A lot of emphasis has of late been placed on the quality of the working environment as an essential component of the overall quality and strength of the workplace. Just as shopping habits are influenced and shaped by technology and popular culture, so is office space – whether some decision makers admit it or not. Considering that the workplace is where we spend most of our time, it is quite an amazing fact of present-day reality that a business can be a generation behind in the development and transformation of office environment after just 10 years of implementing only minor changes. Therefore, most innovation-driven companies have been spearheading innovation in office environment – whether it be at the office or building level.
To highlight the importance of staying aligned with the pace of global flux, agile became a common tag applied to the modern work environment. Working 9 to 5 is gradually becoming a thing of the past. People across generations want to have choice and flexibility. Cloud-based servers and IP-based telephones were the first step to such an untethered culture, allowing employees to work remotely from any device at any location, and for multiple users to work on documents simultaneously. In today’s global, hyper-connected market, people want an environment where they can thrive, looking for a career with challenges and opportunities to develop professionally. An agile office environment therefore focuses on providing unlimited flexibility for work and mobility inside the built environment, using modern and efficient technology individually or in teams.
Modern office space among forward-looking primarily business advisory, IT, advertising and architectural companies, as well as common areas in business centers in developed international business centers, have as of late taken on the look and function of hotel lobbies. CBRE’s 2012 slogan of ‘less me space, more we space’ received a lot of spin between 2012 and now, with workstation space taking an ever smaller portion of the office, and the so-called common function areas becoming the focal part of the office environment. Whereas idea sharing was the original drive to creating more open layouts, these open areas that combine meeting and eating space take care of employees’ social needs. It is achieved by providing not only the feel good factor but also understanding that the company is shifting its focus from well-being of primarily management only to the well-being of each individual – whether it is the C-suite executives or their personal assistants.
Not only are these sophisticated environments aesthetically pleasing, they are also good for workers’ mental health, as they reduce stress and increase engagement. Solutions such as adding greenery, water installations or producing white noise effects are some of the rather costly but very appealing ways of creating a tranquil ambiance in the office. Such desire to improve productivity have resulted in more holistic approaches to employee health and wellness through, for example, office WELL certifications, which raise the bar for healthy office technologies globally.
An on-site or company provided wellness center, a plentiful food service with endless complimentary coffee and ever more elaborate snacks, a concierge service that takes care of multiple sundry chores, quiet rooms and nap pods, childcare rooms, and even workstation-integrated treadmills are some of the elements of a life connected work environment.
Therefore, the essence of a connected and healthy office is not only to provide the office with the “wow” or “cool” effect – it is essential to provide the key component of a strong business platform in staff retention. It is a well-known fact that staff turnover is the single most detrimental negative influence on an organization. And with each passing year, staff retention will be an ever more challenging task. There is already a significant disconnect between the older generation corporate real estate decision-makers with the new generation office space occupiers – primarily Generation Y or the so-called millennials.
It is no secret that millennials are projected to constitute 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 (Source: The Deloitte Millennial Survey). Hence their interests and habits cannot be ignored when designing modern office environment – whether it is a bank, a legal firm, a pharmaceutical company or a commodity trader. It’s not just that money alone cannot compensate for an uninspiring office environment – the traditional partitioned office layout has also become disconnected from the modern connected reality.
Therefore, if an organization wants to entice, and more importantly, to retain the most high-caliber new generation talent, it should aim to provide these prospective employees with the most attractive, innovative and connected workplaces.