What will the workplace of 2026 look like?
Workforce Planning and Management

What will the workplace of 2026 look like?

“I was very surprised by what she demanded…” said my friend from across the pint-glass-strewn pub table: “Her own desk… and a window!”

He was talking about a colleague who has left his company for pastures new. And the real draw of her new role was not pay, or career opportunities – but where she physically sat. Because, although it is increasingly normal to hot desk in a huge windowless bunker, some people just hate it. “Flexibility” isn’t for everyone.

Over the last decade, a lot of things have changed around offices. Back then, most people worked on a fixed desktop. Now, many do everything on mobile or a laptop. And it is increasingly normal to work from home, in a coffee shop or on a train. Yet at present, we’re still clearly in a state of transition.

So, what is the workplace likely to look like by 2026? Well, to find out, we asked experts to step forward and present their views. We have collated the results together into this short online report.

What will the workplace of 2026 look like?

In total just over 30 different individuals offered their opinions on the workplace in ten years’ time. Obviously, the majority – although not all – had a vested interest in the technologies they were tipping for success, which makes their feedback not entirely reliable. But even so, most of the results were a clear continuation of what we’re seeing today, and proved remarkably consistent. In fact, two main things emerged.

Firstly, the physical office itself will become even more irrelevant than it is today. More than half the people we spoke to told us the main thing we’d notice was people would be working everywhere. The implications suggested include a move towards “work life integration”, a work environment that is better suited to our “emotional needs” and a working week which is more focused on results than hours. This in turn would help us move away from big, congested cities. 

The second thing people told us is that the physical office that does remain will become even more high-tech with highly automated applications that help employees perform better. This could mean offices that understand your light and heat preferences – and potentially – biometric readings, which use body data to produce better environments. The upshot of all this would be technology which is so seamless and invisible that most people will never think about it anymore.

Other ideas presented include: hand-writing will die out, we’ll be probably working alongside robots and, more subtly, the technology we use at work will be better than the stuff we have at home.

What will ‘always-on’ mean for the office of 2026?

“The workplace of the future will be 360 degrees and 24/7, by that I mean it won’t be a defined space like it is now,” says Eugene O’Sullivan, Managing Director at Morgan Pryce.  “It will be a decentralised one: Fewer and fewer people will be based in a 'head office' as costs rise and technology allows people to work from wherever is convenient,” adds Pete Ames, Head of Strategy for OfficeGenie.co.uk.

This means “[it] will lose its set physicality and pre-defined schedule,” suggests Mike Hickson, the Managing Director of LSA Systems. “[And] will be a lot emptier,” says Albie Attias, Managing Director of hardware resellers King of Servers. While Joe Doyle, Marketing Director at Annodata, feels some businesses may close their offices all together.  

“2026 will see the workplace not consisting of linear desk arrangements, but instead a collegiate environment, with activity-based work settings providing a wide variety of spaces for ‘work’ to happen,” Dan Pilling, who is the Head of Workplace at Maber Architects tells us.

This means “[It will no] longer [be] a matter of work-life balance, we’ll be busy with work-life integration,” Shay David, Co-Founder/Chief Revenue Officer at video technology company Kaltura

“Office life as we know it will be a thing of the past,” adds Stephen Duignan, Vice President, Global Marketing at join.me.  This point is seconded by Bradley Maule-ffinch, Director of Strategy for UC EXPO who says: “The workplace of 2026 will be totally different from today.”

“As mobility truly takes off, the traditional office becomes irrelevant,” agrees John Whitty, CEO of Solar Communications, “and we’ll also see millennials entering the workplace that will challenge all businesses to adopt new more flexible and less formal communication methodologies.”

Derren Nesbit, Managing Director for Unit4 in the UK and Ireland believes: “In 2026 a generation with new values will drive employee-centric business where people are judged on results, not hours.”

While Yvonne Stewart, HR consultant, Dell UK suggests: “Flexible working is changing the way we see ourselves in relation to our work. In today’s world, it sometimes seems as though we measure success by how much we’ve done in a single day – cramming our diaries and keeping busy means that the idea of disconnecting after work is often thrown to the wind. Flexible working is the future, allowing employees to put things into perspective, shaping their schedule around their personal and emotional needs first.”

“I have really high hopes for the future,” Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft UK, tells us. “I think that as humans, we’re beginning to get to grips with what technology enables in how and where we work. 

“My future is a world where we no longer have to gravitate around the big cities and towns and suffer the humiliation and expense of commuting in order to sit inside the physical container of our organisation.  Instead, I hope we will work from local, shared workspaces where I may be sitting down next to my customers, partners and even competitors, bringing life (and wealth) to local communities rather than continuing to extend the gap between the major cities and the rest of the country.”

What could automation mean for workplaces?

“Imagine an office that recognises who is entering the building, what physical access they require, what devices they have with them, and what information they might need,” says Aaron Miller, European CTO at Avaya. It might know your preferences for light, temperature and room type. It could alert you when someone who might be useful to a project you’re working on enters the building; and even automatically set up a meeting with that person.

