In the UK, 95 million cups of coffee are drunk everyday…

…and we think this significant rise in popularity (and the surrounding café culture) reflects the deeper need for flexibility in the workplace.

You’ve just got into the office. You’ve set up your laptop or computer. What’s the next priority? Coffee (probably).

We are living and working in a coffee-loving nation. It’s fair to say that we drink coffee in most spheres of life; according to The Independent, “65 per cent of coffee is drunk at home, 25 per cent at work or while studying, and the rest is consumed in shops, bars and restaurants”.

Aside from a love of the liquid stuff itself, a café culture has been steadily emerging in society. Ever since the recession hit a decade ago, cafés have been capitalising on the closure of retail shops – and successfully creating new spaces for people to socialise and work, all over a cuppa. This trend was cemented by the digital age, which allowed remote working thanks to the availability of laptops, mobile phones and free wifi.

 

Coffee is often a welcome addition to brainstorming sessions in the workplace.
Pictures: Brunel Pension Partnership, Bristol

A culture based on flexibility

 

The emergence of a café culture (and therefore the ease with which people can work remotely) has gone hand in hand with growing demands for flexibility in the workplace. Thanks to well-designed workplaces, staff members are freer than ever before to choose where and how they want to work, whether this be independently or with others.

Coffee itself also plays more of a role in collaboration than you may think. Popular wisdom used to have it that smokers were the best-informed people in any organisation – the reason being they would meet by chance, away from their desks and develop trusted relationships through informal interaction without the limitations of hierarchy, department or co-location. Yet we think this has now morphed into coffee drinkers; those that make a coffee every couple of hours are bound to bump into others and chit-chat about work or more personal news. In turn, these spontaneous beverage-based encounters are therefore helping to form more open and sociable workplaces – key factors in successful collaboration and teamwork.

Offering such benefits, ranging from greater flexibility to improved openness, it’s perhaps no surprise that ‘coffices’ have been popping up around the world. Defined as “a coffee shop one makes into an office where non-coffee-shop work is performed”, the coffice is heavily based on collaboration. As Andrew Clough of London’s first coffice, The Brew, discusses: “Coffices mark the emergence of a new era for the co-working sphere. We’re incredibly excited to launch this innovative workspace and help Londoners to enjoy collective entrepreneurial spirit, creative vibes and a tight-knit community”.

 

Miele bean-to-cup coffee machine in Techmodal's office

Techmodal’s workplace features their very own Miele bean-to-cup coffee machine.

What about the risks of a coffee-loving workforce?

 

Amidst the growing café culture and our love of caffeine, office-based workers are increasingly popping out to grab a coffee (as long as their surroundings cater for this). When this trend is combined with the popularity of remote working from cafés, there could be a risk to productivity – how can employers manage how often people go out for coffee breaks? What if remote workers come into the office less and less, and therefore start to become isolated from their teams?

One solution that can help to reduce absenteeism is offering a workplace culture akin to that of coffee shop. By encapsulating this flexible atmosphere with both collaborative and more focused areas (and ample coffee making facilities of course), individuals are far more likely to choose to base themselves in the thriving office environment.

Runway East’s café hub was a key design feature for their new Bristol-based co-working space.

The hub of the workplace

 

From our own experience, we know how important a café-like culture can be in a workplace. We therefore always ensure that a tea point or breakout area acts as a hub, whether for socialising, brainstorming or simply making a cup of something. Take Runway East Bristol for example, where the ground floor is a café-based hub for co-working tenants to come together, share ideas and thrive.

We think the flexible workplace of today is here to stay, but it will be interesting to see whether our love for coffee dwindles. Who knows, maybe it’s now ingrained into us and our working lives… 

 

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What does your business need to thrive?

 

COVID-19 has changed the face of the workplace. Hybrid working models have become mainstream practice, causing many businesses to radically update their technology strategy to facilitate new ways of working. Many have introduced new systems and are consolidating their application estate. This can be a tricky process, as the best technology solutions are often integrated within the design of the workplace itself, rather than added on retrospectively. With new technology also comes the need for behavioural change, something that can often be as challenging as the technology itself.

“One of the things we’ve experienced is that people have not been happy with the office technology experience. They are now looking to invest in better technology to make hybrid, remote and office working seamless.”Anthony Hammond, Jigsaw24*

So what technology trends should you be aware of as you consider the post-COVID workplace? Here we take a look at the workplace technology which will define 2021.

Our top office technology trends for 2021

 

1. Really smart buildings

 

Technology will make our workplaces safer and more efficient. Sensor and motion activated devices will reduce the number of items we touch, bypassing many of the touchpoints that could spread infection. Smart desk booking systems will combine with seamless meeting bookings to create friction-free experiences. Contactless entry systems will be installed for doors, barriers and lifts, allowing employees to enter the workplace and get to their desks without touching the same surfaces as their co-workers. Motion sensor hand sanitiser stations will become commonplace as offices reopen. Motion-activated hand driers, automatic doors, bathroom taps and toilet flushes will be widely adopted.

“10 years ago technology in meeting rooms was all about having a touchscreen that could make the blinds come down and put the heating on. Now you should be able to walk in and proximity sensors do the rest; super-intuitive and fully automated.”

2. Collaborative software

 

Technology that supports remote employee collaboration will be vital as businesses embrace hybrid working. Interactive whiteboards are experiencing a renaissance as the extent of their collaborative capabilities are finally being realised.

Forward-looking companies will use the whiteboard as the collaborative hub of meetings, with ‘projected capacitive’ touch technology creating a more user-friendly experience.

“We like a piece of software called Hoylu, an infinite whiteboard into which you can bring any content – PDF, picture, video or website. It integrates physical and digital – you can give someone the digital pen and a Post-it note and what they physically draw appears onscreen.”

Combining the best of physical and digital interaction, infinite whiteboards can be simultaneously accessed in person and online.

3. Seamless communication and integration

 

Advances in audio technology enhance meeting room communication. In a future where it’s unlikely all attendees at a company meeting will be physically present, it’s vital businesses can communicate inclusively and make everyone attending feel part of the conversation.

New speaker and microphone systems are algorithmically designed to better identify who is speaking and amplify their voice, while reducing distracting background noise like passing traffic or microphone feedback.

We all miss the opportunity to walk past someone’s desk and ask them a quick question. That’s why companies are searching for clever ways to create ‘communication touchpoints’. One solution is to seamlessly integrate a communications platform into existing software. This enables multiple team members to connect and collaborate on projects without having to arrange diary appointments or Teams calls.

“The developments in audio technology are just incredible at the moment. It’s one of the fastest, most exciting industries to look at.”

The office of the future

 

We’ve begun to see companies using technology to their advantage to create flexible and collaborative team spaces. We integrated a cutting-edge Workplace Technology Package into GKN Aerospace’s new Bristol site, a space designed as a major commitment to developing the sustainable aerospace technology of the future through collaboration and nurturing of new STEM talent.

We introduced GoBright building management software for seamless room booking and real-time desk management. Nureva Span project management software and interactive touch screens allow cloud-based collaboration, while Starleaf systems ensure key spaces can be used for effortless videoconferencing.

GKN’s people now benefit from connecting every team member across different spaces, even when they’re working remotely.

We expect to see these office technology trends become increasingly prolific in 2021 and beyond, as companies pivot to accommodate the changing ways we work.

Office technology should connect your people, enabling them to collaborate effectively at work. Do this right and you will create a culture where your employees thrive.

If you’d like to find out more about how Interaction can support you, get in touch today.

 

*Jigsaw 24 are a specialist in the next generation of IT and solutions and services.

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