Spotlight: Workplace Trends
The work we do and the way we do it has always been evolutionary, but only in the last century has the future of work accelerated at such an exponential pace. Agrarian ways bowed to the manufacturing metropolis that, in turn, spawned the information age, with knowledge as king. The pen gave itself up to the typewriter only to be outdone by microcomputers soon to be overcome by nanotechnology. And the manpower that once wielded a rail-splitter yielded to white shirts and ties that collapsed in a heap one casual Friday at a time.
Today, two-thirds of all knowledge work is done outside corporate environs: 30% corporate facilities, 35% at home, and 35% somewhere in between. Large corporations specializing in knowledge work that remain concentrated in a single, expansive headquarters environment are expected to quickly move to the 30/35/35 work distribution model.
The redistributed work model will significantly impact developers, builders, and property management companies that provide concentrated workspaces to large corporations. Building owners will need to revisit conventional leasing strategies, bending and shaping them to ensure their viability in a highly flexible and increasingly fluctuating workplace environment. Interior design specialists with a keen sensitivity to the underlying psychology of the workplace will play a prominent role in optimizing available workspaces to suit the needs of the redistributed work model.
Employers will be eager to find ways to both diversify and consolidate work forces to fit the 30/35/35 work distribution model. They’ll need corporate and in-between facilities in which to house a distributed work force and a business plan that establishes employee benchmarks suited to a more free-form work environment.
The Future of Work program, the brainchild of Work Design Collaborative cofounders and workplace experts, Drs. Charles Grantham and James Ware, estimates that as much as one-third of the existing commercial office real estate market will disappear over the next three years. To help building owners and employers benefit from this unprecedented change, Grantham and Ware have developed a workplace strategy that focuses squarely on the area between the corporate office and home offices.
Grantham and Ware envision once-large corporate facilities downsizing rapidly in a shift to free-agency relationships with their employees. Workplaces and workforces will be established where the appropriate talent resides globally. A collaborative workplace environment will prevail, with audio/video communication connecting the various workplaces. Further, a four-day workweek will concentrate productivity, while long weekends foster improved quality of life for workers.
The New Workplace Strategy
Grantham and Ware believe that the in-between workplace facilities provide huge opportunities for corporations as well as developers, builders, and property management companies to revitalize their commercial leasing operations over the next five years.
They call these ideal in-between workplaces Business Community CenterSM (BCC), a kind of modular hotel for shared office, meeting, and open workspaces that can be configured or reconfigured at will to suit employers and individual users. These new workplaces would be available via short-term leases, advance reservations, or on a drop-in basis. IT services (including broadband internet) would be a core feature with computer and office equipment, hardware, software, furniture, administrative help, and more, available á la carte. Additionally, a BCC would optimize the hallmarks of a productive workplace — spatial equity, healthfulness, flexibility, comfort, technical connectivity, reliability, and a sense of place — to the organizations that occupy the facility.
Employers seeking an in-between workplace would do well to adopt this strategy as a way to improve employee productivity. In addition to being an efficient and effective vehicle for distributing the company workforce to where it’s most needed, the modular nature of the BCC concept would help employers lower operating costs significantly by shifting fixed costs to variable costs.
Reel Grobman & Associates is a leading-edge design firm that provides a full spectrum of architecture and interior design services. The firm focuses on designing workplaces that enable organizations to foster successful business strategies which satisfy the mission, values, and culture of owners and occupants alike—today, and in the future.