At the 2017 CoVest Member Meeting, a representative from HON spoke to our members about the rapidly changing workplace. The physical change we have seen to the average office in the last couple of decades can be attributed to 9 factors.
We are seeing much greater diversity within the workforce. Today you will see more women, minorities, millennials, and older workers all working under the same roof. Together these groups of people create a generation gap in the workplace, unlike any we have seen before.
The type of work being produced today is much more collaborative, interdependent and complex. While we see more people working remotely, there is still a strong desire to work face to face. We are now seeing more emphasis on explicit communication, expectation setting and effective collaboration tools. These are just a few examples of the many choices we have to get work done today.
Social values / Power shift
The balance of power is shifting to the consumers and social networks. This shift influences an “on-demand” expectation and a desire for 24/7 access to everything. The increase in this mindset has been set by people’s growing experience with technology.
Technology has long been the catalyst for nearly all the changes we see in the way we work. Technology has become one with the workplace, with everything you do incorporating some form of electronics whether it be how you get your coffee or how you store your files.The workplaces themselves have also shifted to support more human interactions. The physical workplace is meant to convey identity and feelings of togetherness. However, far from making the office obsolete, technology has redefined our relationship with the idea of ‘space’ just as much as it has with the idea of ‘time’. Due to technological advancements we can attend a meeting in the office from anywhere in the world at any time of the day. No longer do we have to be restrained by a workplace’s location or set work hours.
Design / More for less
As the price of real estate climbs, the employer must fit the same amount of people in less space. Companies are moving from large hard wall offices in the suburbs to 5×5 open stations downtown. Many companies struggle with managing the need for workplace wellness in these tighter conditions.
More and more offices are becoming “healthy”. You can see that in the food ordered for the breakroom, the way businesses handle waste, and how each company gets their energy. There is a rise in healthy offices because more businesses are realizing that there is a responsibility on both suppliers and clients to see environmental issues as more than a box ticking exercise. The increasing availability and promotion of “healthy” options influences the average buyer to make sustainably sound choices.
We’re not technically in a recession, but organizations (justifiably) continue to keep an eye on cost. Often heard among businesses is that there is a greater demand in their market for a lower cost option without compromising the integrity of the products. This not only changes the brand and type of furniture in the office, but the set up of offices themselves. For example, it cost less to have an open seating plan where people grab a desk as they become available rather than providing a desk for each and every worker on the staff, contributing to the rise of Open/Activity based workstations.
It’s not that long ago that the idea of inclusive design was dominated by the issue of mobility and accessibility for wheelchair users. What we now understand as inclusively is far broader and embraces access to work and services for a wider range of people. This includes a more expansive definition of disability as well as those who are able-bodied (for example, the growing generation of aging workers). The contemporary workplace, with its ever changing needs, must serve the needs of all if it is to fulfill its potential.
Recruitment and Retention
The office creates a physical identity for every organization. Most people will identify with a workplace physically before they know if they identify with the company economically, ethically and/or morally. Combine this with the growing overlap in function between facilities management and human resources and you have the platform for an even greater focus on the ways in which the office is an important recruitment and retention tool.
Want to know more about how the workplace is evolving? Come back next week for our blog on The Evolution of The Workplace and How It Effects Workplace Wellness.