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The Ever-Changing Workplace: Preparing for a New Wave of Employees

If you’re planning the design of your workplace for the next generation of workers, you might want to speed up that process. Workers who expect an experiential workplace are coming into the market quicker than many think—not in ten years, but closer to five years and in some cases two years. And for this generation, and let’s face it, any generation, the workplace matters more than ever before.

Reconfiguring for a disparate workforce

In today’s workplace, up to five generations work alongside each other, making a huge impact both on the culture and workplace. These workers include introverts and extroverts, Millennials, Baby Boomers, and those coming into their careers and almost exiting. This means workplaces will need to be reconfigured and planned with agility in mind, with different types of spaces for employees that work in very different ways. The challenge is designing spaces with a huge amount of variety and agility, knowing that groups today might work differently than groups five years from now, three years from now, and even ten years from then.

Next stop: The workplace and collaboration

Here’s the scene: wake up, get ready, eat breakfast, go to work. That was the workplace destination just a mere decade ago. When most readers think about the workplace as a destination, they typically think of an actual physical environment that provides a laptop, a phone, but without the ability to do the work anywhere but that office. That’s quickly changing.

The number one reason employees go to the workplace is the human connection: meeting with teammates, social interaction, connecting with the organization’s brand and culture, and feeling like a part of an organization.

Many organizations, including some of our own clients, have experimented with remote working, flex work schedules or letting employees work from elsewhere. Contrary to many beliefs (and myriad magazine articles) many employees don’t want to work from a noisy coffee shop or from home, they want to go to an office because it provides a wide variety of work styles, collaboration, and space—sometimes even fun spaces—to innovate with their colleagues.

Of course, there are times when people need the space to focus, but the magic happens when people come together to drive the organization forward in a workspace.

The details are (always) in the design

To make the workplace attractive you can’t skirt good design. It matters for two reasons. The first comes from the fact that the primary driver for an organization is to have more productive and more profitable operations. To accomplish this (the second reason) you need to attract and retain the best employees and keep them happy and prosperous.

We recently discussed with a client the topic of primary space versus flex space versus how much they wanted to stretch it. Based on how many collaborative and creative spaces they were planning on installing we asked if employees were going to have a wireless computer, if there was going to be wireless throughout the building, and if immediate access to video conferencing would be available. And that’s where good design comes in. Design is a thoughtful approach that helps drive the workplace in how it functions and works for employees that goes beyond video conferencing or wireless technology.

Promoting wellness at every step

If you don’t have a wellness program, chances are your competition does. It’s not a fad and it’s not going away.  According to a report from just three years ago, the PwC’ 2015 Health and Well-being Touchstone Survey, 73% of employers offer a wellness program. My guess is that figure is even higher now.

Design and the use of furniture can play a role, notably ergonomics, in wellness, such as sit-to-stand desks, fully adjustable task chairs and monitor arms, and accessible power. Some of the ways we approach how we design workplaces gives us the ability to affect some of that positive culture change or help enforce good behaviors that will help affect the wellbeing and health of employees.

One thing to remember is that many wellness changes can’t be made without the blessing of C-level executives. To get them on board, you need a champion within HR who can advocate for people. A senior-level HR person’s sole job is to support the employees and the people. Any challenges with the C-suite can help empower an HR person to help lead, guide, direct, and advise.

From making workspaces more comfortable and collaborative for all generations of workers, to using design to create a unique culture in the workplace, it will be interesting to see what changes are ahead in 2019. One thing is for certain, the workplace is more important for your next hire than the person you hired five years ago.

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