We are where we are. By that I mean, the space we occupy changes us for the time that we occupy it. We all have seen evidence of this. I am sure almost everyone has a vivid memory brought on by a unique space, be it mountaintop, cathedral or driver seat. While this seems like an obvious observation, it has only been recently applied to our work lives.
Offices have evolved, mind you. Open factory floors became offices, which turned into cubicles which turned back into open layouts. But, in lock step with the increasing speed of technological innovation, workplaces and the cultures that they create will increasingly see changes.
“Technology has and will change the workplace culture over the next 5 years faster than it has over the last 20.” says Jonathan Schultz, co-founder of Onyx Equities and author of his influential CRE blog. He has noticed the change in the way his tenants think about office space. This is backed by some hard data as well. Global studies like this one by the Steelcase research group show that engaged employees are more satisfied and productive. Workplace environment is a major factor in employee engagement.
Interestingly, the study points out that at the heart of engagement is the idea of freedom. The most highly engaged employees have greater flexibility to make choices about where and how they work. No one likes the feeling of being stuck at a desk, even if it is a tastefully designed, ergonomic one. Jonathan relates this to the an overarching societal trend towards freedom and mobility, “People want to be more mobile in not only their personal lives but in their business lives as well. The space of the future will bring that feeling to the workplace and that will create a much more collaborative happy environment.”
Think about it. We can’t even imagine waiting on a corner for a taxi or waiting until prime time to watch our favorite shows. Amazon two day delivery seemed magical at first, now I am disappointed if my purchase doesn’t qualify for the 1 hour turnaround.
The work world has many examples of this progression towards increased freedom. Forward thinking companies don’t have “offices” but instead have “campuses”, which like their academic counterparts have a variety of places to work that range from coffee shops to conference rooms to picnic blankets. Co-working offers even more flexibility as workers have the option not only to work in different environments, but different cities all together.
Designing today’s workplaces means predicting the desires of the workforce of the future. Studies like this by Deloitte show that millennials are not loyal to their jobs (read: value freedom) and prefer to work for companies that they believe in. The generation after millennials, Gen Z, have similar attitudes toward freedom and belonging according to this study by Randstad.
Corporate offices, facilities managers and office designers are adapting to this shift. New work spaces are open, communal and have technology that allows occupants to choose how and where they work. Amenities that used to be paramount to a Class A office space like marbled lobbies and large corner offices no longer hold the same value (or any at all). With the current snowball of technological innovation and the societal changes that comes from it, building managers and owners must increasingly be aware of the trends that are shaping demand. The more people realize how their physical surroundings affect their personal well being, the more desirable well designed workplaces will be.