The flexible workspace sector is still growing, with Instant Offices’ 2022 Flex Market Review showing demand up 22% compared to 2021. Far from resting on their laurels, though, flexspace operators and landlords are constantly pursuing new ways to improve their offering. And, with the rate of technological innovation in the world seemingly higher than ever, there’s plenty to be excited about in the future.
We’ve put together a list of some of the most cutting-edge technologies that could revolutionise the flexible workspace sector. If you’re an operator looking for ways to get ahead or a flexible worker desperate to know what’s next for your workplace, here’s our take on what new tech will have the biggest impact on the way flexible workspaces work.
Virtual reality and augmented reality
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology has come a long way in recent years, and both have plenty of potential use cases in flexspaces.
VR is perfectly suited to being used as a tool to facilitate better virtual tours. Many operators already use 3D mapping tools to create digital versions of their workplaces. This is likely to become a lot more common as the number of people owning VR headsets increases – but that number is already estimated at over a million people in the UK. Hosting a 3D-mapped workplace walk-through on your website is a great way to cater to these people, giving them an unprecedentedly immersive way of experiencing your space without having to travel.
VR also has a potential application to bring remote and workplace-based teams together. We already hold hybrid video calls, merging groups of people in a workplace setting with individual remote workers elsewhere. VR could make hybrid meetings far more immersive, giving the remote workers the opportunity to be in the same ‘space’ as their colleagues without having to commute.
AR doesn’t have quite the same potential, but it could be used to give new occupiers a way of navigating their workplace more easily. Especially in large workplaces, AR apps could be used to provide directions and overlay information about available resources or facilities on to the space itself.
AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies could also play a major role in the future of the flexible workspace industry. They’re well-suited to being used behind-the-scenes to interpret data and automate administrative tasks.
AI models could be fed a constant stream of workspace or meeting room usage data, for example. Even now, widely-available models are more than capable of interpreting that data and identifying patterns. As a result, operators could have more clarity over fluctuations in demand, with automatic insights enabling them to make better decisions that lead to more efficient usage of their space.
And, with the power of machine learning meaning these AI programs would get progressively better at doing their job over time, it wouldn’t take long until they’re far better at managing workspace resources than any human possibly could.
Natural language processing models
Natural language processing (NLP) is a subset of AI that focuses on the ability of computers to understand and interpret human language. NLP models are seeing increasing attention, with the launch of ChatGPT in particular propelling the technology into the mainstream.
They could be used by workspace operators to improve how efficiently they communicate with existing occupiers and potential new customers. Virtual assistants powered by NLP models could be used to field new enquiries, handle onboarding, and manage meeting room bookings, for example.
There’s also a vast opportunity for operators to find new efficiencies in their marketing activity by leveraging the power of NLP. Social media posts, in particular, can be produced much more quickly with the help of AI. This could reduce the cost of their marketing, leaving them with more money to spend on improving their spaces.
Web3 refers to a variety of integrated technologies that run on blockchains, such as cryptocurrency tokens, decentralised applications (dApps), and decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs). The Web3 trend that’s received the biggest mainstream buzz is the concept of the ‘metaverse’, a virtual world that incorporates various Web3 technologies to facilitate virtual connection, interaction, and transaction.
While it’s yet to be determined whether metaverses will gain mass popularity in practice, there are plenty of potential applications for flexible workplace operators to consider. One of the most interesting is the idea of holding virtual networking sessions or events. This would make most sense as a complementary addition to in-person events, rather than a replacement, giving people the chance to attend events without having to travel.
The metaverse could also play host to virtual workplaces, where colleagues can meet and collaborate. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta has already launched a product, named Meta Horizon Workrooms, that does exactly this. It works with standard video feeds, custom avatars, or VR headsets, and gives colleagues working far from each other the chance to interact in the same ‘space’ without having to meet in a central office. You can even type notes on a virtual computer screen.
Blockchains could also be used to securely store and manage workspace data, including contracts, payments, and identity verification records, or to create member communities that transcend the walls of the workspace.
Internet of Things devices
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the growing network of connected devices that are able to communicate with each other and exchange data over the internet. IoT devices are also commonly known as smart devices.
In the flexible workspace industry, they could be used as part of a broader building management strategy. They can monitor and manage workspace conditions in real-time, allowing for adjustments to be made to temperature, lighting, access control, and more, depending on certain parameters being met.
An IoT-enabled thermostat, for example, could adjust the temperature in a workspace based on the number of people present or the time of day. Smart fridges could tell the management team when they’re running low on milk. Even the quality of the air in workspaces, which is a concern to up to 60% of people, could be benefitted with air-quality monitors that automatically report on negative changes and counter them.
Fully-connected workspaces will offer new levels of comfort and convenience for occupiers, all with practically zero human management required.
Finally, advancements in biometric and wearables technology offer the opportunity for operators to improve how they handle security and access control.
Biometric security systems, like fingerprint scanners or facial recognition technology, could change the way occupiers access their space, making it easier for operators to securely partition private areas from communal ones. This is significantly more secure than alternatives, like keycards or fobs, and also more convenient for occupiers.
Stay on the cutting-edge of the flexspace sector
The ongoing march of technological advancement furthers every industry. And, as individual technologies gather momentum and adoption, they only become cheaper and more viable. Already, plenty of flexspace operators are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible from a workspace with the help of technology. And, on the side lines, companies like Yardi, technologywithin are developing new ways of leveraging tech to make workspace management easier and more efficient.
As this continues, and technology continues to develop in sophistication and ease-of-use, we’ll see more and more potential from the new way of working. If you want to keep up to date with how technology is changing the way workspaces work, subscribe to the Spaces to Places newsletter for a monthly mailer highlighting the biggest developments in the sector. Or, if you’re a flexspace operator or landlord and have been inspired to make some changes by this post, get in touch with us for a free chat about how you can take steps into the future.