Increased teleworking, the adoption of mobility, and cloud computing will reduce the need for companies to have physical office space, according to Intel.
Discussing Intel's Future of Knowledge Work whitepaper, the company's "chief evangelist and futurist" Steve Brown told journalists in Sydney this morning that over the next 30 years, 75 percent of the world's population will move into major cities, and this will make commuting to the office more painful for office workers. At the same time, those people will be increasingly working outside the office, and cloud services will reduce the need for them to even be in the office.
"Office space is the second biggest overhead in companies after salaries. It is a significant piece of the cost of running a business, and yet they are delivering less and less value as people are travelling a lot," he said. "Space doesn't make so much sense anymore. Workers, as they get empowered more, increasingly say they don't want to be in the office. They don't want to have to deal with that commute."
He said that managers will need to stop managing staff by the amount of time they clock in the office, and instead look to be completely results oriented. The office space would be reduced, and staff would no longer think of the office as being the centre of their working life.
"We see that this office location, instead of being this daily destination that you go to as part of the grind of life, it can be this temporary anchor point where you come together to interact with your fellow humans," he said.
"We see this idea of 'office as a service' rising up where instead of having office space as fixed assets, people start to outsource and share offices."
Brown said that the "butt-sniffing factor" would mean that people would still need to meet, particularly for the start of major projects.
"I think even as this experience gets better [video conferencing], there's still a great need for human beings to get together and meet face to face," he said. "It is the butt-sniffing thing. We are animals, and part of trust is that we get to know each other by looking each other in the eye."
The whitepaper also stated that as companies move from having on-site infrastructure to having infrastructure in the cloud, there will be a reduced need for office space.
But Brown admitted that companies would still need at least some space for the company culture.
"A physical space is a manifestation of a company's culture. I'm not suggesting people will move exclusively to office as a service, and they won't have any physical presence; I think this is a blended model," he said. "Places that express who you are, but office as a service when it makes sense."
There will also be a shift to "talent marketplaces," where people with certain skill sets are matched to projects in the company. Brown said that this would need to be "brokered" either inside or outside of the company. When asked about whether this would lead to the rise of more outsourcing services like Airtasker or Freelancer, Brown said that this would be a part of it, but at the same time it would be more about "augmenting existing talent pools and bringing in on-demand talent."