Mirvac has launched a discussion paper, ‘Augmented Work: how new technologies are reshaping the global workplace’, highlighting the evolution of humans and machines in the workplace, and how this is set to impact workspace design. 

The whitepaper outlines the future world of work, where humans and machines will work together to improve efficiency. It also gives a glimpse into what our future workplaces will look like from robot service tunnels to dark room machine-only office spaces.   

Mirvac general manager of Workplace Experience, Paul Edwards says “For many years now, technology has been driving the change in the role and purpose of the office.  Many people think robots and AI are set to take jobs from humans, but that’s far from the case. Instead, our success depends on how humans and machines can work together to accomplish more.”

“COVID-19 has accelerated digital working across the world and machines will complement this shift. We will see automation and robotics filling gaps in process driven activity, while intuitive AI software will help foster virtual collaboration, onboarding and staff connections for remote workers. These trends will all impact the design of workplaces and office buildings in the future.”

The whitepaper forecasts that humans will begin to work with machines more often and in different ways, referencing a range of models for those relationships - from the Assigned model where machines complete tasks that require significant human input, to the Symbiotic model where machines require minimal human input to complete high-level tasks.   

Being able to understand and leverage the different models is critical to creating and managing a successful workplace. It may spell the difference between success and failure in the future world of work. 

“With more machines in the workplace, this will dramatically change the way we design office spaces. Buildings will need to be reconfigured to accommodate machines and the tasks they have been designed to do. What is interesting though is how both remote working and digital transformation result in the same change to the purpose of the office, as we increase the focus on human centered skills such as creativity, collaboration, empathy, integrity and adaptive thinking,” says Edwards.       

The discussion paper predicts that future buildings will be built with designated machine spaces such as robotic service tunnels and fully dark offices, where machines carry out physical work that does not need human-visible light. These run without the need for human environmental factors, such as air-conditioning and lighting, which means they are perfect for office basements while the human floors are above ground. 

For example, logistical sorting centres can be entirely built for machines in a dark workplace. This is complemented by the human side of the office where they conduct more intricate and high-level tasks such as business development. The benefit of this workplace is that the automated machine area can be ‘always-on’ fulfilling the bulk of customer orders faster.    

For its part, Mirvac is trialling similar technologies to inform workplace design. The company has completed a pilot with software company, Humanyze, to scrape anonymised digital data from Mirvac’s internal collaboration and communication tools to better understand how staff are interacting. Using this data Mirvac can map the organisational network to review workspace design and communication tools to enhance productivity, efficiency and collaboration among staff, as well as to inform the design of future customer workplaces.  

Mirvac partnered with WORKTECH Academy, a global knowledge platform for the future of work, to co-author the report.   

Image: https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2015/11/20/working-with-robots/