Imagine what it would be like if your next job came with an assistant, your own conference room, an on-demand spa, and activities centered around your favorite hobbies? That's pretty much the promise as three of the world's companies come together to re-code office life.

Update on your new corner office on-the-way

Last month, Amazon released Alexa for Business. It's a version of the popular home voice assistant with a growing list of business skills, like:

  • Book me a conference room
  • Set up a meeting with my direct reports
  • Set up a call with my customer
  • Schedule my vacation days 
  • Order lunch for the team  
  • Dim the lights

It goes far beyond "virtual perks" if you're willing to invest in custom Alexa skills, like at  CapitalOne and Brooks Brothers.

"You could imagine voice access to an employee directory, Salesforce data on various clients and accounts, or company calendar information," wrote TechCrunch's Jordan Crook.  If Google Home wants to be your source for "what's the weather" and "play hiphop" when you're at home, Amazon Alexa for Business wants to be the helpful voice at work, handling questions like, "how's our customer churn today? which of my big customers are set to renew next week?"

"We built a skill that allows our teams to quickly check the status on our systems, or to request specific updates on high severity events, but we needed a way to make this available to our teams without publishing it in the Alexa Skills Store. Alexa for Business allows us to publish skills for internal use only, and the Alexa for Business APIs enable us to build skill discovery and self-enrollment capabilities for our associates," shares Surya   Avirneni, Master Software Engineer, Capital One, as reported on Amazon's website.

WeWork jumps in

One of the beta pilots for Alexa for Business is WeWork, the global coworking giant. They've got 150,000 members and a big, expensive vision that the office environment adapts itself to the worker. Josh Emig, head of R&D at WeWork, told TechCrunch, "Right now, Alexa is tied to rooms and not individuals, but we're interested in what it would look like if Alexa relied on an actual identity. We're thinking about different ways to accomplish that."

Putting billions to work finding work-life balance

Recoding work is not just about the software to help you work smarter and waste less time. A few weeks ago, WeWork acquired the 32 million-member social networking company MeetUp. MeetUp groups connect to do everything from app dev to xeriscaping. There are about 15,000 meetup meetings a day, the company estimates.

"You need a proper community space for that," Scott Heiferman, Meetup's co-founder and CEO, told the Times. "You can't have a musty church basement or whatever space people used in the old days."

A configurable office space like WeWork is ideal. With MeetUp, WeWork is re-centering work-life balance with socialization on demand, while also recruiting an Alexa-army to bust the trail with directions, configurations, and announcements. Looking into the future further, Amazon is already a food brand through the acquisition of Whole Foods and is rapidly becoming a fashion brand. These are all natural future extensions of the better-living-through-software approach to work that captures you in a virtual web of on-demandedness.

The future of work

Most people don't go to work in a co-working facility like WeWork. But by reconfiguring worklife--with more technology to assist like Alexa and a richer social network keyed to your passions like Meetup--WeWork is leading the charge to reinvent work. They have launched a division to bring WeWork style environments to others who already have the office space but want to update it, too. If they are even modestly successful, they will create a ripple effect around how to keep up in the competition for talent. Today, it's a perk. Tomorrow, it's an expectation.

Some companies will no doubt throw in the towel and outsource the office environment to WeWork. Others will use the example to aspire to even more interesting cultural configurations. What's clear is, investing in work-life balance, extending the worker through voice-driven technology, and a supportive social environment is something worth working on. In addition, the conscious curation approach WeWork is using to center work around the worker is a trend that will nudge companies to step it up, or find their talent stepping out.

Published on: Dec 15, 2017