Ever look at old pictures of offices in the early part of the 20th century? Just us? OK, you’ll have to take our word for it: some of these sepia-toned beauties are eye openers. The technology that was cutting edge then — telegrams, tickers of all sorts, massive indexes — are old-timey now, more likely to grace a display in your local vintage shop than the corner of anyone’s office.
This brings us to a realization: most of the stuff we have on our desks right now will be obsolete in a few years. Here are some of the things you can expect to see disappear from your desktops by 2020:
Quick: When was the last time you used the phone on your desk? If you’re like most of us, you probably had to think before answering. The ubiquity of email, smartphones, and other messaging technology means that there’s less reason to allocate space and resources for desk phones. That’s good news for those of us who always found their menus and features hard to navigate anyway.
Even after most offices switched from desktop computers to laptops, it was still common to provide monitors for employees who asked for them. Laptop screens were too small, and often harder on the eyes in terms of glare. Now that lighter-weight, desktop-replacement laptops are storming the scene, expect fewer and fewer monitors.
Here’s an idea for a study: take a sample of office workers who still use the printer, and find out how many of them are using it for work-related purposes vs. how many of them are using it to print out pictures of cats to hang in the break room. We bet it’s 50/50, at best. We’d also be interested in seeing the results of a study geared at finding out how long it would take people to notice if the printer were removed from their office. Our money is on months.
And speaking of the all-digital age, forget about those stacks of paper that are constantly threatening to obscure your keyboard. The office of the future will finally be paper-free — an upside to having to have meetings in which every single participant is tap-tap-tapping away on their gadgets under the table.
5. Your Desktop Itself, as Well as Your Actual Desk
A decade from now, we might not even have desks at all. The increasing popularity of open plan office spaces and hot desking means that it’s becoming more common to forgo assigning seating at all in offices. In these scenarios, workers use mobile devices and plug in wherever they happen to be working.