What will the workplace of today look like in the future?
Work trends have evolved dramatically over the past few decades with a recent report by PricewaterhouseCooper estimating that in the decade between 1990-2000, the majority of the workforce was employed in roles whose titles only existed after 1990. However, workplaces have failed to adapt to the changing face of the workforce, particularly within the world of SMEs where real estate is a premium and cash flow often tight.
Here are five ways the office will change in the next five years and how business owners can adapt to keep up with the ever changing pace at work:
1) Openness and transparency will be key
The Millennials who are beginning to populate the workforce are the generation of caring and sharing – having shared their lives to date on social media, blogs and vlogs. In fact, in a recent study, it was found that 52% of Generation Z’s and Generation Y’s state that honesty is the most important quality for being a good leader. They will demand an environment of openness and transparency within their working lives that they are used to in their personal lives. There will be no management offices or ‘us’ and ‘them’ spaces. Teams will sit according to projects and there will be a change in ethos of ‘mine’ to ‘ours’. This will be of massive benefit to small businesses who can decrease individual spaces to shared spaces and increase user-to-workstation ratios, saving space and money.
2) Inviting customers and suppliers into the workplace
This level of transparency will transcend past just employees and embrace customers and suppliers. Those forward thinking management teams who invite their suppliers and customers into their office space, to sit alongside their teams and consult on their brand’s evolution, will be winners in the long-term. Larger corporates are already doing this through Customer Experience Centres, a physical space where customers and influencers can dismantle brands and shape them according to future issues and trends. In SMEs, where space might be a premium, this will be achieved through sharing workspace or virtually inviting them into your meetings and discussions.
3) Focus on the core
Consolidation of key skills will become more important as companies compete against technological advances and an open marketplace facilitated by the internet. This will lead to many companies outsourcing non-core functions such as HR, accounts and administrative tasks within their organisations to keep their costs down and allow them to focus on their core proposition.
4) The nine to five is dead
The office will be where teams join together but work will happen all around, driven by desirables and outcomes rather than fixed time and effort. Millennials are already taking up management positions in the office, and Generation Z are due to populate the workforce by the end of the decade – and they’re likely to view life and work as one. The office will become a place to meet colleagues, to discuss, and to debate. This means that workspaces will adapt – with more collaborative areas and places where project teams can meet. Again for business owners this means thinking cleverly about smaller spaces and investing in an architect or design company to help make the space as productive as possible.
5) Workspace will be project led rather than function led
As the nature of work changes – becoming more agile and faster, teams will need to be more flexible in where they sit and work – often changing workstations regularly to join project teams rather than staying within their functional areas.
A good workplace design can support this way of working by providing flexible areas where teams can create their own space with functional elements that help teams come together quickly to work through issues. However, although of benefit for the teams, this can create an issue for HR with disparate teams, raising the question of how managers manage people and their development. Do firms need to look to matrix management structures that are employed by many of the professional organisations?
There is no doubt that working life is changing beyond recognition and with it comes both benefits and challenges. Those who embrace and adapt will be the ones to recruit and retain both employees and customers alike.