There has been a lot of focus recently on the shorter term, more immediate changes that workplaces have needed to put in place to start to return their employees to the workplace.
We can’t predict how much of an impact the pandemic may have longer-term, but nearly all signs are leading to an acceleration of the “future” workplace. With this in mind, and looking beyond the more immediate changes that have been implemented, we can start to consider other aspects of the future workplace that businesses can start planning for.
Here are some of the areas that will have a significant change and require a fair investment to bring workplaces into the future.
Expect more from our buildings
Creating Healthy buildings will be a focus. Think biometric hardware sensor-operated temperature scanners, more gesture responsive hardware and building management systems for monitoring ventilation and air quality requirements. We also predict we’ll see a return to operable winders as a way of letting in more fresh air.
More consideration will also go into the material choices, with preferences being placed on surfaces that are easy to clean and can repel germs through anti-microbial systems. There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the healthcare sector in regards to materials and surfaces, however, we maintain that there needs to be a balance between creating a healthy workplace versus one that’s completely sterile in look and feel!
There is a set of standards designed to advance health and well-being in buildings
The International WELL Building Institute has developed the world's first rating system that focuses exclusively on the impacts of buildings on human health and wellness. This has been around for some time - but is even more applicable now.
The WELL V2 Standards incorporate several concepts and principles about advancing health and well-being in buildings. This goes beyond traditional “physical” elements of buildings and looks at concepts such as nourishment, the mind, community and innovations within the workplace setting.
It’s a great place to find more information. Head to www.wellcertified.com to take a look at the 11 concepts and how you might be able to start incorporating these into your workplace strategy.
There will be more investment in smart technology
We'll likely see an increase in sensor and voice activation systems for contactless operation – think of what the Alexa’s and Siri’s of the world are offering in our home environment and incorporating this into workplace activities.
Workplace management software and sensory systems will also become more prominent. The great thing about these systems the data they can provide to help guide decisions around how our workplace is being used. They can monitor traffic flow and movement utilisation to understand what parts of our building are more activated than others. Not only can this minimise the risk of transmission of viruses but it will take the guesswork out of decisions around how we can best optimise spaces.
Wellness strategies will be high on the agenda
Organisations will be looking for additional opportunities to empower their employees to be healthy and well, with more consideration as to how the workplace is creating a healthy environment. This will be not just at a physical level, but through nourishment, and emotional and mental wellness (these concepts are covered by the WELL standards we mentioned above).
From a physical perspective organisations will be asking more questions about; how is the workplace creating movement, what spaces are available for physical activity during the workday and how are we nourishing our employees?
Emotionally and mentally; creating an environment that supports a healthy mental state can have significant psychological and physical benefits, both directly and indirectly. Greater emphasis will be placed on initiatives such as mindfulness and wellness education, programs to support individuals and their families, encouraging healthy sleep patterns, increasing biophilia in the workplace (just to name a few).
From a design perspective, there is a lot of research around the psychological impact of having an aesthetically pleasing physical space – it’s more than just making things look beautiful, there is science behind how a well-designed physical space can positively impact mood and morale.
Some other predictions on the horizon...
Beyond the building and technology, there are likely to be other changes on the purpose and functionality of a workplace. All of these come back to asking the question “what is the true purpose of our workplace, what are employees coming here to do?”
The Hub and Spoke model may become more of the norm, or even using coworking spaces more regularly. This means have a centralised office, usually in the CBD area, then having satellite offices in more urban areas, meaning people only have to travel locally (rather than enduring a long commute). This will allow employees to make better lifestyle choices, and open up a wider talent pool for employers.
Workplaces will take on more impermanent designs fit for agility and adaptability. The premise around this is so we can reconfigure the layout easily and move things around so we can expand and we can contract to support the various changing needs of the organization
This might be a controversial one in today’s environment, however, we believe that hot-desking isn't dead! If there are fewer employees in the office each workday, there will be a lot of redundant space if organisations stick to one desk per person and it’s just not feasible.
Which leads us to our next point...
Consider your workplace environment as an asset
Often workplaces sit on the liability line in the P&L, but they are in fact an asset. They are a space that can help us generate productivity, which then helps create profit.
Let’s start reframing our thinking around what the purpose of our workplace is there for. Rather than seeing it as an expense consider is as an asset that can help us create better outcomes and bring our people together so that they can work more collaboratively and collectively.
Now is a great time to create your workplace strategy
Organisations have many “strategies” about different aspect of their business, but rarely a robust workplace strategy.
If you don’t have a workplace strategy in place, you’re not the only one. If you’re not sure where to start, that’s ok too!
Like with most things, the first thing to do is start to gather data to understand your current state and once you know where you’re starting from, you can start to plan what you want your future workplace to incorporate. The reality is, that designing your future workplace is not an inexpensive exercise, but if we reframe how we think of workplaces, it’s much easier to demonstrate what the return on investment will be.