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The future of the officescape is shifting.

By Adriane Borden

As our professional lives are evolving, so too is our collective perception of what “work” means. Employers and employees are manifesting this cultural shift in our changing decisions and priorities.

As employees, we seek options that fit our individual lifestyle and lifestage, always aware that these will change as fast as we personally grow. We change jobs more often than previous generations — according to a BLS study, the average baby boomer will be looking for a job 11.7 times during his or her career, while millennials are moving to a new workplace on average every two years. The types of jobs we’re taking are evolving too, as technology takes over certain roles and income inequality within roles stretches. Every demographic group is realizing the importance of being in touch with the rest of the world, as we collectively grasp that our livelihoods today will be different tomorrow.

How is this trend coming to life today?

Photo credit: Pixabay

EMPLOYEES ARE STRUGGLING WITH CONSTANT STREAMS OF INPUT.

Work has become more dynamic, disruptive, and overwhelming. Thanks to the availability of mobile messaging and the technologies that permeate our work and home lives, employers are increasingly aware that their employees are more overwhelmed, yet less productive. We’re more digitally connected than ever; but according to Microsoft research, we have a shorter attention span (eight seconds) than a goldfish (nine seconds)!

Psychologist Matthew Davis, as detailed in the New Yorker, “reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation.”

So what? As job roles and company dynamics evolve, it’s becoming a priority to create working environments that people enjoy and that cater to the needs of different roles and personalities. Physical workplaces can reflect and encourage specific organizational cultures, leading to better-motivated employees.

Photo credit: Ryan Dell

HEALTHIER EMPLOYEES MEAN A HEALTHIER BOTTOM LINE.

It’s not part of our human DNA to be inactive. Sitting, staring at screens, breathing recycled air and being isolated from nature every day is taking its toll on our mental and physical health.

In an attempt to engage office space as a design challenge, Herman Miller created The Living Office, a holistic collection of tools, furnishings and services designed not only to increase engagement, but also to promote employees’ physical, emotional and social wellbeing in the workplace environment. In order to encourage movement throughout the day, manufacturers are creating seating solutions that enable users to be physically active while remaining productive. The Dotti stool from Izzy+ and the BuzziBalance stool from BuzziSpace are paving the way for this type of health-focused office furniture design.

So what? Companies will need to identify what level of intervention they want to pursue in order to improve their employees’ wellbeing and productivity. Big data will start to change the design of our workplaces. Already, hundreds of companies have embedded sensors in workspaces, lamps, cubicles, and computers to track the activities of workers. The Boston Consulting Group is even piloting a program where 100 volunteer employees’ badges are fitted with microphones and location sensors, in order to monitor how office layout impacts worker communication. Employers and employees will need to find an equilibrium for these interventions, which walk a tightrope between efficient and invasive.

SPACES SHOULD ADAPT TO THE WORK BEING DONE.

Larger corporations are starting to buy into the concept of community- and collaboration-oriented workspaces. Expect the market for these spaces to continue to expand rapidly. According to the Instant Group, “Flexible workspaces are becoming a part of corporate strategy. Large companies are utilizing flexible workspaces for project teams, specific business units, innovation labs, and M&A (merger & acquisition) integration.” And it’s not just corporations that see the value in collaboration.

In order to authentically integrate into their community, incubators and startups are choosing spaces and locations that vary from peculiar to authentic to fluid. Factoría Cultural is a start-up incubator located in a rehabbed historic slaughterhouse, central to its Madrid neighborhood. This space encourages “entrepreneurial blood, sweat and tears.” In Shanghai, Linehouse designed a flagship co-working space, WeWork Weihai Lu, in a historic opium factory; the cavernous, atrium-like building is now a hideaway for collaborative creatives. Spacious, a new startup based in New York (and soon to expand to LA, San Francisco and London), aims to transform restaurants that are otherwise empty and unused during the day into coworking spaces. Thanks to low overhead costs, Spacious is able to offer memberships at almost half the cost of traditional coworking spaces, and members get access to highly flexible workspaces depending on changing day-to-day needs.

So what? A new generation of workers expects innovative spaces to foster their innovative efforts, whether they’re employees of a major corporation or freelancers who thrive in the gig economy. To meet this expectation, new hybrid spaces are being developed to expand companies and serve consumer bases.

Main photo credit: homethods.com

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