A recent article from trends and insight network LS:N Global suggests that hotels will become the new default offices, as 'frictionless foyer' brands such as CitizenM and The Ace Hotel Group introduce a range of bleisure-like offers, from SocietyM, a co-working space, to the Marriot's LiquidSpace app that enables you to search for vacant tables, work spaces or meeting zones in the hotel's inventory.
On a more practical level, Impact Hub Westminster is an ideal example of this new-generation frictionless space. The space is one of an international network of hub spaces for those who work in the creative industries, whose work demands that they travel a lot.
The work space facilitates the free flow of ideas, with open tables, talks and events. Joining the Impact Hub is like joining a gym where the emphasis is on community rather than corporation.
Re-thinking the workplace
Design studio Khan Project in Seoul takes the frictionless office to the nth degree. The space is completely white, stark and has a complete lack of visual noise. Design teams can meet and disperse anywhere in the office in a completely open layout.
Office workers are feeling the benefit of switching from a fixed-space arrangement to a fluid office layout, as Wi-Fi, faster broadband speeds and cloud servers facilitate movement and encourage workers to log on any time, anywhere from their own devices.
Russell Hookway, network and telecommunications manager at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Information Systems Division, has instigated a flexible working environment in the council's offices, with significant results.
"We used to be a traditional business with silo working, people sitting in the same place for up to 25 years, and working with the same team throughout. This became a rather stale environment," says Hookway. "We are now moving to a more open environment in which collaboration is key, where people can hear stories from adjacent teams and assist with any issues."
"Work will become a profitable hobby"
In this new office environment – collaborative, flexible and open – brands are placing emphasis on community and adopting a more employee-centric model of working. With this, we are seeing hubs, villages and communities, rather than departments, headquarters and hierarchies.
This is why Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, argues that, for 'cloud collaborators', work is no longer a curse: "We often thought of work as something you do to earn money to buy leisure. Work will become a profitable hobby rather than drudgery."
This cloud and data age scenario is leading to a revolution in which employers, startups and managers are using a range of new practices that favour collaboration over competition, productivity over presenteeism and invention over inhibition.
"The rise of mobile technology, cloud computing and wireless is facilitating the flexible work space," says Hookway. "Our office is more social and productive, and there are more meaningful exchanges now that we have open desks. Everyone has a laptop, a smartphone and a locker rather than cluttered desk drawers and immovable desktops."