Design-wise, the modern office has undergone a seismic shift over the past generation.
Instead of cubicles and coveted corner offices, the modern workplace is an expanse of foosball tables, dogs, and mid-century-inspired desks stretched as far as the eye can see across wide-open spaces.
But beyond these radical design updates, the modern workplace has also evolved in a variety of other ways. From culture to technology, today we’re going to dive into how both the nature of work and how it’s being done has changed considerably in recent decades—and what you can do to keep up.
What Culture Looks Like in the Modern Workplace
The Industrial Revolution forever changed work in the early 1800s. The advent of factories, mechanization, and assembly lines called for employees to arrive at a set time and work in teams.
It’s funny how history comes back around, though. Teamwork is, of course, still valued in the workplace and always will and should be. That said, nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century, the working world is starting to look a little more like it did before the Industrial Revolution back in the late 1700s—with individuals increasingly working remotely and on their own schedules.
The ability to work remotely and on your own schedule is no longer seen as an uncommon perk. It’s the new norm in the modern workplace.
In fact, the majority of workers (including those over the age of 55!) who were polled for a 2016 CareerBuilder survey said they considered 9-to-5 jobs a thing of the past.
Millennials, those used to participating in the modern “gig economy,” and plenty of other enlightened workers of all ages are finally free to work with their natural rhythms—and flexible employers are reaping the benefits when it comes to productivity and loyalty.
Even when they’re at the office, employees are experiencing greater freedom to move around.
As companies work to perfect the open office concept, there has been a rise in diverse working spaces like huddle rooms, booths for phone calls, and focus rooms that are compact, informal, and distraction-free.
It’s all part of activity-based working, a philosophy that empowers employees to find the space that works best for them and their current task. The philosophy gets results, with employees reporting higher satisfaction and productivity. In fact, activity-based working may increase productivity by as much as 25 percent!
Work on Any Smart Device
Part of the reason that work can be done anytime and anywhere is the evolution of technology.
Workers no longer need to be chained to desks. Thanks to computers (specifically laptops), smartphones, and the mobile web; today’s office can be set up anytime, anyplace, and at a moment’s notice. On nearly any device these days, workers can do everything from clock in to file assignments to receive training.
Per Deloitte’s report that 70 percent of workers don’t sit behind a desk everyday, it’s easy to see that working remotely, in the field, or just from one of a company’s diverse work spaces isn’t the exception but the norm!
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
The overarching characteristic of the modern workplace is that one size does not fit all. The manager or business owner who wants to keep their office cutting-edge will do everything they can to embrace this fact and strive to provide a great employee experience.
Technical Characteristics Shared by Modern Workplaces
So much of the modern workplace revolves around the preponderance of technological developments—the most important of which we’ll dive into below.
The Workforce is Mobile
An office no longer has to unite the vast majority of a workforce. Today, we get work done over a Slack channel, a project management platform, or even just shared documents via Google.
Technology helps bind the mobile workforce, which is defined as “a group of employees who are scattered across various physical locations and are connected by computers, smartphones, and other devices via the global internet.”
So many companies make use of mobile workforces these days that CNBC found in 2018 that 70 percent of employees work remotely at least one day per week.
Cloud Usage is Prevalent
Chances are, your company is participating in cloud technology in one way or another. Whether it’s using a SaaS solution like Salesforce to keep better records of clients than a 1960s Rolodex or deemphasizing on-premises data storage in favor a solution like Amazon Web Services, businesses have become increasingly trusting of accessing a variety of web services off-site.
The benefits of cloud usage include lower costs, greater storage capabilities, and data backup in the event of a natural disaster at the office.
New-Age Security is a Must
The rise in popularity of IOT, or the Internet of Things in which a web of smart devices are connected to the internet and each other, presents a corresponding need for security.
This is primarily because, as Forbes recently noted, “ … the connected devices commonly use tiny processors for embedded functions. While these processors are cost-effective and efficient, these devices do not have the necessary computing and memory power to incorporate the current security solutions to be resilient.”
In essence, any IOT device can be a ticking time bomb for a company network—so modern workplaces must be on the top of their game when it comes to security current and future connected devices.
In addition, intelligent security in the workplace is also about taking a somewhat dualistic approach. Networks need to be secure enough that they aren’t vulnerable to hacking, but they should also be accessible enough for employees to easily get into them to do their work.
Digitized Businesses Will Pull Ahead of Competitors
A McKinsey report in February 2018 spoke of digitization as the third-wave for boosting workplace productivity—but there is still a ways to go.
“We have found that digitization has not yet reached scale, with a majority of the economy still not digitized,” the report stated. “The McKinsey Global Institute has calculated that Europe overall operates at only 12 percent of digital potential, and the United States at 18 percent, with large sectors lagging in both.”
Smart companies can look to buck this trend and pull ahead of their competition by digitizing human resources literature, performance and human capital management systems, and much more.
4 best Practices for Modernizing Your Workplace
Now that we understand the cultural and technical realities of the modern workplace, here are four tactics companies can implement to bring out the best in their employees.
1. Encourage Alternative Presentation Methods
Long gone are the days of having a young employee stand at the front of a corporate boardroom presenting charts and graphs to seated executives. Gone, even, are the days of employees creating verbose PowerPoint presentations.
Today’s presentations tend to be interactive and visual-based. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai noted at a 2017 conference that he eschews bullet points: "Since stories are best told with pictures, bullet points and text-heavy slides are increasingly avoided at Google.”
2. Restructure Performance Reviews
A harsh, punitive culture has gone out of fashion in the working world, and we say good riddance to rigid, annual performance reviews with it!
Instead, a modern workplace should focus on cultivating an environment of passion, inclusivity, and new ideas. Company leaders should be approachable, transparent, and know how to offer feedback to employees where appropriate and as it’s needed. In fact, these “as needed,” informal check-ins have increased in recent years—growing from 42 percent in 2016 to 50 percent in 2017.
Reviews also go both ways these days. It’s a good idea to take quarterly or biannual surveys on employee happiness to see what’s working and what’s not. It’s impossible to customize every aspect of the modern office to every individual employee, but regular demonstrations that you care is the first step in increasing and sustaining employee satisfaction.
3. Communicate and Collaborate
The modern office prioritizes setting aside time for team meetings—either virtual or in person—to build relationships, conduct organized brainstorming and results reporting, and encourage collaboration.
Planned meetings also have a two-fold benefit for different kinds of workers. They break independent workers out of their “headphone zones” and signal to those who might regularly “pop in” to others’ offices that there is a more appropriate time and place for collaboration.
Avoid wasting the four hours that the average office worker spends prepping for meetings each week with meeting management software that enables users to quickly find meeting rooms and other spaces, book them directly from a smart device or digital display right outside the meeting space, handle guest registration, and even secure resources and catering!
4. Emphasize Work-Life Balance
This is what so much of the modern workplace comes down to. Making it easy to take time for unexpected doctors’ appointments, childcare needs, and family time will help employees feel happier, healthier, and significantly more productive.
Thanks to email, cell phones, and social media platforms, employees are more available than they’ve ever been. But there are limits to how connected employers should be with their staff. Employees, after all, need time to separate from work and recharge on their days off so that they can return fresh and prepared for new tasks.
Workers who feel valued as whole beings are also more likely to stay at a company longer. This offers long-term cost savings and reduces worker churn common in so many of today’s industries.
Now that you have a better grasp on how the workplace has changed substantially when it comes to technology and culture—go out there and create a competitive, modern workplace.
And while you’re at it, download our free ebook to learn how to do so with more efficient meetings, better resource usage, and overall better business productivity.