A Look at the office of the future

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In 2021, Bouygues Energies & Services began conducting sociological research on remote work trends to anticipate innovative services that could be needed in the offices in the future. Two experts led the work: Alain Bourdin, a sociologist and Dominique Desjeux, an anthropologist.

How do you define the office of the future ?

D.D: In the future, the office will no longer be “one office” but several offices in constant motion. It will essentially be a travelling office with three hubs: the company’s office, the home and the client’s premises (on assignment). The new office is therefore more open and flexible.

We will have to reinvent the workspace and organise it very differently. Corporate campuses, flex offices, co-working… some trends have already begun taking hold. They will gather pace. The issue of how spaces are shared and used is pivotal.

What about co-working spaces ?

A.B: Co-working spaces will be important. There is now an intermediation system between companies, their employees and these new places so that employees can benefit from them, with new services to be invented, with a particular focus on a high-quality digital environment.

D.D: The office itself becomes a co-working space where permanent and travelling staff work together. And of course, adapting the services to travelling employees, such as managing flexible office occupancy.

What new services will need to be developed ?

A.B: Mobility and support for mobility will be critical. We can look at how to manage car parks so that cars, bicycles and scooters can coexist, or we can help transform these spaces for new uses when unoccupied.
Mobility needs to be seen in a wider context. We need to move on from our individual vehicle/public transport silos. However, comfort and being able to work while on the move are key issues. The transformation of the company car fleet is also central to these changes.

D.D: Building maintenance services will also need to evolve: the current ‘standard’ fee packages work within a stable environment. But with one crisis after another and those still to come, we will have to shift towards fee-for-service billing, especially given the instability of prices. We will have to keep adapting and learn to improvise because the world is constantly changing and pressure is high.

What should we look out for ?

A.B: Our electro-dependency and access to power! There are increasing risks of supply disruption. Saving energy, storing it and securing access to energy are essential because all other services depend on it. There is also the issue of the type of energy to be used to limit CO2 emissions and pollution: wind power, nuclear fusion, hydrogen, solar and geothermal energy are all sources of energy that are either intermittent, expensive or not yet ready. This involves considering the generation, distribution and consumption of energy and juggling centralisation and decentralisation, so as not to put “all the eggs in the same energy basket” and ensure business continuity under all circumstances.

Dominique Desjeux: Dominique is an anthropologist and professor emeritus at the University of Paris, Sorbonne in Humanities and Social Sciences. He conducts international research and studies, under contract, in China, the US, Brazil, Europe and Africa for numerous private companies, ministries and NGOs. Find out more on: www.argonautes.fr

Alain Bourdin: Alain is a sociologist and urban planner, professor at the Paris School of Urban Planning (University of Paris-Est) and member of Lab’urba (which he directed until 2014). He is currently head of the Revue Internationale d’Urbanisme and Scientific Director of the POPSU2 programme, which studies ten French cities.

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