The future of the workplace

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As CMI Workplace celebrates its 10th birthday, we decided to get the team together for a morning of reflection and projection. To discuss the changes in the workplace over the past 10 years and to imagine a workplace of the future. It was a very cathartic morning, with lots of ideas, learnings and possibilities being discussed.

Whilst everyone agreed petty rapidly that popular ‘trends’ in colourings and finishings will continue to chop and change, we also unanimously agreed that the workplace of the future will be vastly different to how it is now – although it is clear that we are already paving the way for that change today.

We identified four key areas that are all intrinsically linked and that will define the future of the workplace.

1. Generation Y

Generation Y or Millennials, represent more than half of the world’s population and will make up 40% of the total global working population by 2020 (Source: Cassandra Report).

CMIW The Future of the WorkplaceThis group has grown up with technology at their fingertips in a world where they interact and communicate on a global level through social media but are still feeling the effects of the global recession that started in 2008. Factors such as these mean that this generation has aspirations and priorities unlike any generation before them. They have very firm ideas of what and how they want their future to be and this is often at odds with the views of Generation X and older. It means there’s a huge gap in the workplace and in order for organisations to ensure that they attract and retain Millennials they must ensure that they adopt strategies to bridge that gap. Organisations must also consider Generation Z, who will be entering the workforce at the end of this decade and the kind of workspace they will desire. Organisations must recognise the ‘age’ of its workforce or the workforce it wishes to attract and adapt the right workplace to suit them.

What Millennials want from the workplace:

72% would like to be their own boss. If they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.
88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.
74% want flexible work schedules.
88% want “work-life integration,” which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend together inextricably.

2. Technology

Hand-in-hand with Generation Y is the continued and exponential growth of technology. Today, in life and in the workplace we see the increasing adoption of social, communication and collaboration tools, which enable people to be connected no matter where they are located. We are seeing the increase in what is termed ‘smart working’, where individuals are no longer office-based but work at home, on the road, or the local café. All they need is their laptop, tablet or phone to do their job and remain connected with their peers. This type of working will continue to be adopted and accepted until the term will no longer be used as it will simply become the norm. This norm will be accelerated through continued technological advancements with innovations such as 3D wearable tech, that will enable individuals in separate locations to see, share, and change the same information in real time. We love this vision of the future by Corning, which aptly demonstrates how in the future technology may be seamlessly integrated into every aspect of our daily lives.

3. A desire to be social

But, as much as the influence and demands of the younger generation and the continued advances in technology may mean that we are able to work from anywhere, the gregariousness of the human race means that there will still be a desire and a drive to be social and to collaborate, which will result in the workforce choosing to also frequent a commonplace of work.

Humans are social animals, we thrive off interaction and communication, even our competitiveness means that we are able to work collaboratively to solve problems, which we would otherwise be unable to do on our own. Whilst we want the choice, ability and flexibility to work anywhere, we also crave the social and creative benefits of working with our peers.

Today, you will find a new wave of working environment, often targeted at, but not restricted to lone or freelance workers, who desire a shared office space, where they can ‘co-work’ with like-minded individuals and reap the benefits this brings such as networking, idea generation and peer-to-peer collaboration. These co-working hubs offer all the features you expect from a working office space such as collaboration areas, inspiration zones, libraries, quiet booths but they also offer a comfortable, aspirational, home-from-home environment where you choose to spend your time and can handle your personal admin too. We envisage that these type of working environments will continue to increase, adding more features and offerings to entice the workforce and that organisations will adopt the key features offered by these co-working hubs in their own workspaces.

On the flipside to this, and also in its infancy but likely to rise is home sharing – renting out your living space for work – in an “Airbnb” style.

The key driver for these types of work space is office space costs and our millennial generation. The British Office of Statistics reports that there are nearly 1.9 million self-employed workers in the UK today and it is predicted that by 2020 half of the workers in the UK and USA will be freelancers. That coupled with the desire to ‘co-work’ will mean that creative working spaces will continue to rise.

4. Workplace as a destination

As we’ve just mentioned, office space is at a premium and property costs are rising. So, what does this mean for the future of the workplace? Whilst we predict that people will gravitate to a place of work, it’s how companies use the space that will make the difference.

Today, we are seeing new office designs and workspaces, reducing the number of desks by half and we believe that this trend will continue. Organisations will come to understand that their workforce has a choice about where and how they work and in turn this will influence the type of working environments created.

The CMIW The Workplace of the Futureworkplace is evolving into a “destination space”. A place where the workforce chooses to go to carry out their daily working tasks, to collaborate, to be part of a community and social hub, to inspire and  be inspired. For organisations located in business parks, the workplace will offer the same benefits as working remotely, with health and relaxation, concierge services, hospitality, even on-site nurseries, gyms, shopping, and fun all coming together to make the workplace the place to be. Meanwhile city centre based offices will take advantage of these same facilities but located close by rather than in-house.

To sum up, powerful advances in communication technologies have untethered the workforce from the physical office. This will enable the likes of Generation Y to effectively blend work and home lives, in order to achieve harmony in both. Finally our need to be social and work together will make the workplace a ‘home’. Balancing how these three key drivers work with the physical attributes of the office space is the key to a successful destination workplace.

If you’re planning a new office space and would like expert advice on creating the right environment for your workforce of today as well as tomorrow, then get in touch.


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