By Janet Thomas The office environment of today is very different from the office environment of 10 years ago and will continue to evolve over the next ten years. What is behind the transition and how should corporations adapt for it? A recent study ‘From Conventional to Collaborative’ conducted by Herman Miller Performance Environments revealed the following:
- Private offices sit empty 75% of the time.
- Traditional workstations sit empty 60% of the time.
- Large Conference rooms are rarely filled to capacity, four out five seats sit empty.
- 30% of an individual’s work was collaborative in 1985; by 2010 80% of work was collaborative.
The study states that the transition is driven in four key areas:
- Complexity of tasks requiring input from more than one specialist. Highly specialized knowledge workers need to blend their skills with others to produce complex results.
- Speed of technology drives demands for outputs to be delivered in shorter time frames. Teaming is often the best way to meet the demand of time.
- Insight or the wisdom of a pack outweighs the performance of the individual in a new axiom of “more heads are better than one.”
- Mobility created by Technology has freed knowledge workers to seek out different environments. The office is not just a place to work it is a space for collaboration.
Rob Larsen and Shawn Rush in ‘A Generation Ahead: Strategic Real Estate planning Guide for Tomorrow’s Work Force’ identify additional drivers that impact real estate strategic plans:
- Changing Demographics in the Workplace brings together four generations of workers; the baby Boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y and the Millennials. Conventional is structured towards Baby Boomer expectations yet needs to acknowledge the younger generations.
- Productivity is the goal for knowledge workers and optimizing the work environment speeds economies of outcomes.
- Talent shortcomings will outlast the recession. Traditional work environments will not draw younger up and coming talent.
- Alignment of Space, Demographics and Corporate Culture will fulfill multi-generational expectations with flexible workspace that supports collaboration.
Corporations looking to maximize the efficiency of the workforce and real estate investments will need to upgrade their facilities for the future. Elements that support the trends include:
- Reduction of closed offices and large conference rooms. Mobility and flexibility require spaces that are unassigned or are bookable ‘just in time’ for impromptu meetings or concentrative work.
- Introduction of informal meeting places of various sizes and configurations at a ratio of one for every seven to ten headcount. Most gathering places will fall into the range of one on one, two to four or six to eight people. Additionally, these are open or soft wall spaces, with white boards, technology for sharing data and ideas and are easily rearranged by the users. Place these throughout the workspace to encourage collaboration.
- Provide smaller enclosed spaces for confidential discussions.
- Provide a larger social area around a break area for larger group meetings in community space. Include a long communal table for larger groups to gather.
- Downsize and mobilize workstations. Minimize the number of assigned seats and hold the footprint to 6’ x 6’ or 6’ x 7’. Social and collaboration areas will provide touchdown spots when blended with mobile and hotel stations.
Taking down the walls will save on real estate costs, drive higher levels of collaboration and improve worker satisfaction and productivity across generations and time.