The modern workplace of today bears little resemblance to the modern workplace of 50 years ago. Just think about the mid-day booze-swilling, male-dominated, Mad Man-era office setting compared to today’s increasingly diverse, kombucha-sipping, dog-friendly open spaces. Some changes have evolved slowly like workplace diversity and others have cropped up seemingly overnight like gourmet coffee bars and company kick ball leagues.
We’ve written a lot about the environment of today’s modern workplace, but as you strive to keep your company attractive and competitive today, it’s critical to plan for what’s going to make it shine in the future. The last thing you want to do is invest in a full-scale office remodel, only to find what you consider modern today is outdated thinking five years from now. Making those predictions may seem like an exercise in futility which office worker in the 1970s would dream that ping-pong tables would replace conference room tables and cubicles would relegated to the depths of office hell? That’s why we’ve put together a guide for planning for the office of the future.
When considering the future of your work place, think about the environment you hope to create the same way you think about the broader environment of the world around you. What do you hope for the future of your country, city, or community? What mattered most to you five years ago? What matters to you now? What will matter to you in 10 years? Bring those lessons, aspirations, and passions into your company.
Tip #1: Create adaptable workspaces
It’s no question that those cubicles that became so ubiquitous in the 70s and 80s (and still just won’t seem to die in some places) are today consider a rather wretched place to work all day. But that doesn’t mean breaking down every wall for a totally open office concept is the perfect solution for everyone. While there are plenty of proven benefits to a more open office environment such as more access to natural light, increased productivity, and better emotional and physical health employees still need access to an array of types of spaces for different types of work and different types of workers.
In addition to larger conference rooms, your office should include a variety of huddle rooms, phone booths, and focus rooms to cater to activity-based working. This empowers employees to decamp from their desks and find the space the works best for them and their current activity. That could be anything from making a phone call, brainstorming with teammates, or simply finding a quiet, private space to bang out some work uninterrupted. Employees who have access to various types of spaces report higher rates of overall satisfaction and productivity. With a variety of space available, your office will have something for everyone, now and in the future.
Tip #2: Embrace flexibility
According to a recent study by Edelman Intelligence, freelancing is the fastest growing segment of the American workforce. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2027, the majority of U.S. workers will be freelancers. Workers are shunning the traditional 9 to 5 office job in search of a highly flexible, remote professional environment. For companies who want to keep their top talent, the ability to work remotely and flexibly is no longer seen as an uncommon benefit; it’s a necessity.
Designing an adaptable work place such as the one I described above is the first step in creating the type of flexible environment workers are craving. But don’t let the flexibility stop at design. Empower employees to work remotely and at the hours that fit their working style, and you’ll find not only does productivity and creativity increase, but also overall employee happiness. Some may start their day earlier, when they feel most motivated. Others might be night owls who get a later start but prefer to tap the keyboard late into the evening hours. Still others might start at 9, but take an extended lunch break to go for a run, catch a yoga class, or run an errand before getting back to their desk to work a bit later, refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
Tip #3: Emphasize work-life balance
Work-life balance goes hand-in-hand with flexibility. Foster a culture that makes it easy for employees to feel that they can make time for an unexpected doctors’ appointment, childcare needs, or family time without feeling stressed or guilty once they get back to the office. In addition, your office environment should encourage the interests, activities, and passions your employees have outside of their professional lives.
Whether employees are training for a marathon, taking a cooking class, or simply heading home to spend time with family and read a book, promote an atmosphere that celebrates large and small accomplishments (and everyday life) that have nothing to do with quarterly earnings or the new product launch. This type of environment shows that you value your employees and engenders loyalty to your company in a time when the typical worker only stays at his or her job for an average of just over four years before moving on. This offers long-term cost savings for companies who don’t have to worry about the emotional and financial repercussions of worker churn.
Tip #4: Embrace new technology
Imagine being the last company to adopt email. I don’t need to remind you that the business world moves at a furious pace. There are so many new and emerging tools and technologies to ensure you’re not left in the dark. These technologies make life easier for your employees in the same way that email made communication immediate. Tools such as Slack, Dropbox, and Trello make it pain free for employees to stay connected to each other and their projects no matter where they are, and require minimal investment on your part to implement throughout the organization.
Additionally, technologies that make office life generally more pleasant, such as motion-activated lighting and climate control, indoor wayfinding, and other benefits of the ever-evolving Internet of Things only continue to improve the modern office and will go even further in the future workplace. You never know what the next email is going to be; have an open mind as technology continues to evolve into previously unconsidered places.
