It’s not headline-making news that the way people work has changed dramatically over the past decade. But with changing demographics — including more millennials entering the workforce — and the rise of disruptive technologies such as mobility, cloud and BYOD, traditional workspaces don’t always cut it.
That’s why more companies are considering the benefits of next-generation workspaces that don’t keep employees tethered to their cubicle.
Does that mean traditional offices are disappearing? No. There are plenty of reasons why businesses place value on more traditional work environments, such as face-to-face interactions and organizational flow. And, in some companies (or departments), workers are content in a cubicle with a desktop PC and phone.
But for jobs that require collaboration, teamwork and creative thinking, cubicle walls can become claustrophobic. Indeed, work isn’t a place people go, it’s something they do.
Fortune 1,000 companies around the globe have been revamping their workspaces around the fact that employees are already mobile, according to Global Workplace Analytics, which reports that these employees are typically not at their desk 50 to 60 per cent of the time.
“The same forces that have shifted the barriers to remote work — the ubiquity of Wi-Fi networks and high-speed cellular service, the move from boxy desktop computers to sleek laptops and tablets, and the migration from traditional landlines to mobile phones — are also changing the way we work within our office walls,” according to The Economist Intelligence Unit in its report, “Untethered Employees: The evolution of a wireless workplace.”
Mobile solutions, cloud-based apps and ubiquitous wireless can help companies make better use of physical space while integrating technologies that allow workers to connect to the tools they need, in and out of the office.
Here are three benefits of a connected workspace:
A one-size-fits-all workspace doesn’t accommodate the way people work in today’s more collaborative environments; a flexible work environment supports and empowers employees where, when and how they want to work.
But a more flexible workspace isn’t just about tearing down cubicle walls and rearranging desks and chairs. Rather, it’s creating the means to support flexible work styles, including increased employee mobility, flexible work programs and contingent workers, through new types of physical workspaces (such as shared desks) with enhanced productivity tools, including the ability to use personal devices at work through BYOD workplace policies.
These new physical workspaces are often described as connected or next-generation workspaces, which integrate hardware — such as digital displays, cameras, microphones and speakers — with advanced communications solutions and networking infrastructure. They can be designed to support different work styles or specific work functions; they can even be connected to intelligent building systems to better understand how the workspaces are being utilized to potentially reduce energy costs.
Plus, workplace flexibility is becoming an important tool in finding and retaining talent. Cisco’s 2014 Connected World Technology Report found that workers value flexibility above almost any other factor — only after salary. Sixty-six per cent of millennials surveyed said they felt an organization that adopts a flexible, mobile, and remote work model has a competitive advantage over one that requires employees to be in the office from 9-5.
Four decades of experience and research indicates that an optimal physical environment can serve as a foundation for an effective workforce, according to Gensler co-CEO Diane Hoskins in an article in Harvard Business Review.
“An emerging suite of literature and research — including our 2013 Workplace Survey — clearly points to the power of choice and autonomy to drive not only employee happiness, but also motivation and performance,” writes the co-CEO of design and architectural firm Gensler. “We found that knowledge workers whose companies allow them to help decide when, where and how they work were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, performed better and viewed their company as more innovative than competitors that didn’t offer such choices.”
Some of the biggest — and most measurable — productivity gains come in areas such as customer problem resolution, development of sales proposals or marketing campaigns, and product launches, according to Ted Schadler, vice-president and principal analyst with Forrester Research.
A connected workspace involves integrating contacts, messaging, voice, video, file sharing, content management, web conferencing and social enterprise apps, providing everything an employee needs to communicate and collaborate in real time — without having to switch from system to system or app to app. And BYOD allows employees to use the tools they’re most comfortable with to get the job done.
Connected tools and technologies can be integrated into various workspaces, from virtual desktop clients that support contingent workers to personal video units that support private meetings. Employees can connect to their colleagues, partners, suppliers or even customers — in person, across distances or on the go — allowing them to collaborate, access expertise and attend virtual meetings anytime, anywhere.
There are other benefits to collaboration, too. According to research conducted by Deloitte Access Economics and Deloitte Digital, employees who collaborate are 10 times more likely to be satisfied with their job, and three-quarters of the 1,000 employees and managers surveyed acknowledging that collaboration improves the quality of their work.
While connected workspaces increase flexibility, productivity, and collaboration, there are also potential savings from reduced travel, real estate and energy costs. There could also be ‘soft’ savings, in terms of better staff retention and higher output. These days, connected workspaces aren’t just a nice-to-have; they’re becoming critical to the functioning of a modern workforce — bringing space and technology together for competitive advantage.