Challenges companies must overcome to prepare their office for the demands of the future and how best to achieve this.
What will the workplace of the future look like?
The impact that the corona pandemic is having on the workplace of the future is a major concern for many companies. According to a survey, 80% of companies believe that working from home will remain an important part of everyday working life even after the pandemic.
Despite the lack of separation between work and personal matters felt by 50% of respondents when working from home, two-thirds want to continue to maintain a formal flexible working model.
It follows that companies need to consider changing the way they deal with offices.
Even before the pandemic, many offices and workplace/area concepts showed considerable optimization potential. At that time, 88% of office space was used in the traditional way (with a predetermined workspace), and only 12% with flexible workspace and mobile working.
The utilization of the workstations averaged around 50 to 60%. Which in turn showed considerable potential for change.
Generations Y and Z in particular are striving for a flexible working model that not only gives them a varied workplace in the office, but also the freedom to work from home and work their preferences. This trend has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and it has become important for companies to increase understanding of workforce needs.
Work: How work is changing
Work is currently undergoing major change, driven primarily by the automation of processes and the pandemic. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, around half of the world’s jobs will be filled by machines by 2025.
As a result, international executives expect a 27% improvement in productivity.
In the next five years, 85 million jobs are expected to be eliminated from the global job market, while up to 100 million new positions with a different requirement profile may be created at the same time.
But is the workforce ready for these new jobs?
Workforce: How the workforce is changing
The change in work culture leads to an adjustment in the relationship between companies and employees. Traditional full-time jobs are becoming increasingly important in favor of flexible working relationships (outsourcing, freelancers, managed services, etc.). Companies must therefore adapt to the future requirements of the labor market. The new generation of workers is responding to these changes by setting different priorities in terms of career and self-realization on the job. Team work, salary and flexible working hours are particularly relevant for German employees. (Source: Indeed: Meaning of Work Report Germany, study, 2020, p.15;) In addition, 66% of companies in Germany plan to permanently establish mobile working or home offices.
Workplace: How offices are changing
The office of the future pays attention to user needs and efficient property management. Activity-oriented floor plans and desk sharing concepts allow a reduction in the area reserved per person of up to 20%, while at the same time increasing the quality of the area. The office adapts to the needs of the employees over the course of the day and deliberately stimulates creative collaboration through specially designed workshop and team areas as well as digital collaboration tools. In addition, intelligent technologies such as mobile office apps support employees in dealing with the office space and facility management in controlling service providers as needed. An intelligently networked building network, which includes sensors and smart meters, for example, also opens up the possibility of cost-effective and sustainable management of the basic functions of the building (eg occupancy, energy consumption).
The flexibility of the space enables companies to reduce the office space to the main locations and, if necessary, to supplement it with flexible co-working rooms. This creates an environment that encourages the exchange of ideas and innovation rather than focusing on mere execution. Every company needs to consider their own level of visionary thinking (see infographic). However, it is clear that the transformation of office space has been unstoppable since the beginning of the pandemic and that traditional workplace and space concepts must constantly be critically questioned.
Despite the difficult internal and external challenges that companies face when converting the traditional space concept, the question is how companies can best prepare for the perfect office of the future.
Seven key steps in transitioning to the workplace of the future
Set strategic goals and develop a vision.
Creation of a shared vision and definition of specific goals (e.g., a 25% increase in employee satisfaction and a 30% decrease in space costs) for a coordinated orientation.
Assess stakeholders, monitor office environment, examine costs and establish a starting point.
Stakeholders are analyzed to determine their involvement, existing space, operations and costs are reviewed to identify inefficiencies in the current space design (e.g., high operational costs, low utilization, outdated technology) and to determine the starting point.
Creation of job profiles, identification of future user groups and determination of requirements in a pleasant atmosphere.
Investigate how changes brought about by automation, flexible working models, remote working and future job profiles are affecting work today and in the future. In order to better understand what requirements users, place on a future workspace concept, new user profiles (e.g. “digital nomad” or “focused office user”) must be developed. The respective user profiles are evaluated with regard to their needs and suitable requirements are identified.
Derive guidelines to define the area concept and its possible applications.
The area concept is to be derived as a basis for the design and technical planning on the basis of guidelines and relevant use cases (“use cases”). Activity-based space concepts include, for example, various work zones that users can use flexibly as needed (e.g., for concentrated individual work or a meeting) over the course of the day.
Determine the properties for the office of the future.
In order to make the use of the areas as pleasant as possible, technologies can be used to support them. It is essential to communicate with the IT department about clear requirements and role allocations in relation to the new systems. Managers and employees must also be involved in changing the company/work culture. Well thought-out change management is required to overcome old structures and promote ongoing rethinking.
Calculate the economic benefits
Before switching to a new office/space concept, a company should calculate a comprehensive business case that takes into account the monetary return on investment (ROI) and qualitative aspects such as employee satisfaction and well-being. This can lead to a more productive way of working and thus a clear advantage for the users.
Planning the implementation
A precise implementation plan that defines the dependencies and responsibilities of each work package and each stakeholder (e.g., IT, construction, business representatives, facility management, management) should be accompanied by a comprehensive change and communication plan. Because not only the smooth operational implementation contributes to the success of the project, but also the acceptance of the later users.
The change in the office of the future is significant and should not be underestimated. In our experience, an integral perspective from the areas of HR, IT/technology and real estate specialization is essential for a successful transformation. When a piece of the puzzle is missing, the risk of failure is high, with detrimental repercussions for both employees and the company.