Tip #5: Eliminate tedious tasks
In the same way technology is making the office environment more inviting, so is it making work life easier by eliminating the most tedious tasks. Take, for example, meeting management. The average office employee spends over five hours each week sitting in meetings and over four hours preparing for them. Meeting prep includes everything from finding a suitable meeting space, booking the space, tracking down and reserving the in-room technology and equipment needed, ordering catering and refreshments, and handling guests as they arrive for the meeting.
Fortunately, today’s meeting management software takes the frustration out of the meeting booking and handling process, makes catering a breeze, and automatically takes care of visitors when they arrive at your office. With the right platform, everything can be handled with a few clicks directly from users’ smartphones or calendars, saving them hours of time each week.
Investing in a robust timesaving platform such as this signals to your employees that you truly value their professional contributions and would prefer to maximize the time they spend working on what really matters. It also offers substantial cost savings over time. Eliminating the millions of hours wasted, productivity lost, and resources squandered in mismanaged meetings can save U.S. businesses of the future approximately $3.7 billion a year.
Tip #6: Empower employees with data
The modern office doesn’t make decisions based off of gut feelings. Companies today have seen the value in collecting and analyzing their data to benchmark performance, track competition, and plan more effective campaigns. Companies of the future will turn inward and pay closer attention to their own behavior to better optimize their working days.
Tracking employee movement and behavior helps tell the story of your office and offers insight into how you can more effectively create spaces that employees love to work in, are environmentally friendly, and ultimate save the business money. Tools such as AskCody Insights track and analyze key metrics around meetings, such as attendees, types of meeting, occupancy, and reservation no-shows. Sharing this data in user-friendly dashboards democratizes data, promotes transparency, and empowers employees to make decisions based on hard data.
Tip #7: Encourage new leadership roles
Now more than ever, the future of world leadership is poised to tip the scales of diversity. Make sure your workplace doesn’t fall behind in representing the faces of the real world. Establish professional mentorship programs that promote women, minorities, and employees with diverse social and economic backgrounds.
Purposefully creating a seat at the table for a diverse array of qualified minds, experiences, and backgrounds will bring fresh, new perspectives to every company decision. Consider the population of today and what will matter to them in the future.
Tip #8: Support community engagement
Your company’s external reputation matters to your employees and your customers. Consider ways your company can be a corporate steward with service opportunities and other options for employees to get involved with the community where they work. Yearly days of service are nice, but find ways to be a lasting influence in the neighborhoods where many of your employees may live, work, and play. Become regular volunteers at a community kitchen. Offer resume-building workshops for local residents. Partner with a school to offer after-school mentoring. You never know where your next intern with the next great idea is going to come from.
In addition to establishing good civic stewardship, this is just one more way to strengthen the corporate mission, encourage employee bonding, and increase loyalty. The workplace of the future is an active participant in its community.
Tip #9: Stand up for employee needs
Chances are, the local community isn’t the only group that needs your support. Competitive companies of the future are building a safety net for their employees today. At a time when the pulling of a lever in an election booth can change a family’s entire sense of security, you should strive to create a professional environment that cares for the whole employee.
Establish company protocols, benefits, and policies that protect your employees of every level, and that won’t disappear in an uncertain political climate. This takes quite a bit of a financial investment for companies, so start investing today so you can offer stronger benefits in the future. An investment in great maternity/paternity, healthcare, childcare, and other benefits is an investment in your employees. Consider the entirety of the person you expect to show up every day and perform their best for you.
Tips #10: Have a core set of beliefs
Employees and consumers are more invested than ever in the type of brands they spend their money on or show up for every day. At the lightening-speed that scandals are uncovered and news travels, a company can be exposed and financially crippled in the blink of an eye. A soda company that pollutes its local water resources? Nope. A makeup company that tests on animals? Forget about it. A coffee company that advertises on a controversial news site? Oh boy.
But don’t just be a company that doesn’t do bad deeds, be a brand that stands up for what you believe in. Carefully consider your advertisement placements, partnerships, and investments. It doesn’t take much for a seemingly innocuous company to suddenly find itself in the middle of a firestorm. Companies today are preparing for the future by assembling a trusted team that can quickly mobilize to represent company interests and stay ahead of the curve of potential bad news. Your employees will be proud to stand behind a company that stands up for what it believes in.
More than ever before, creating a competitive workplace of the future means looking inward and determining what kind of environment you want to create in today’s world and the world of the future. Your employees should be your first consideration when determining new tools, technology, and policies. A strong, happy, loyal workforce is going to increase overall productivity and company profitability. Start thinking today about where you can start designing for the future.