The rate of change in the workplace continues to gather momentum. For example, just ten years ago, the term ‘hotdesking’ was unheard of. Today, it’s viewed as a trend that has somewhat peaked, even if a few employers continue to champion its benefits wherever possible.
However ‘hotdesking’ is viewed, the function of the office as workplace continues to be a hot topic. There’s much discussion on the subject and quite rightly too: we spend too much time at work to be uncomfortable.
Employers however are still to reach a consensus on what makes an office work well for their people while maximising productiveness. Plus, opinion changes all the time. What will never change is that whatever the business, the need, the demands on employees, now or in the future, the workplace in whatever form will continue to be an important part of all our lives. It’s the level of investment, design and sophistication that makes all the difference.
At its most basic, an office is an essential item for many businesses. People need somewhere to work. Depending on how invested you are in your people and productivity, you may start to ask if the space is beneficial for them. Does it enable them to do their best work? Are they happy and productive?
More and more of these kinds of questions are being asked by employers – most notably the tech giants and those in the creative industries who query the accepted wisdom of what makes a good office or workplace.
Whether you see your office space as an essential commodity or something to invest in that will pay your dividends in terms of productivity and retention, the workplace continues to change dynamically:
Co-working – ten years of change
In the 2000’s, millennials entered the workforce and technology and connectivity fuelled a workplace revolution. Plus, of course, the smartphone changed everything.
Millennials were much more entrepreneurial in their approach, creating an office culture of hustle and innovation where teams collaborated to deliver rapid growth. This demanded more dynamic workspaces and saw the introduction of ‘co-working spaces’, giving people from different companies a more professional alternative to working from home or a coffee shop.
By the 2010s, Millennials continue to shape the workplace, only now at the multi-nationals. Here, they’re eschewing traditional rewards packages for more flexible working policies – valuing time more than money.
So co-working spaces continue to thrive, with major players making an industry of providing collaborative working and networking spaces.
Sustainability, wellness, and community
Beyond the design and fabric of a workplace although not entirely unrelated to it, these three qualities are among the most highly valued aspects of offices in the 2010s.
Laws regarding class, race and gender equality are now firmly embedded in most environments and embraced by today’s workforce, underpinning an office culture that is all about collaboration, community and equality. At tech start-ups especially you’ll find a culture where people are friends first, colleagues second and all are keen to work for the common good.
Uber-successful multi-nationals working at the forefront of innovation and tech continue to pioneer office design and it’s not all about looks. They’re building futuristic spaces around the needs and wants of their people.
Better by design
If you’re a business owner, you might be most concerned with the financials governing office space: cost and efficiency may take precedent over aesthetics. However, there’s a strong business case for investing in good design. We know that design-led solutions add value by making the most of space, creating comfortable, attractive environments that engage employees – making them more productive and helping with retention. A little invested in design means a lot more people looking forward to going to work every day.
Working from home
Freelancing and more flexible working opportunities are also changing the workplace. According to The Guardian, 15% of the UK workforce are home workers. Flexibility, efficiency and no commute are the most obvious attractions of working from home, but these are tempered by perceived downsides such as isolation, both with colleagues and the wider world.
Those companies who are increasingly allowing their people to work from home should also consider how they make better use of office space that may be more sparsely populated.
Working in the future
There are, of course, endless opportunities to further evolve office space around the changing needs of people and businesses. Technology will continue to redefine how and where we work while culture will also become even more important.
Upcoming generations want more meaningful life journeys. So, for example, they might want to make more money in a shorter amount of time, leaving them free to explore their life passions, or they want to work in something that gives back in a more altruistic, philanthropic way.
The future also will be shaped by better telecommunications that enable fully-functional and effective virtual meeting places, ‘The Internet of Things’ that will enable digitally connected technology control our work environments, and of course Virtual Reality technology that virtually puts everyone in the same room together.
There’s plenty of room for change and the technology that drives it is evolving minute by minute, making real improvement not only possible but more affordable. The key message is that lasting improvement and real business growth can only come from the inside out. And your office or workspace is a great place to start.