A woman wearing glasses is interacting with a digital interface at work.
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Here’s how ‘dematerialised offices’ could look by 2030

19 Jan 2021

Our canteen food could be digitally enhanced and technologies may help us share the burden of tough workplace decisions in the future, according to a new Ericsson report.

The pandemic has been described as a “digital tipping point” in a new report from Ericsson. While that won’t come as a surprise to many given the upheaval Covid-19 has caused in our working lives, the company also outlined some of its latest predictions for the future of work.

The report paints a picture of the ‘dematerialised office’, as Ericsson calls it. It says that by 2030, we could be working in a space where digital technology interacts with all of our senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

Ericsson’s predictions are based on the results of a survey in which almost 8,000 workers from Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, India, Japan, Russia, Qatar, the UK, the US and more talked about digital technologies. They were either regular users of these technologies, including augmented reality, virtual reality or virtual assistants, or planned to adopt them down the line.

The potential digital workplace of 2030

“Imagine a virtual workplace that automatically changes depending on what you need to do,” the report says. “It might give you a big display when you are retouching a video, or a haptic keyboard and thesaurus for writing a report.”

It suggests that the benefits of digitised workplaces will be multi-fold, helping people working from home to socialise and connect, for example, while also contributing to a reduced carbon footprint.

So, did respondents agree? Half said they want a digital workstation allowing for a full-sense presence at work from anywhere, and six in 10 said they want full-sense virtual warehouses for interacting with customers and suppliers.

Sense technologies will most benefit sales and marketing staff, participants said, with spatial video – such as virtual and augmented reality – and digital temperature technology helping them create more immersive experiences for their customers.

Internally, 73pc of senior managers said that it may be possible to digitally enhance food in a company canteen. Through a digital mouthpiece, they believe food could be made to taste like anything by 2030.

Decision making in dematerialised offices

Digital technologies may also help employees make important decisions. According to Ericsson’s report, brain-computer interfaces could help senior managers understand how difficult it is for a team member to make a decision, resulting in more sympathetic and compassionate leadership.

Of course, security and privacy are major elements to consider here. While 66pc of respondents think that by 2030, technology will enable them to sense when a colleague is upset, that also means their employer will know when they themselves are upset.

Furthermore, once digital interaction moves beyond sound and vision to incorporate all our senses, this could potentially increase fraud, manipulation and identity theft.

“Office work will not go back to the way it was before the pandemic,” Ericsson concludes in its report. “Instead, employees will spend more time working digitally and, for this reason, drive the need for future technologies on a scale and at a pace that was unimaginable only a year ago.

“Rather than just letting us pull up a virtual computer screen in thin air, the experience could become all-inclusive, covering coffee breaks, social experiences and a digital commute.”

Read more in the full report here.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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