Laura Gayle looks at some ways to integrate technology, culture, and design to maximize your office.
For many, the word “office” evokes a vision of neatly organized desks and chairs, possibly fitted into cubicles, each uniformly adorned with standard business equipment and amenities. That was the reality for most office workers employed at the end of the last century. However, for those just entering the workforce and born at the turn of the century, the office reality is transforming into quite a different landscape and mentality.
Across various industries, there is a shift in the nature of work taking place — and in the worker doing it. Technology can be attributed as the catalyst of much of the change, although some shifts are more personal and represent an evolving societal viewpoint. As a result, employers are looking to alter their views on work spaces and amenities in order to remain competitive and relevant. These "smart" adjustments can be massive or minor, but are certainly making a difference in the quality of employee output, overall efficiency, and ultimately, company bottom lines. Let's examine some of these changes, and you can see for yourself how they might apply to your business or industry.
It’s a given that modern businesses will utilize technology in numerous capacities, but as this immersive tool begins to mature, the true benefits of tech become more apparent. Not only will devices and information transfer continue to become more powerful and efficient, but they also will become more intuitive.
Machine learning allows technology to understand its users more fully and personally, adjusting to individual needs, routines, and methods of working. As the machines get to know you better, they create more streamlined pathways and integrated problem-solving initiatives. Technology becomes more of a partner and less of a passive tool, and productivity goes up.
With a younger workforce comes a more internet-oriented set of employees. Social media is a driving force in the lives of many of your new and future workers. Socialization and interpersonal connectivity are rooted in much of their usage time, in addition to commerce, current news and learning, and entertainment.
In fact, devices hold the attention and trust of these users so completely that they’re feeding their pets remotely and calculating taxes via smartphone. With this kind of savvy at your company’s fingertips, it would be foolish not to incorporate apps, social media, and web-based communication platforms into your business model. If your workers can communicate and cooperate more fully using these tools, then why not?
Ease of Connectivity
With an emphasis on offering greater ease and availability with communication and connectivity, some offices and companies are installing highly sophisticated audio and video capture, relay, and replay systems. Workers are given quicker access to video conferencing systems, can operate conference calls from personal devices or laptops, and are seeing smart tech systems beginning to readily respond to voice commands. Much of this technology is still in its trial stages, as new tech is constantly emerging, but the ideas are in place and the seeds of future change have been sewn.
Technology for companies is also regularly employed to automatically monitor facility operations and functions, allowing businesses to cut costs in a plethora of ways, including:
- Motion sensors for illumination: Lights come on in a room only when people are present.
- Room controls for heating and A/C: Spaces are only climate-controlled when needed.
- Room usage data: Companies can manage their existing spaces more thoroughly and accurately predict how growth will affect their future needs.
These incremental steps can garner big returns on energy consumption and the company bottom line. Over the years, the money saved can potentially pay for the upgrades.
As wireless Internet connection speeds increase, the options for working remotely expand and become more viable. Consequently, more offices and their occupants are finding that traditional floor plan models are no longer so conducive for modern workflow and worker needs.
Collaboration and community spaces are tenets of a younger workforce — one in which work and ideas are shared and conquered through group organization, and aren't strictly the responsibility of a singular fixed position or person. Large common spaces, open floor plans, conference rooms available for hourly rent or reservation, and a general sense of choice among the workforce can work as powerful tools to build and foster a worker community within your organization.
Additionally, numerous types of software programs can arrange virtual floor plans, predict usage and energy needs, and allow employees to have a stronger stake in the space they inhabit daily.
Every generation has found their share of causes and movements to rally behind. For millennials and Gen Z workers, social justice and environmental issues hold great importance. The connectivity of the Internet has helped more specific causes and initiatives come to light.
Workers want to know that they can make a difference and that the company they work for understands and (at least partially) supports their desire to be proactive in the world. Company support of programs, which improve our quality of life or work for the betterment of society and the Earth, even at a fractional amount, can have a great impact on worker loyalty and fulfillment. Even workers' paychecks are subject to involvement, as many younger workers don't mind their tax dollars being allocated for meaningful and worthwhile programs.
Freedom of Choice
Overall, the central workplace themes for many younger workers today are control and choice. Where they sit or work, how they collaborate, the amount of energy used and the carbon footprint they leave, and connection to their passions are all part of the new picture of a modern workforce.
Some among the “old guard” may see these concerns as precious or trivial, but considering the vast information and options available today, it isn't too hard to understand how and why individuals seek to carve their own personalized niches. Nor is it hard to see why companies that understand and align with these needs usually receive the most attention from job-seekers — and often the best workers.