The office of tomorrow is here today

Thanks to technology, employees can now choose when and where they want to work. A 2016 report by US software giant, Citrix said that already by this year some 50% of businesses would have a mobile working policy, and by 2020, 70% of people will work away from the office as often as they worked at a desk.

For those employees that choose to go into the office, hot desking has becoming the norm. Yes, there is no doubt that working habits have changed and, with that, so must the way that we plan and use office space. Certainly the big corner office with a view is fast becoming a thing of the past and these days even senior executives can be found hot desking in open plan workspaces.

A mobile workforce has several advantages for businesses, most of which outweigh the traditional convenience of being able to pop down the passage and discuss a problem with a colleague, or catch up on office gossip around the water cooler.

First and foremost, today’s employees want a better work life balance. That doesn’t mean they necessarily want to work less, but that they want to work smarter. Consider the benefit for a working mother being able to spend the afternoon doing homework with her children and then settle back down to work after she’s tucked them in? Simply put, the theory is that the happier your employees are, the more productive they will be; and, allowing them freedom of choice and flexibility makes them happier.

Then there are also the cost benefits. Office space is becoming increasingly expensive and a well-planned mobile workforce needs fewer desks, with the commensurate saving in rentals, maintenance and running costs.

But that doesn’t mean that offices will disappear altogether, rather that office spaces will increasingly be transformed into more productive and creative, albeit smaller, spaces. Upping the ante on creativity means providing areas that stimulate creative thinking and boost employee enjoyment of their work space when they do choose to come into the office.

A BBC article that looks at the evolution of the traditional office, includes the example of Lego, which “has taken hot-desking to the next level at its London and Singapore offices, introducing a system called activity-based working, which means that no-one has a fixed desk any more”.

At Lego, space is divided into flexible work zones with no fixed seating and no offices for managers. Employees who leave their workspace for more than one-and-a-half hours need to take all their stuff with them.

According to a senior director at Lego, the changes have worked well: 88% of staff said they “liked the choice of where to work. They get a choice of different settings to suit their activity or mood, including a quiet library, a buzzing social area with background music, comfy chairs in cosy corners or big banks of desks to share with team-mates”.

So, as more and more companies get to grips with the fact that not everyone needs to be in the office all the time, expect the space around you to start changing…for the better.

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.