What's Next After Next?
As a designer, I have an innate curiosity to find what is next, and then ask the question of what happens after that? This same curiosity resonates with all of my coworkers at M+A, and lead us to establishing a practice-based research and innovation team. It's our M+A R+I. With this team, we elevate the way we can better our projects, our practice, and our communities by finding the new innovations and bringing them to our clients and ourselves.
As one of the leaders of this team, I was recently able to go to SXSW to hear what the leading creators and innovators of the world are doing. My goal was simple - How can we be better?
Over the course of several days in Austin, along with attendees from around the globe, I attended seminars, panel discussions, book readings, workshops, brand activations, and other experiential design moments.
Several of the seminars dealt with the workplace and its future. Here are some of the highlights that I learned and my takeaways to better our practice:
1- The 24/7 workday - 5G will connect the workplace in ways that will allow for companies to transfer knowledge instantly all over the world. What this means is that our days for our projects will no longer be just 8 (or 10) hours. Our projects can be worked on from any location around the world. This may seem like it is already happening, and it is, but the way the data is transferred will be so seamless that it will be as if we are working on it together in the same office concurrently.
2- Defining the role of AI in the workplace - AI and bots and drones, oh my! These tools will be integrated into our work lives. The fear of losing your job is a partial truth. However, these tools will not take your job completely, they will only change the process by which you do your job. AI will help us to learn how to do what we do better. Right now, according to Deloitte, we can only access one half of 1% of the big data we have collected in the world, but with AI we will be able to access the entire mass of data and learn from it. This will allow us to simplify our tasks and augment our processes.
3- New jobs in the workplace - Right now we live in the Gig Economy. As opposed to freelancers, people are opting to work on a specific job or task and then move onto the next. This is done to build their own curated portfolio, and allows them the flexibility to work where, when, and how they want to. Currently, there are 1.6 million gig employees. Managing roles will need to be developed to consider how these gig employees are integrated into the office. Along with Gig managers, roles and spaces will need to be developed to manage the AI and bots, and creating rules and regulations for how they are managed.
4- Continual learning - With our tasks being simplified through AI usage, we will have more time to develop new skills. Upskilling will be the new norm in the workplace, as we will need to continue to refine our roles as our work changes thanks to new inventions from our AI partners. This is also important to consider as people will be able to work longer as the expected quality of life now projects people being able to live until 120.
So as a designer, what does this mean for the spaces I design?
For one thing, we definitely need to create space for development and learning in the workplace. Our training rooms will become more activated, so they will need to be enhanced/enlarged or be able to be implemented into one of the many conference rooms/agile open workspaces.
Another consideration will be as I said, for the AI/bots. Where will they go? We will want them to be accessible so we can interface with them, so our IT closets could take on a new role as a place of work and learning. Do we activate corridor spaces for touchdown conversations with these new employees?
If our days become more spread out, as we work with coworkers or gig employees throughout the world, do we need sleep centers/rest spaces along with the respite rooms we are already developing?
Those are just a few ideas we will be exploring with our clients going forward as we discuss how they see their own work lifestyles changing. Needless to say, our R+I team and office have been energized, and will have a lot to discuss going forward as well. We would also love to hear more thoughts from the community, so if you have any comments, please send them my way!
by Mark Bryan
Associate, Senior Interior Designer
Mark is an energetic, creative and dedicated environmental graphics and interior designer at M+A. His favorite sports team is his alma mater: Virginia Tech University.