The workplace is changing, and unless you’ve been living under a rock (or just working from home) you’ve probably noticed. Fewer cubicles, better perks, even ping pong tables in some cases. Since the physical workplace is no longer mandatory, employers are making it more appealing to be there, and easier than ever to collaborate.
Technology companies are pioneers of this trend. They’ve challenged long-held expectations (for instance that everyone needs his or her own desk and that senior employees get window offices) and defined what the modern workplace looks like. Bean bags aside, their reasoning still stands:
But how do you differentiate between a passing fad and lasting feature? Are open floor plans good or bad? Is it better to work remotely or is collaborating in person more productive?
Workplace strategy is changing fast, but there are several current trends we expect to stand the test of time. These features consistently deliver on employee output and enjoyment, add value and can be customized for any company—no matter how traditional.
Open offices strive for more collaboration, but often miss the mark. Done correctly, a semi-open workspace creates a collaborative community of cross-functional workers. But collaboration shouldn’t come at the expense of concentration. To be effective, you must minimize distractions and maintain a sense of privacy. This can be done with half-walled work booths, a curved layout and glass partitions.
The best open offices account for different work styles. What kinds of work are performed on a regular basis? What type of setting would be best for each? Formal conference rooms, quiet space, private rooms, brainstorming areas? Some offices do away with individual workstations entirely and shift to a membership model. Either way, employees work better when they can choose a setting conducive to their needs.
No matter how well you plan, your needs are going to change. Your layout and furniture should be able to adapt with minimal effort and expense. Modular desks, movable partitions and furniture on casters are all flexible options that make adjustments easier.
Technology has evolved the workplace tremendously, but it’s important that it doesn’t interfere with productivity. Reliable connectivity and ample power outlets are absolute musts, yet many companies continue to fall short on these basics.
In addition to maintaining workflow, technology should enhance it—especially when you’re away from your desk. Better conference scheduling, remote file sharing and mobile adoption can encourage collaboration and minimize wasted time and effort.
Your physical space is critically important in setting the cultural tone. A company with a standard, corporate, “pleasant-but-bland” office environment has a tough time engaging employees and thus inspiring them to support its goals. You don’t have to plaster your logo on the walls, but a great workplace should feel like the company it’s home to and be aligned with core values.
Creating a sustainable office and one where employees are likely to do their best work are no longer separate activities. Instead of looking at the expense of green initiatives, companies are considering how their footprint affects employee experience. Sustainable office updates like improved acoustics, lighting, ergonomics and thermal comfort are not only cost-effective but also have a remarkable impact on the health and productivity of the people who work there.
Employees are evolving, and so are their expectations. Companies must deliver vibrant culture, design and technology while balancing the preferences of older workers. They’re bringing separate business functions together to find the best solution to space needs and talent woes. And with recent economic recovery, they can finally afford it.
Just be wary of fads. A customized strategy is what sets successful workplace projects apart from costly ones that don’t produce results. A workplace that’s tailored to its occupants is prepared for the ongoing and unpredictable changes in the way we work. That’s where you find the biggest returns.
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