Future Work

How to Change the Office for the Future of Work

I will discuss the PHYSICAL changes that offices should undergo, not just to attract but, more importantly, to retain employees and keep them motivated.

Welcome to
Future Work

Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.

Not a member yet? Join over 10,000 people-centric managers and subscribe here.

Rather listen? The spoken version will be available tomorrow on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

If you know me, you know that I spend every minute (that I'm not in meetings or on TikTok) reading the latest research and news about the future of work. I'll share what I've learned as a quick newsletter from this week onwards.

This week: the office of the future.

The Great Resignation has sparked new debates about the ways we work. What can corporations do to entice their employees to return to the office now that they have found the comfort of their living rooms can also be rather productive?

In today's newsletter, I will discuss the PHYSICAL changes that offices should undergo, not just to attract but, more importantly, to retain employees and keep them motivated.

WHY is the office changing?

Throughout history, the office has taken many forms, from factory-like office floors in the early 20th century to cubicle-heavy workplaces up until more recently. Now, hot desking and open-floor plans symbolic of Silicon Valley technology startups dominate.

However, a few recent factors have changed how people think about their work. And as a result, how companies must adapt to those changing needs.

In Bloomberg News, Architect Martin Henn offers a few explanations. Firstly, as the world's leading economies move from manufacturing to knowledge-based industries, physical brick-and-mortar workplaces are less relevant. Modern employees can think, write, and even collaborate from anywhere.

Secondly, as the world went through 2 long years of COVID-19, employees were given a chance to explore the option of "working from home." They have embraced such an unprecedented opportunity, finding productivity from the comfort of their living rooms.

Office Changing of Future Work
Work from Anywhere. Image: HBR

Working from home also led to the final and most important factor: as people have had more time to reflect while taking shelter from COVID-19, they are increasingly rethinking the purpose and meaning of their work.

Without urgent intervention and appropriate changes to adapt, corporations will lose employees. How can companies tackle this issue by rethinking the office?

HOW should the office change?

There are a few suggestions from experts that can answer this question. First of all, according to Henn, we should redefine what it means for companies to be "High Performance."

Long gone are the days when employees must devote all their energy and time to their work, as research confirms that longer hours do not necessarily equate to better results.

As work is slowly becoming more employee-centric, offices should be more like Swiss Army Knives to cater to the employees' various specific needs.

Office Changing of Future Work
An adaptable office space, from M Moser Associates.

Rob Blair, Global Workplace Manager at TravelPerk, agreed in a recent interview with Chantal Wirekoh from office-data startup Density.

His company conducted an internal personality test using scales such as "Collaborative work vs. Individual work" and "Quiet vs. Loud" and managed to identify 30 different "work personas."

Narrowing the results down to 7 primary "personas," his team created various optimal environments in his new office building, a process Henn calls "adaptable interior arrangements."

Technology continues to rise in importance.

Just like many other aspects of modern life, technology also plays an integral role in this new process of making offices more worker-focused.

Henn suggests the combination of both digital and physical infrastructure to turn office buildings into workshops for co-creation and collaboration.

Office Changing of Future Work
The Edge's control panel. The building has a dedicated mobile app for its 'users' to control it.

In his vision, we should build fully responsive office buildings with built-in interactive elements such as sensors and screens where you can control the heat, the air, and the light while still being able to come up with new business initiatives and solicit input.

The Edge in my hometown Amsterdam is such a building, designed for user personalization from the ground up, and exemplar of great hybrid office design. Spaces aren't dedicated but bookable, with solutions like desk booking software.

Such ideal office spaces will remove the boundaries between back and front offices and allow employees to make decisions about their practical needs and personal well-being as they transition smoothly between in-person and at-home work.

Phil Kirschner from McKinsey & Company agrees and shared that "the future demands offices configured in new ways to support diverse, flexible, and tech-enabled workforces."

Coming up

In the next issue, I will focus on how we can promote connection between employees – even when we're not in the office together.

Until that time,

Daan

Welcome to
Future Work

Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.

Not a member yet? Join over 10,000 people-centric managers and subscribe here.

Rather listen? The spoken version will be available tomorrow on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

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