Brave new work: The office of tomorrow

Imagine a technology wonderland filled with cool toys like 3-D printers, hologram tables, and office windows that turn into media screens. The best part? It's your office, circa 2022.

The same but different
The same but different
Walk into a corporate office a few years from now, and you'll be struck by how much it physically resembles the office of today. (No delivery guys on hovercraft, no teleportation devices.) People will still sit at desks and meet in conference rooms and get food from the cafeteria. There will be some new gizmos: more tablet computers, for example, and desktop "printers" capable of spot-manufacturing small three-dimensional objects.

But most of the big changes to the way we work will be invisible to the eye. Smartphones will be as powerful as mainframes, allowing workers to do heavy computing work, like product design, on the go. (Phones will also be loaded with all kinds of office basics, like your health-insurance card and a digital wallet stuffed with virtual bucks from your medical savings account.) Tiny sensors will monitor your movements and, based on the departments you visit, recommend potential co-workers to meet and work with.

Of course, all this assumes you're even going to the office 10 years from now. Most futurists predict the demise of a central office, replaced by telecommuters and contractors working from satellite locations. We're skeptical: If anything, the fast-paced global nature of business is going to call for more collaboration and face-to-face teamwork. And if we're wrong, we can all work remotely using our amped-up smartphones.


By Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large @FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 09 2012: 12:46 PM ET
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