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From beanbags to robots: What do the offices of the future look like?

Have you seen inside Google's London office? There are padded wall meeting rooms, retro armchairs, recycled jet fighter seats and even allotments where workers can take some time out from the daily grind of running the world's largest search engine and grow vegetables instead.

Google's premises on St Giles High Street opened in 2012, providing us with an insight into the future of the traditional office environment.

Fast forward three years and there's talk of these changes progressing even further, with some businesses hiring robots to complete tasks around the office.

So why exactly is the traditional office dying out? And what does the workplace of the future look like?

The death of the traditional workplace

Although the vast majority of office work is conducted on a computer, many businesses are beginning to realise the benefits of time away from the screen and the desk to allow for greater collaboration between departments, meaning innovative meeting spaces are cropping up in offices throughout the country.

Speaking to the Guardian in September 2014, Stephen Hodder, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, explained: "There are great stories of researchers having incidental space and just bumping into one another and having ideas."

Aside from Google's padded wall meeting room, there's American diner-style booths at the BBC's Broadcasting House and fake grass and picnic tables at the Innocent headquarters.

There are still desks, computers and conversations that take place at the water machine, but firms are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages that innovative, collaborative work spaces can bring about.

Mr Hodder continued: "The idea that the desk is a unit of productivity is changing very, very rapidly. Your productivity is not measured by the amount of time you sit behind a thing called a desk. It is what you do. It is about your output.

"It is about getting the balance of specs right so it is not just get everybody in the open, have open plan, but have the right balance of spaces where you can get in a zone of concentration."

Are robots necessary for modernising the traditional office?

London-based First Light PR was recently the subject of a Guardian case study following the introduction of its first robot staff member. Jenkins Steel was brought into the firm's Farringdon site to help a homeworker communicate more effectively with colleagues based in the office.

Staff have quickly gotten used to the robot's presence, but does the future of the workplace really need to resemble a sci-fi film?

There's also the concern that if everyone can communicate via artificial intelligence to the office, then no one needs to physically turn up to work ever again.

However, workplace specialist Mark Eltringham explained: "Companies are offering people choice about where they work and how they work and that is going to be the main defining characteristic of the office of the future."

He added: "There will be a range of facilities to create an environment that people actually want to go to."

What's more, the development of the Internet of Things is likely to further change the way technology and artificial intelligence are used around the workplace, making the days of typewriters and files full of paper seem a very distant memory.

Start with small steps

Continuing on that note, paperless offices are also becoming increasingly popular, as firms embrace the cloud and document scanning to improve their organisation's data security, as well as its green credentials.

This is one small but highly effective measure that facilities managers can implement to improve an office environment, with others including investing in beanbags - one of the original quirks Google introduced - cosy armchairs and cushions to create comfortable collaboration spaces.

Stand-up desks are another option. Research has shown that these can have significant benefits for workers' health, as well as having a positive impact on their productivity and encouraging workers to walk around and interact with each other more often.

In the ideal office of the future, however, there needs to be an equal balance between the time spent sitting and standing, as remaining upright for long periods of time can lead to health problems of its own, such as ankle and knee pain.

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