Coffee shops, surround sound and the future of remote working…

A futureologist at BT (yes, such a position actually exists, crystal ball skills a bonus) believes the office-based nine-to-five will soon become a thing of the past as we have now reached the point whereby those in “knowledge-based” professions can effectively do their jobs with little more than a computer, phone and internet connection.

Dr Nicola Millard, who was appointed as BT’s ‘futureologist’ after 23 years in research in customer service, believes the reinvention of work is already well underway and that work can now be more of a state of mind than a state of place.

Virtual insanity

It’s been almost 50 years since American broadcaster, Walter Cronkite, predicted the death of the commute and the rise of the home office, and now Dr Millard believes that future has now all but arrived.

And it won’t just be confined to converting the spare room into an office or buying a new house with built in office facilities as Dr Millard also believes we see a rise in the ‘coffee shop office’ – or ‘coffice’, which to me sounds more like the process of working ’til you drop dead!

Anyway, Dr Millard said: “My four criteria for working are that I need good coffee, I need good cake, I need great connectivity – the Wi-Fi wings to fly me into the cloud – and I need company. But I don’t necessarily work in the office if I want to concentrate. I will go to the office if I want to socialise about work.”

BT to lead the way?

Around 10% of BT’s 90,000 employees currently work from home, but almost three-quarters (73%) are set up to be able to access company files and do their job to work from anywhere there’s an internet connection.

And BT’s approach to flexible working is something that helps almost all (over 90%) of mothers at the company return to work after maternity leave.

And as video and conference calling has all but negated the need to travel to meetings – anyone can drop into a conference from anywhere in the world – Dr Millard is looking into whether the use of Dolby surround sound could be the next big step forward in conference calling.

The theory is that high definition microphones and multiple speakers will help to give participants vital audio cues to help replace the visual ones, such as facial expressions and hand gestures, that are normally relied and take away some of the awkward silences and interruptions that can blight a conference call.

The sound technology helps to pick up intonations in the voice and transmit background noise to help distinguish one speaker from another, and voices can be transmitted from either side of the listener, straight ahead or in a virtual circle – so every caller can feel at the centre of the call.

Want to hear the difference Dolby surround sound can make? Grab some headphones and click on the link…

Want to keep up to date with Dr Millard? Follow her on Twitter @DocNicola

What do you think of remote working? And what are your experiences of coffee shop working? Let us know…


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