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Captain Future

Nick Sohnemann is an innovation consultant and successfully conducts research in the workspaces of German companies with his agency Future Candy. We wanted to know from him: What will the workplace of the future look like? An interview from 2019 that we fished out of our archive - we think it's just as relevant today as it was back then.

stilwerk: Mr. Sohnemann, what does the perfect workplace of the future look like?

NS: There is certainly no one perfect workplace or Office 2050. One thing that we clearly observe is that offices in the future will have to work for different usage situations. For example, one of our customers, a large German group, uses zones in the office. An arrival zone where, depending on the weather, you can also pack away your clothes upon arrival. Right next door there is a work zone, meeting zone and the energy zone for lunch. All areas are built according to the requirements and have different sound requirements, lighting settings and furniture. These striking scenarios will be reflected in companies in the future.

stilwerk: Sounds like the end of individual offices. What technologies await us there?

NS: Everything that revolves around remote work is an exciting field. Basically it means nothing other than that you have the opportunity to take part in meetings without traveling. Useless business trips can be avoided with new technologies. You switch to the screen of a moving robot standing in a New York office, while you control the whole thing from the comfort of Hamburg. Augmented reality is also something to keep in mind. This is again the computer-aided expansion of the perception of reality. Excel tables and complex information can be brought directly to the desk as a spatial image using data glasses.


stilwerk: What conditions should now be created in companies for such a future office movement?

NS: Companies should generally become more innovative. Develop the ability to respond more quickly and find services to address consumer needs. But to be honest, the most important thing is that companies become more attractive employers. This is 2019 – “Cobbler stick to your last” mentalities are unattractive to young people. We have almost full employment in Germany, and people can choose where they work. If employers do not adapt with their employee branding, trusting working hours and modern offices, they will lose their employees in the future.


stilwerk: And what are the crucial skills for the employees of tomorrow?

NS: A high energy level. Maybe there are no longer 40-hour weeks because you can do the work in 20 hours and therefore do a second or third job. We live in times of project economy. Companies notice this, but also employees. Teamwork, creativity and passion are basic requirements. But typically, teams in companies will be made up of employees with specialized knowledge and talent. The desire for expert knowledge means that employees have to continue their training. Because artificial intelligence will put an end to simple jobs and work. The workplace of the future looks like this: There will generally be less structure and a lot of flexibility will be required. This will be a very exciting challenge.


stilwerk: Why did the idea of co-working spaces and mobile workplaces only take off in Germany in the last few years?

NS: The old principle “Never change a running system” applies to us. The business models that work today were all developed 20 years ago and are still working well with them. Another reason is that there are many medium-sized family businesses that would rather pay dividends than invest in new technologies. Germany is very pessimistic about culture. This can be seen from the fact that there are few digital tech companies from Germany. People are afraid of being the first mover and would rather have their competitors test new products. This attitude is due to our prosperity.


stilwerk: Which nations are ahead of us when it comes to innovation in the office?

NS: We don't think in terms of nations. There is a greater distinction between rural regions and cities. There are A cities and B cities. To be honest, Hamburg is a clear B city and more on the same level as Copenhagen and Prague - here they copy the pioneers. A cities are London, Los Angeles, Madrid and Paris. Due to their size, they attract many innovators and drive them forward. China is particularly exciting. As a country, it is not at the level of the European Union. But it has driving forces through hotspots like Shanghai, Beijing and Sheng Zen. By 2025, many places in rural western China will be connected to high-speed internet, road systems and digital structures. The fact that the government is centrally controlling China's modernization is crazy.

Silke Roth conducted the interview as part of our stilwerk magazine “Living intensified”, which was published in 2019.


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