Thanks to technology and the rise of the highly skilled knowledge worker, telecommuting has advanced in recent years to there many workers see the world as their office. They are increasingly moving fluidly between offices in different cities, between client sites and every airport, hotel, coffee shop and Uber in between, ultimately taking the opportunity to work from a place of choice that is more convenient to their personal life when their schedule permits.
This doesn’t mean that the corporate office buildings will go by the wayside. Workers may visit less frequently but when they do, they will expect to collaborate with co-workers for intense, uninterrupted periods during which certain projects must get done. To meet those demands and to encourage that degree of face-to-face interaction, employers must create spaces that cultivate the creative output of high-skilled workers and make them feel valued and productive while they’re there. That means providing employees a greater feeling of welcome and belonging, and a real chance to engage with the culture of the organization.
Part of this involves basic amenities that are becoming commodities in modern workspaces, such as easy access to food and beverages, tech-enabled meeting spaces, huddle rooms and other amenities that maximize productivity. But it’s also the little things that provide a seamless experience for any employee who walks through the door: no-wait security features like biometrics for easy building access, and intuitive technology that helps find restrooms and provides Wi-Fi passwords. This will allow building owners to concentrate on higher-end amenities such as concierge-style services and access to an adjacent health club or wellness center.
Similarly, as more employees are decentralized from corportae building—whether they’re traveling or are remote employees untethered from any centralized location—the likelihood they’ll need to find a familiar, appealing space to be productive will increase, and will push the boundaries of what an office is. CBRE predicts productive flex spaces will continue to proliferate near fitness centers, malls, urban cores and client sites, and will become a key offering under this new work model. In effect, new spaces will appeal to workers because they’ll make them feel less like a guest and more like a member when moving between locations.
This “just-in-time” real estate model means companies and workers may choose to work at one of thousands of locations worldwide on a full-time, part-time or a pay-as-you-go basis. And that means people will pay only for what they need, when they need it. As such, companies that are reimagining their spaces must also invest in technology to keep track of these moving parts. This intelligence will help organisations better understand what portion of their portfolios is best suited for long-term committed space and what portion is flexible, just-in-time space, all the while providing a sense of place for their employees. Many companies already are optimising their space usage through the deployment of internet-enabled sensors in lights and cameras throughout the workplace.
In the future, those tools increasingly can be utilised to make qualitative evaluations and recommendations - often through the use of artificial intelligence - such as noting that one team is more productive and experiences fewer sickndays when working remotely. Or another team performs better in a collaborative space equipped with good ergonomics and natural light. The work-from-anywhere trend is also showing up in the housing market.
Providing flexibility in where and how people work is a trend that will continue to grow through employee demands. There are a variety of macro trends that will impact how people work, including the proliferation of technology-enabled connectivity and collaboration, as well as the introduction of self-driving vehicles. Over the next 10 years, employees will further demand the ability to work from a variety of locations, including at home, an office environment, in transit and more. Companies would be wise to not view workplaces in a binary capacity—home or the office. They should provide employees with a portfolio of technology-enabled solutions and locations to work where and how they choose.
For new residential construction, the home office is igniting design obsession akin to the chef’s kitchen. While it’s true some homebuyers simply desire a comfortable sofa where they can commune with their laptops, others want a defined room with a pleasant backdrop for video conferencing, an interior door that closes and—at the high end—an exterior door that opens to the garden terrace. Even small apartments, where every square foot counts, are being built with alcoves that serve as dedicated work stations.