dodgy holiday and weekend pictures of themselves looking completely inebriated…You know the ones I’m talking about….
But, things look set to change. Social media is slowly moving in to the work sector with many companies choosing either Twitter or Facebook to recruit new business opportunities or advertise internal job vacancies. The new cyber generation of workers now entering the employment market, naturally communicate using social media platforms, and there’s a huge possibility that the office of tomorrow will choose quick, prompt Twitter feeds to contact clients and colleagues.
In reality, email is not really reflecting how today’s cyber generation communicate with each other, how we work in our jobs, and how we exist in today’s modern world. Social networking technology is becoming increasingly popular in society, and it may also allow people to share information with each other virtually and more successfully.
In the future, workers would no longer need to rely on emails to obtain data. In the office of tomorrow, they’ll just log on to their work network and share information and join relevant discussions colleagues in their team are taking part in.
Wave Your Hands In The Air!
For those of you who are familiar with sci-fi blockbuster, Minority Report, you’ll remember people manipulating data on large transparent display screens without a keyboard. The future of ambient interfaces using touch and gesticulation programs may not be as far-fetched as it sounds and could ultimately symbolize a snap shot of where social interaction is going…
Microsoft has already started the ball rolling with their innovative Kinect gestural system, which is already creating a lot of publicity. What makes this kind of technology so fascinating is the fact that it’s down to simple primitive hand gestures. There’s also something very ironic about going back to basics in order to move forward. However, the downside to this would be if you were to suddenly stretch or swat a fly and find that you’ve accidently deleted all your companies files.
Will Our Offices Need Electricity?
Unless you work in a Dickensian office full of candles and quill pens, you’ll notice that many companies in the world rely heavily on electricity. From laptop, PCs and iPhones, to TVs, lighting and heating, companies spend a lot of money on gas and electricity. But, will this be the way forever?
Presently, 75% of the UK’s energy is created consuming gas and oil resulting in carbon dioxide emissions. In 2050 there is a high possibility that we will have to create more energy than we currently make but with the restriction of releasing fewer greenhouse gases. One eco-friendly solution could be to use hydrogen as a renewable energy source. Recently, breakthrough research has been successful in creating a new method for storing hydrogen.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Scientists have currently been working on hydrogen fuel cells to replace fossil fuels responsible for global warming and pollution. “The first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen and pollution-free energy,” professed former US president George W. Bush in 2003 when he declared a US$1.2-billion hydrogen-fuel awareness project to grow commercial fuel-cell automobiles by 2018.
Terrestrial solar energy is also predicted to be huge. But, sunlight is not regularly available on the Earth’s surface. With this in mind, one idea is to gather solar energy 24 hours per day in the cosmos, and convey it as microwave beams to receivers on our planet. This could be used to power future office computers and electrical devices including lighting.
No one knows for certain what the office of tomorrow will look like. We could be using renewable energy solutions that never run out, using our hands to manipulate data on large transparent display screens, or even surfing the web at a computer in an office on the moon! We just don’t know for sure.
But, by keeping a close eye on technology and studying the way offices have evolved over the years, we get a clearer understanding of what a future office environment will look like. But, don’t forget part of the ambiguity is also very exciting – we’ll know the answers when we’re living it, and like many office workers, I cannot wait!
How about you all? What do you think offices of the future will look like? Will we all be working from home?! Will we need to type anymore on computers or simply talk and gesture to them?
What renewable energy option do you see as the most promising? What do you think is needed for renewable energy sources to be used mainstream?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
Jacob’s Thoughts – Listed below are my random thoughts as I was reading this article.
- @ Social networking replacing email –
- Very cool thought here Joe! With how integral email is to the workforce these days, it’s hard to even imagine being without it!
- I think that society is still quite a long ways off from completely getting rid of email. However, I think it will eventually be replaced by something more real time.
- Personally, I believe the replacement won’t necessarily be a “social” network like Facebook or Twitter, but will be more of a virtual conference room, where members of a work team are always logged in and can share information with everyone in real time.
- I feel like people do prefer to have some separation from their work and private lives, so Facebook and Twitter can remain in those spaces.
- @ The question of “How connected is TOO connected?”
- With all of the Smart Phones, iPads, iPhones, and laptops, etc. we already have in today’s society coupled with the introduction of the virtual conference room mentioned above, a question I pose to the readers is: how connected is too connected? At what point do we say “no” to a tool because being constantly in contact may not be the best thing for us?
- @ Using solar energy as a renewable energy source –
- Several years ago, I attended a seminar in college about renewable energy sources.
- Solar energy was mentioned as a very promising renewable energy option. However, as Joe mentions above, the primary issue is being able to store the energy as it comes in until it needs to be dispensed. I don’t think the technology is quite far enough along in development to efficiently facilitate this process.
- However, one promising fact that was mentioned in the seminar was this – if you covered a land mass the size of western Oklahoma entirely with solar panels, the panels would absorb enough energy from the sun in only one day to power the US energy needs for one year. Quite impressive!
- @ What’s needed in order for renewable energy sources to become used in mainstream society –
- There’s nothing I would rather see more than the entire world using renewable, clean energy. Who wouldn’t!?
- However, as a financial blogger, I have to be realistic about what it will take to make this a reality.
- In order for any renewable energy technology to be widely adopted, I believe that one of two things must happen – either 1) the government enforces their use by law, or 2) it becomes cheaper or the same price to use the renewable energy compared to the current option.
- Thus far, renewable energy has not been very successful at being implemented because neither of these two requirements have been met. Renewable energy technology is still very expensive, with the use of such technology almost always having some varying degree of negative impact on a person’s personal finances. In addition, governments have only tried to give “tax breaks” (not law) to people for using renewable technology. However, a lot of these incentives have been discontinued or severely limited.
***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rintakumpu/2396304044/sizes/l/in/photostream/