“Where has the workforce gone?” – one could ask when entering a modern office space. In fact, the workforce is there, at the same time as it isn’t. For several reasons the trend of the micro-multinationals is rooted in the ability to move through different spaces and challenge those boundaries that previously had people sit behind desks. There has been a constant increase in the number of remote working opportunities and this will only continue to escalate. In 2013, 3.3 million people in the USA were working remotely, and this number does not include the self-employed or unpaid volunteers. Studies also demonstrate that remote working is a main driver in employee empowerment, motivation and productivity. Gallup found that remote workers are more engaged than employees who work on-site.

I think and hope that the workplace of the future won’t be a place where people feel isolated. I like the idea that a workplace is a kind of community.

Luca Nichetto, Designer, Luca Nichetto Design Studio

Working in the virtual world with colleagues in other functions, locations, business units and cultures will be tomorrow’s normal. Remote work offers a more versatile environment, increased control over work-life balance, varied working hours, reduced stress, no commute and enhanced knowledge of technology. However, there is a need for platforms and structures that allow and support co-creation between these co-workers without borders. Design can be that support. For instance, Citizen Space in San Francisco has a Google-like atmosphere – open workspaces with perks like a kitchen and living room area geared toward solopreneurs, consultants, and small teams of up to four people. Another example is how START in Houston attracts people from a range of industries, by focusing on technology. START hosts professional and business development events and workshops, and has industry mentors available to its members.

Creating workspace has always been part and parcel of management, making sure that the employees have the best conditions for the work task at hand. As workspaces become virtual, this creates new design challenges – managing someone sitting in the home or at a café demands a holistic approach to both the analogue and virtual world.

With the emergence of the micro-multinationals and a liquid-like workforce, more job insecurity and precarious working emerges as well. The term “the precariat” has been used to describe a group that has insecure labour, getting in and out of jobs, often with incomplete contracts or forced into indirect labour relationships via agencies or brokers. Britain, for instance, has seen a rise in self-employment, as much as 10% from the beginning of the economic crisis to 2013, and the number of employed people in the country fell by 434,000, according to the Office of National Statistics. As many as 42% of the self-employed do not work from home. The precariat is not necessarily a blue-collar working class. They come from all strands of society, not least the educated. Still they feel left out in many aspects and this class of professionals may become a source for major change. They may turn their backs on major organisations, developing new, and possibly subversive, organisations. Together, the precariat may become a multinational movement in itself, which demands its own design to be able to work efficiently across virtual and geographical borders.

This article has been taken from the Kinnarps Trend Report 2015. Click here to download the full research paper.