I soaked up the last rays of Geneva sun today in the bar of the BCO conference venue with Albert Williamson-Taylor from AKT. I asked him what his thoughts were about this year’s conference. The first thing he said was: “I have decided to set up a Twitter account. I will be doing that tomorrow”.
It’s interesting to hear because it’s something that he, like so many industry professionals have been avoiding for a long as possible. Most people at the conference weren’t tweeting but a huge number were talking and asking about it. For the first time at an industry event I had people asking for tips, looking over my shoulder as I posted tweets to see how it worked, basically starting to take an interest. “We’ve got to” said one delegate. “It’s not about how we work anymore. It’s how our kids work and how business communication is developing.”
Of course it wasn’t all about Twitter at this year’s conference as interesting points were also made about developing technologies for offices of the future, the key characteristics of a commercial space the next generation will want to work in.
So returning to that rather heated debate that some of you may remember from last year’s event, will technology and the Facebook generation spell the death of the office? While there were many questions left unanswered this year as delegates said that no one was really able to predict way society will need to operate in the world of work in 20 years from now, people were adamant that, whatever happens, the office will survive. In fact, it will become more important.
“People like socialising,” said one speaker. “They need a base, somewhere to come back to, somewhere to meet others face to face. The reason people update their lives so regularly on social media is not just to inform, it’s to be involved, to be part of a group. Humans need that and they will always need face to face contact as well as virtual communication.”
The consensus here has been that offices just need to become simpler in design, money needs to be directed more towards fit-out and technology and there needs to be more flexible space.
The problem with this is that it’s nothing new. We all know that. It’s almost like the industry has worked out what needs to be done but, through lack of a real understanding of what leading an almost entirely portable existance means, are unable to take things further.
The solution, it seems, is to ask the occupiers of the future direct. Almost every delegate I spoke to said that the only information they get on the next step in office design is from their kids, or from conference speakers who have been informed by their own kids. Is this something to embrace? To get the next generation involved in the discussion? Or is it concerning that they hold much of the information and therefore much of the power when it comes to the future of global commercial development of the future?