Virtualisation and globalisation have created an environment where time and space are not what they used to be. Work in this new world means meeting and greeting colleagues in other functions, locations, business units and time zones in a culture of co-creation and mass collaboration. This is a force that will push the limits for work in digital worlds further and influence workplaces in many aspects.

Organisations will need to adjust and design their physical workplaces with, for instance, multi-use spaces, project-designated zones and up-to-date technology for thought productivity. One main facilitator for this type of workspace is the easy access to digital material everywhere, providing mobility and an increased focus on knowledge exchange, sharing inspiration and networking. This is something that many feel is well on its way and backed by organisations. In a survey by Leesman with of over 70,000 respondents, 79% fell that remote access to work files and network is supported.

Today, new, large-scale initiatives for this type of digital access are being introduced by different companies, such as Google Drive and the HP Virtual Room Collaboration Platform, which allows team members to host team meetings, customer briefings and training events in one convenient online location. Yet despite efforts, most workplaces are still mainly reliant on one-person editing and access of one document on one device. To fully embrace mass collaboration and co-creation, behaviours and security must be adapted to a more fluent type of work model, where trust is vital and communication is key; for instance, let several people work on one presentation in draft form which is in the cloud.

Telepresence and smart walls will be an integrated part of these spaces, where open design collaborations is possible. More focus will lie on screens in various forms and sizes as well as on being able to easily bring digital work everywhere. The screen becomes the major tool and interaction space. Synchronous tools will also be added to a greater extent: video and audio conferencing, data sharing, and presence detection are all examples of this.

To build a collaborative organisation you need to nurture a collaborative culture.

Per-arne Andersson, Ceo, Kinnarps

New office designs will have to facilitate this virtual workspace and also include the social aspect in virtual collaboration meetings. These workplaces will offer employees more security and new social practices will develop to provide privacy and solitude. Employees will be able to let go of their private desk while simultaneously receive access to uncountable work places – within or outside the office premises. Information regarding things like future product development and supply chain, which companies would have previously thought of as top secret, are now becoming public knowledge. The sharing of product development and the invitation for customers to comment can play a major part. Clothing brand Patagonia is a leading example of a company willing to let the world in on their sourcing and design process in detail. Also, actually letting the world’s customers in on having their say in design, from the individually chosen colours of sneakers in the NikeID project to the new taste of Walkers Crisps in a customer competition, has gone from just being a trend to being a way of conducting everyday business for corporations who realise the potential of collaboration.

As companies increasingly invite collaboration from external parties, their spaces – both virtual and physical – will become more permeable. This will offer both challenges and opportunities in terms of security and public relations. There may no longer be the concept of the back office, as customers will be mixing with company staff, and therefore the company needs to be portrayed consistently throughout in order to meet this type of diversity.

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