Workplace change can be challenging. For every enthusiastic adapter, there are those less ready to take on new practices and environments. However, when done right, workplace change can reap significant rewards.
Last year, we partnered with TEDxSydney on its Urban Canvas research project, which revealed a path forward for businesses seeking to prepare their workplace and workforce for the future.
With the uprising of technology, there has been much debate around the relevance of the concept of a “workplace” in the future. However, the findings of the project—which surveyed more than 200 professionals from 19 industries, and conducted workshops to explore issues around workplaces, buildings and cities—confirmed that the workplace is definitely here to stay.
Human beings want to communicate with other human beings. People will come to work for the experience and for human connection. The more we get sucked into the cloud computing and the digital world, the more we crave for human connection.
With that being said, technology adoption is still very important in the workplace and, unfortunately, it is a problem all over the world. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that sometimes the challenge is not in adapting to technology. It’s in the people—they feel threatened by technology. While changes to staff culture and how people perceive technology won’t happen overnight, it will happen progressively—as long as we focus on creating a community.
So, how do we prepare both our workforce and workplace for the future? I would suggest starting with the following ideas.
Preparing your workforce
Enhance the workplace experience: Leading corporates offer a range of nonfinancial perks to attract top talent, putting “user experience” at the forefront of their workplace strategy. Offices with generous food and beverage provisions, kitted out with gyms, games and recreation spaces, are becoming increasingly common as firms compete for top talent. Giving employees choice and flexibility over where they work is becoming a top priority. Consider fitting out your offices with a greater variety of spaces to work in and giving staff the best gadgets to work from.
Experiment with pro-working: Allocate just half a floor of your space to be shared business space. Start by inviting your clients or suppliers to use the space and then extend the opportunity from there. If it is successful you can work out a model that helps fund the coworking space, although the business benefits are likely to strongly outweigh any costs.
Bring authenticity into the workplace: To forge deeper human experiences and create connections to the space, organization and peers, consider offering activities that are technology-free in the workplace. This could be as simple as board gaming sessions or guided meditations.
Leverage on Internet of Things: With the explosion in the number of devices connected to the internet, it’s important to monitor the data and usage patterns of employees to understand what drives productivity, collaboration and individual work performance. Such insight can then allow you to tailor the workplace to your people.
Encourage entrepreneurship: Coworking is already establishing itself as an exciting alternative to corporate office environments. Corporations are also seeing the benefit of inviting startups and lean, agile businesses to work alongside their own staff to provide innovation, energy and shared IP. Consider setting aside some common or underutilized space for coworking to spur engagement and innovation.
Prepare the workplace
Reassess flexibility: Over the past 10 years, we have untethered workers from their desk. Explore how you can further enhance flexibility via the decentralization of your office from one head office into various hubs in key employment locations. This could be done with other complementary businesses, so the cost is not borne by one organization. Workplaces must become more modular and suitable for cost-effective redesign—companies can achieve this by renting, rather than buying, more of their office furniture so that refits and redeployments can occur more frequently.
Boost your environmental indicators: Measure the quality of air, natural light, environmental toxins, and understand how you can improve these through smart building management. Communicate the results back to your workforce, and commit to ongoing measurement and improvement.
Incorporate a digital funding model into the asset plan: Digital enablement costs money. New IT and experiences are ever-evolving, so for buildings to keep the digital experience current, realistic budgets must be allocated.
Bring the outside in: Think about how you can incorporate more natural resources, such as running water, natural rock and stone, trees and nature paths, into common areas.
Prepare to go smart: Partner with a provider that can make your assets “smart” via surveillance, monitoring, metering and even robotics.
Consider a complete sensory experience: We know that smell, sound, sight and touch can all have a huge impact on experience. Look at opportunities to provide your users with a unique experience, and don’t underestimate the power of smell and sound in evoking an emotive feeling toward a building.
Experiment with robots: Accessibility to robots is increasing every day. Experiment with robots in the workplace, such as replacing wayfinding, with a friendly robot to point people in the right direction, using one to educate staff in place of online training or even getting a robot receptionist, such as JLL’s “JiLL.”
Interested to find out more about Future of Work? Learn more about our outlook on the changing world of work here.