The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people to abandon their office and start working from home. This has led many to believe that the office, as we once knew it, is dead. But Dr Michael Björn, Head of Research Agenda, Ericsson Consumer & IndustryLab thinks otherwise.
“The idea of office is still very much in our mindset when we talk about 2030. The question is, what does it look like?,” Björn told indianexpress.com over a call from Sweden. “For different people, different options are preferable,” he continues. “Not everyone wants to be all day in the office, but not everyone wants to be at home all day. The office definitely is not dead.”
Björn, who is also the author of Ericsson IndustryLab study, ‘The Dematerialized Office’, says companies are preparing employees for long term work from home scenarios. This should not come as a big surprise, because nearly six in 10 employees foresee an increase in online meetings with customers and suppliers.
“A lot of people are saying they would like to have a richer and fuller virtual experience, but the interactivity that you get from physical meetings is what’s lacking,” Björn said.
The latest edition of Ericsson IndustryLab study covers early adopter white-collar employees in 16 countries, including India. Over 8,400 white-collar workers were surveyed by Ericsson. The whole idea of the study was to get a perspective of white-collar workers on the future workplace of 2030.
He explains that in a “dematerialised office” even as more human functions become digital, the effort will be to “give you the same kind of experience as actually meeting people in physical life”.
The Ericsson IndustryLab study findings suggest people would want a full sense, a digital workstation that “probably doesn’t even look like a laptop at all”. Björn said it could be “something that allows full sense present at work from anywhere”.
While the survey did not focus on the psychological impact of remote working and occupational stress on employees, Björn said Ericsson has done quantitative research in the past to examine how Virtual reality (VR) meetings affect an employee’s mind.
“We have done qualitative research on how it is to have VR meetings and people actually tell us afterwards that they feel more energised and their body posture becomes a bit better because they don’t sit in front of a screen and they move around a bit in a room,” he said.
The survey also revealed that security and privacy are going to be key barriers moving forward. “If you incorporate new technology into the workplace and integrate that with existing technology, it will always cause some potential security concerns among people,” explained Björn. “Privacy, I think is an important key concern going forward.”
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