Century of the Office: 2000-2013
Anywhere working, mobile devices, and keeping it casual in the office. For the final instalment in our Century of the Office series, weΓÇÖre bringing it bang up to date.
Welcome to the 21st Century Office
First things first, what does office mean? In the post-2000 world, it can be a variety of different things ΓÇô from a traditional office to a home office or even co-working space.
This is the era of anytime anywhere working. Thanks to tech devices (see below) and widespread Wi-Fi access, workers are shifting away from the rigid 9-5 routine ΓÇô and seizing the opportunity to get away from the confines of the traditional office whenever possible.
Of course, if you do work in a traditional office, itΓÇÖs likely to be large, open-plan space ΓÇô and a regular hubbub of ringing phones, frantic typing, all punctuated by the intermittent pings of a whole variety of devices. Increasingly, desk ownership is being phased out, as employers acknowledge that most workers will spend only some of their working week in the office. Instead, the offices of larger corporations are coming to resemble university campuses.
For many workers, the office is also becoming a more casual place ΓÇô less suits and ties (and certainly no bowler hats as we would have seen in the first half of the twentieth century!). Dressing down is now the norm for many, with an emphasis on comfort over formality in most office environments.
As we move further into the digital age, technology continues to move apace. For office workers, an array of digital developments helps them to be more efficient and boost productivity ΓÇô and yet an increasing number are also finding that their permanently switched-on lives, from the constantly buzzing smartphone to the never-ending streams of email, are making them feel less focused and more overwhelmed than ever before.
Speaking of email, if the commentators are to be believed, its days are already numbered. As people turn to social media, instant messaging and video conferencing to communicate, many predict that we will see this form of digital communication fade away. However, while the average office worker receives 10,000 emails a year, itΓÇÖs unlikely to happen too soon.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the office environment is the influx of mobile devices, which bear only a passing resemblance to the clunky portable tech of the eighties and nineties. Gradually, after getting smaller and smaller, mobile devices are getting bigger again ΓÇô largely due to the incorporation of high definition screens. Armed with little more than a smartphone and a laptop, todayΓÇÖs worker can set up office almost anywhere.
Today, women make up around fifty per cent of the UK workforce ΓÇô a big change from a hundred or even fifty years ago. While female managers are far from unusual, they still hold only one in five senior management positions in the UK. Debates about the glass ceiling and access to flexible working for parents look set to continue well into the twenty-first century.
With more university graduates than ever before, the average junior office worker is older and has more qualifications than in previous decades. At the other end of the scale, as state pension ages are revised, the number of workers over sixty in the office has begun to increase once more.
As new technology continues to push forward changes in the way we work, the office is likely to become ever more flexible and our relationship to it ever more fluid. We look forward to finding out whatΓÇÖs ahead.
What do you think? Is the 21st Century the heyday for the office? Or were the 60s, 70s, or 80s better?
Image by Victor1558 via Flickr.
Read the complete Century of the Office series here: