Changing Workforce Demands Workspace Transformation
Today’s workforce is undergoing profound changes. Baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer and plan to retire later than any other previous generation. A 2015 Gallup poll reported that 37% of non-retired Americans said they don’t expect to stop working until after age 65.That is up considerably from the 14% who said this in 1995. Couple that with millennials who are accustomed to flexibility, openness, and instant connectivity that are taking over a lion’s share of jobs. By 2020 these digital native, hyper-connected millennials will make up 50% of the workforce and 75% by 2025, according to public policy research firm Brookings Institution.
Workspaces Fuel Collaboration and Innovation
The changing workforce demands workspace transformation. Rows of cubicles and walls of office doors are no longer the norm for corporate environments.
Open spaces with a neighborhood feel that provide opportunities for employee collaboration and connection are surfacing. These open spaces can also provide a means for staff--from interns to executive levels--to see each other while they work as well as give easy access to the C-suite like never before.
Yet, tearing down all walls and just creating an open space isn’t enough. Properly designed spaces that consider the needs of the entire staff and enable collaborative work without sacrificing the ability to concentrate are essential. A report from professional services firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) asserts that “two of the biggest sources of dissatisfaction in (poorly designed) open offices are distractions and lack of privacy. JLL’s report suggests that to address these issues open space designs should include curved walls which reduce sight lines and minimize distractions, along with glass walls that let natural light in but keep noise out.
Since knowledge workers are performing various and often complex tasks, they need more flexibility than a single all-purpose workstation can provide. Activity settings or purpose-built areas for specific activities that are available to all employees can improve productivity and fuel innovation. These options may include formal and informal meeting rooms, huddle rooms, project rooms, social areas, quiet zones and private spots for telephone calls.
Spaces that Accommodate Different Work Styles, Personal Preferences and Tasks
Because of the onslaught of people working remotely, more unassigned or touchdown space for individuals who spend most of their days out of the office is vital. Additionally, organizations need flexibility to offer space for employees who might be visiting from another floor, building or campus.
One concept on the rise is co-working space which is similar to home- or ride-sharing, but with office space. The model has grown beyond its early stages as communities of entrepreneurs working alongside each other, sharing desks, coffee machines and often ideas, to becoming an industry onto itself. These co-working spaces are altering how office leasing works. Businesses that are looking for the flexibility of a short term lease or have employees that travel or predominately work remotely but on occasion require the structure and community of an office space are adopting this form of shared physical space and workplace community.
The age discrepancies in today’s workforce are challenging when creating workspace designs. What do younger workers actually want? According to the JLL report, “Millennial workers are selective about their employers, wanting more connectivity, autonomy and purpose in their careers than previous generations. And older employees (for which many offices were designed) care least about what millennials want most—engagement”.
Craig Knight, a British organizational psychologist concluded in his research that, empowered offices — in which workers can choose their conditions — can increase productivity on cognitive tasks by 25% or more.
Impact on Commercial Real Estate
Commercial real estate professionals are tasked with developing creative workplace environments that please cross-generational workforces, drive collaboration, and help attract and retain top talent. Healthier and greener buildings focused on reduced energy usage and costs are also increasingly valued.
For example, according to the World Green Building Council, in a survey of 200 Canadian building owners, 38% of those who reported increased value said healthy buildings were worth at least 7% more than normal ones, 46% said they were easier to lease, and 28% said they commanded premium rents. Furthermore, Green Biz’s Green Building Market and Impact Report details how Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings are demonstrating increased recruitment and retention rates and increased productivity benefits for employers.
In order to keep buildings occupied, owners will need to cater to the needs and wants of this new workforce.
Lighting for This Changing Workspace Will Be Essential
As walls come down and natural light is spread across space, traditional lighting designs are becoming obsolete. Smart lighting provides the opportunity to leverage daylight while further improving productivity and occupant comfort in these modern workspace environments. Connected lighting is mandatory for personalized lighting and the flexibility to quickly accommodate changing workspaces and leasing structures.