The future of workspaces (it’s not just remote working)

27/04/2018

Continuous advances in technology and changes to the workforce will have a huge impact on jobs and workplaces in the future, with professional services firms already affected by the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Computers are now performing a larger number of data related tasks, meaning firms will hire more digitally trained, high performing employees, forcing them to compete with digital companies, such as Amazon and Google, for top talent. This new talent landscape will require firms to improve their workplaces to remain competitive and attract the best workforce.

A leading workplace of the future is not just about allowing employees to work remotely. It’s first considering the needs of your employees to build a workplace that will suit their specific requirements, provide new experiences, seamless connectivity and is values driven. Companies are moving away from line of sight management to output driven performance indicators, meeting the growing needs of a flexible and independent workforce. Below are five key trends impacting the way we work and the future design of office space.

Workplace experiences

By 2025, 75 per cent of the global workforce will be Millennials, a generation driven by experience. This means workplaces need to be more than just a place to do business, they need to represent the values of the business, providing different spaces and places linked to high speed seamless connectivity to suit a mobile workforce. This experience will begin before they arrive in the lobby, with information flow and cloud applications helping to improve efficiency of employees. We are also seeing a blurring of business and leisure at traditional offices, and if companies get the balance right, it will be a real differentiator in attracting top talent and staff retention. The ability to take time out to meditate, relax, escape from work is now an essential ingredient in any office, with companies such as Salesforce adding a meditation/relaxation space on every floor of every building they occupy.

Some companies have created a chief experience officer (CXO) role to achieve this, as workplace experiences can help to drive culture and engagement. Essentially, we will start to see an increase in curated spaces with the new role of community manager beginning to rise in the corporate environment; someone who will manage your staff ensuring they have an employee experience to match that of a customer. When employees are fully engaged there is a 31 per cent increase in productivity, however statistics show that three-quarters of employees around the world are not highly engaged, which creates a big opportunity for companies.

A number of accounting firms have also focused on the customer experience within their workplace, with firms creating client concierge services and lounge areas, to build a stronger relationship with their clients.

Flexibility in the workplace

Employee flexibility in the workplace through activity-based working is allowing firms to better use their space by doing more with less. Activity based working means employees are no longer assigned to a desk and can locate anywhere in the office to suit the work they are undertaking. Even this approach is now being overtaken by the next trend of ‘agile working’ with companies such as Spotify, ANZ and NAB creating tribes, squads and chapters, to run their business. This requires a different type of space again, such as stand up morning meeting areas and interactive walls for group thinking.

A benefit of flexible working for firms is they can maintain, or potentially reduce, space as they grow, ultimately better controlling their occupancy cost and overheads per person. To achieve this companies need to understand the utilisation of their space through sensors and data analysis.

Technology

Keeping up with the latest technology is essential when attracting employees, as we have all come to expect fast, effective connectivity, with the ability to use smart devices in the workplace and increased mobility an essential part of work. Technology is a major enabler, allowing employees to be mobile and flexible both inside and outside the office.

For accounting firms to be successful in delivering this environment they need to ensure the technology infrastructure is in place in both the building, the cloud and their workplace, factoring in the potential of future advancements in technology.

Buildings are becoming increasingly smarter with some incorporating sensors to track air quality, desk utilisation and building performance to help improve employee’s work environment. For example, Mirvac’s headquarters at EY Centre, 200 George Street ensures all building data is available to employees via a SMART dashboard.

Gig economy and collaborative workspaces

The gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organisations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. This trend is well underway with a study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 per cent of American workers would be independent contractors. The emergence of cloud technology is allowing employees to work from just about anywhere, leading to more part-time and freelance work, co-working spaces and activity-based working. More and more people desire to work as freelancers or contractors, even in big businesses. For example, Deloitte has created the Open Talent network to allow freelancers to connect with the work they love, or the reverse, where companies such as Topcoder provide an opportunity for freelance work with over one million experts within their community.

As a result, companies need to be flexible in catering to expanding and contracting workforces by exploring options like co-working. Collaborative working spaces allow corporates and start-ups to hire desks in a workplace and scale-up or down as needed. It’s also an effective way to interact with other companies and work together to solve business problems.

Health and wellbeing

Employees are increasingly looking to work in healthy workplaces and to go home feeling happier and more productive. As a result we are seeing more companies implementing wellness programs in the office and seeking to achieve a WELL Certification from the International WELL Building Institute – the only certification to focus on the health and wellbeing of a building’s occupants. It is achieved by receiving credits across seven categories including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. The WELL Certification sees companies employ a range of wellbeing initiatives such as a regular yoga class in the office, outdoor terrace spaces for fresh air and gym facilities to encourage employees to get active.

Companies that do invest in health and wellness initiatives are seeing a threefold return on their investment in the form of higher staff engagement, reduction in sick days and increased productivity.

These are just a few of the trends impacting employee’s needs in the workplace, due to the continuous advances in technology. Understanding which of these trends applies to your employees is essential to developing the best workplace for your company’s future. When planning a new workspace, Mirvac recommends working with a property consultant, having a clear brief and setting up a pilot workspace to inform the best configuration and right requirements for your company before making a move.

Paul Edwards, general manager of workplace experiences, Mirvac