“I think in [call centres in] 2026 we’ll see headsets that could take biometric readings to alert a contact centre supervisor to listen in on a call when a customer service representative's blood pressure and pulse suddenly increase - problematic situations could be more easily identified and quickly resolved. Such applications will lead to real savings, greater efficiency and a better experience for the customer,” Miller adds.

There have already been numerous advancements in unified communication and some research organisations have even gone as far as to create avatar environments and use gamification in the virtual workplace. “I think that by 2026 this will have become much more commonplace,” says Miller.  

Scott Zoldi, Chief Analytics Officer at global analytics firm, FICO believes we will see: “Devices that learn the behavioural patterns of their owners, make decisions, and respond in real time will rapidly integrate into our working lives as we look for convenience, safety, and increased quality of life.

“It will be fully automated application interaction,” agrees adds Lee Nolan, Director Solutions at Insight UK “that has learnt your behaviour allowing you to focus on decisions with speech activated collaboration and visualisation through augmented reality.”

“In 2026 the work place will be smart,” Adrian Marsh, COO, Oncam tells us, “not just full of smart people – sensors, cameras and intelligent software will create a responsive environment, optimised and constantly managed for safety, comfort, a great customer experience and peak operational efficiency.”

“With a younger workforce constantly expecting their work devices to perform at a similar level to commercial technology,” adds Tony Glass, Vice President and General Manager, Skillsoft EMEA, “businesses are likely to start implementing cost effective solutions to improve the employee experience, which will also act to attract more talent and retain skilled workers already in the organisation.”

What other predictions did people make?

Several people feel that as technology becomes more sophisticated it will become more of a silent partner in our lives. “The awareness of the technology behind a product will become much more discreet,” says David Quantrell, Senior Vice President and General Manager, EMEA at Box.

“Instead, the focus will be on usability and functionality.”

While Daniel Model, Manager of Sales Engineering Europe at Acronis says by then “technology will be completely integrated and nearly invisible in all aspects of life that we will have difficulties to imagine how pre-digital life was even possible. Data is becoming the new oil of today’s world already, in 2026, we would cease to exist without data.”

Professor Leslie Willcocks of the London School of Economics believes that, by 2026 Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will be commonplace and essential in the workplace, and that humans will be working alongside robots.

Willcocks disagrees with recent reports that predict within the next decade five million jobs will be lost to robots. His research into UK companies shows that job losses as a result of increased use of RPA are extremely minimal and, in fact, use of robots will actually help to increase the diversity and number of jobs on offer.

On a more prosaic level Lee Biggins, Founder and Managing Director of CV-Library says handwriting may be extinct at work in ten years. He says: “We conducted research amongst over 500 UK recruiters and 2000 employees – of the recruiters, 36.2% believe future staff won’t write at work, whilst an even greater 62.8% of candidates held the same opinion.”

Abby Francis, mobile phone expert at Mobiles.co.uk believes Virtual Reality will be much more commonplace. “We’re sure that in ten years’ time it will be affordable and advanced enough to change video and conference calls for ever,” she says. “Rather than being huddled around conference phones we will be having them in virtual rooms or even fantastical environments, and those taking part will be represented by realistic avatars. With the advances in mobile technology we’d expect all this to take place through our smartphones.”

“Many people [today] feel that they have better technologies at home than they do in the office,” says Matthew Kobylar, Director of Interiors and Workplace Strategy at UK-based interiors and architecture practice Arney Fender Katsalidis. He feels this will change. “Large digital smartboards will come down in costs and become easier to use. The workplace will have better virtual communication tools than you might have at home.

“Another big change is touch technology and how this may affect workstations,” he adds. “For example, the development of screens is moving down from ‘eye height’ to ‘typing height’ or somewhere between as people get used to touching their screens to get them to do what they want, rather than using a mouse.”

The biggest transformation will be change in mindset, suggests James Eiloart, Vice President of European Operations of Tableau. “Data analytics and visual analytics tools will be as ubiquitous as word processors are today, and there will be a seismic shift in working culture whereby it will be unacceptable for decisions to be made based simply on assumption or ‘gut instinct’.”  

Is there anything else to say?

It will be extremely interesting to see how all this pans out in practice. At the moment there are clear issues with always-on mobility. This is partly because people don’t always know how to handle it – some employees feels guilty if they’re not permanently working and some employers turn up the pressure – both of which can heighten the situation. But who knows where this will stand in ten years’ time?

The second thing that always strikes me about predictions around the future, is they tend to highlight how seamless and ‘shiny’ everything will be, while this is rarely the case in real life. It also sounds like offices of the future which seek to help us out, by predicting our individual needs, could become very intrusive indeed.

One thing that does seem clear though: all the changes we’ve seen over the last ten years look likely to continue and solidify over the next decade. These developments won’t all be positive and certainly won’t suit everyone – change never does. But they do appear to be coming, which means both employees and employers, will need to find the best ways to make them work in practice.

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Kathryn Cave

Editor at IDG Connect

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