The evolution of the workplace is not a new phenomenon. Trends like telecommuting began many years ago as a way to accommodate working mothers. Over time, flexibility options have expanded to include such things as job sharing, compressed work weeks, collaborative workspaces, and video conferencing. As workplace flexibility has evolved with technology, it has become a vital resource for employees as well as a benefit for organizations.
Other recent trends in workplace design involve making employee wellness a priority, and constructing buildings using sustainable materials and renewable energy sources.
From a business strategy perspective, providing advanced workplace options that stretch boundaries can also serve to maximize office productivity. Here are ten ways that this will be happening soon, with many changes already underway.
#1. Automated Buildings
One of the best examples of the workplace of the future is in the design of the buildings themselves. Building automation has the ultimate goal of comfort and convenience for the building’s occupants by creating centralized controls for heating, ventilation, and even lighting. A new Exxon Mobil office campus will have systems that can tune the overall light in space, which translates into greater comfort and productivity.
#2. Bright Colors
Color and style translate into mood and office productivity. If everything is institutional gray, the mood of your organization will match this. An office that is entirely in gray, white, or beige (popular neutral colors) has been proven to bring forth feelings of sadness and depression. In contrast, bright accents can have positive effects on mood while nature colors can inspire calm and creativity. Style can be brought into space in the form of art, plants, bright furniture, and lighting.
#3. Let There Be Light!
Speaking of light, bringing as much ambient natural light into the workplace as possible will have a positive effect on productivity. Ambient light is also a good energy booster in comparison to indoor light sources. The workplace of the future will make use of skylights, large windows, and strategic lighting to achieve these benefits.
#4. Emphasis on Wellness
There is little doubt that healthy employees are happy and productive employees. There has been a growing trend with more progressive organizations to emphasize wellness both inside and outside the workplace. Many offices now have fitness centers and even fitness workstations. Employees now have the option to use a standing workstation or even bike desks. Workplace lunchrooms are serving healthier foods, and some offices are offering employees afternoon nap rooms, recognizing the value of the productivity gains that come after a short rest.
#5. Individual Workspaces
While cubicle spaces will not disappear entirely in the future, the emerging trend is moving towards more flexibility for workers. Rather than completely open floor plans, many companies are opting for a combination of open areas and separate small, private offices. The small offices are not dedicated to a single employee, but instead are available on a reservation basis for those who need a quiet place to focus. As most employees are now mobile, with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, unchaining from a single desk means gains in office productivity through increased options and opportunities for collaboration.
#6. Workplace Collaboration
Speaking of collaboration, many experts predict that this will be a top business objective in the workplace of the future. As workers gain more flexibility and talent become more diverse, the demand for employees to come together for the exchange of ideas will continue to grow. Workplace design is evolving to encourage these types sessions in the form of such things as mobile workstations, videoconferencing technology, and open meeting spaces.\
#7. Emerging Technologies
Staffing Agency Office Team released a report called Office of the Future: 2020 Survey and Report in which it detailed some of the top emerging technologies in the workplace. Some of these are in place in many offices today and include:
- Sensory-recognition software to respond to touch, voice, and handwriting input.
- “Knowbots.” Think big data, where programs scan massive databases to filter relevant information for users.
- Wireless access available nearly everywhere so that workers can connect to the office on planes, in public lobbies, and even on the beach.
- Personal IoT. The Internet of Things gets personal as workplaces harness the data from their employees’ personal networks of sensors, which can, for example, identify people approaching a building to assign desks or schedule meetings.
- AI – Artificial Intelligence in the workplace will emerge in the form of Virtual Personal Assistants (VPA) that can perform a variety of automated tasks.
#8. Internal Social Media
A frightening prospect for some companies and a fully implemented tool for others, bringing employees together internally through a social media platform has some surprising benefits. These systems can be used for business collaboration purposes but are of real value in uniting employees around common goals and interests, business-related or not. Employees on these internal social networks can connect internationally, and the platform gives everyone a voice. For companies who value productivity and employee well-being, knowing what is going on in the minds of their staff and fostering culture has little downside.
#9. BYOD Policies
What used to be a corporate no-no has now become the norm. Employees are increasingly choosing to use their own consumer devices for work purposes, termed Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD). After addressing security concerns, it has been shown that corporations are achieving tremendous advantages by embracing these trends. Hardware costs are reduced, and the best talent can be recruited and retained because of progressive policies. As an add-on to this, employees can also bring in their personal collections of internet apps and services to be used for production purposes.
#10. The Independent Workforce
At the furthest end of the flexibility spectrum is the fully independent worker. Increasingly, the global workforce is not tied to an office at all and many are considered independent contractors. Today, nearly 54 million Americans, roughly one-third of the U.S. workforce – are considered freelance or self-employed. The tremendous growth in using independent workers is mainly attributed to technology innovations and the positive returns that companies receive from this sort of relationship. Companies who use these arrangements will need to find a balance between fostering culture and collaboration and maximizing productivity and cost-savings.
Rapid changes in technology and workplace attitudes are revolutionizing how we work. While there have been some flexible options for many years, the advances today and looking forward are providing employers with greater productivity gains as well as giving employees increased levels of workplace satisfaction.
Images: ” Productivity Efficiency Performance Results Concept /Shutterstock.com“
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