FMJ workplace trends 2020
Workplace strategy
5 min read

Tech trends creating the workplace of the future

This feature on ‘Tech Trends Creating the Workplace of the Future‘ – by our CEO John T. Anderson – was published in FMJ’s January/February 2020 issue.

Business and culture trends are redefining the way we work, paving the way for more sustainable, adaptable and productive workplaces that influence behavior. In turn, technology is emerging to enable this transformation, bringing new capabilities to facilities managers and occupants in 2020 and beyond.

To attract talent, unleash the potential of their people and build sustainable business models in a fast-changing marketplace, organizations are under pressure to continuously improve and innovate.

In his famous Theory of Human Motivation (1943), psychologist Abraham Maslow revealed an approach to eliciting peak performance, at both an individual and organizational level. He described how humans can focus on just one level of need at any given time. First, basic needs must be taken care of, such as food, water, warmth, rest and safety. Then the focus switches to psychological needs, such as relationships and feelings of accomplishment. Once these psychological needs are met, people can focus on self-actualization: achieving their potential.

Applying Maslow’s pyramid to the workplace, FM focus has moved beyond the satisfaction of basic needs like lighting, HVAC and security, toward supporting high-level corporate objectives around innovation, collaboration and productivity.

Agile working: the new normal

To achieve these corporate objectives and meet the rising expectations of all stakeholders – from CEOs, suppliers and partners, to customers and workers – agile working arrangements are fast becoming the new normal.

Many organizations are implementing hot-desking as a first step, optimizing the ratio of employees to desks, to reduce their real estate costs and carbon footprint.

According to IWG’s Global Workplace Survey, 62 percent of businesses world-wide have a flexible workspace policy and 67 percent of business leaders believe flexibility can improve productivity by at least 20 percent.

The survey also found that 80 percent of people, when faced with two similar employment offers, would turn down the one that didn’t offer flexible working. As the war for talent rages, organizations are striving to embrace new working practices that offer greater choice in when, where and how work gets done, particularly when it comes to attracting and developing top talent.

According to psychology researchers Frank L. Schmidt and Michael K. Judiesch, an employee in the top 1 percent of performers in terms of productivity, is worth 12 of those in the bottom 1 percent; and for high-complexity jobs, the differential is so large that it cannot be quantified.

Evidence is mounting that these talented workers expect greater autonomy and a slicker workplace experience than ever before. FMs have a fundamental role to play in creating these conditions from which peak performance emerges. This is made possible by adopting new processes and tools, including predictive analytics driven by machine learning, smart space utilization platforms and consumer-grade mobile functionality.

Beyond flexibility: autonomy is key to improved productivity

In 2020 onward, more organizations will leverage these technologies to shift beyond flexible and work-from-home options, to offer a work anywhere environment. This focus on employee choice is critical. In addition to providing a superior employee experience that strengthens their employer brand, it helps organizations achieve corporate objectives around profit, sustainability, innovation, well-being and productivity.

Yet not all workers will chose to fly off to the Bahamas and work from the beach – and even those who do, may not want to do it all the time. Many value the office as a place where they can do their best work, build relationships and learn from others. Ultimately, some people prefer to work from the office, some prefer to work elsewhere and others choose to strike a balance, popping in and out when it suits them.

Researchers at Stanford University conducted a two-year study at China’s largest travel agency that revealed a dramatic 22 percent increase in productivity from telecommuting, equivalent to a full day’s work each week, while employee attrition went down by 50 percent. At the same time, less travel resulted in a lower carbon footprint and a reduction in headquarter office space that saved almost $2,000 per employee.

“Go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.” – Steve Jobs

Interestingly, when workers were given a choice about where they wanted to work, performance gains were twice as high as when they were told to work from the office or from home.

The positive correlation between worker autonomy and productivity was also revealed by researchers at Harvard Business School when they studied the impact of implementing liberal work from anywhere arrangements at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Productivity increased by 4.4 percent versus traditional work-from-home policies, while revenue increased, office costs were slashed and hiring costs were reduced. Improved productivity meant fewer new hires were needed to complete the work. Workers boosted their earning power by moving to less expensive regions, and at the same time, decreased carbon emissions through fewer office commutes.

A new era of choice

The workplace of the future is all about choice, a place where autonomous workers choose to be, when it suits them.

Since the modern workplace is competing with alternative workspaces, FMs must provide a stimulating and fit-for-purpose experience in the office that enables people to work productively, collaborate effectively, build relationships and learn new skills – in short, give them an outstanding experience that they can’t get elsewhere.

A popular strategy in 2020 and beyond is activity-based working (ABW), a subset of agile working which provides people with a choice of workspaces designed for a specific type of activity, e.g. comfortable bean-bag areas for discussions, huddle rooms, collaborative spaces with interactive whiteboards, or pods for quiet concentration.

According to a report by Kinnarps, almost 70 percent of employees say working in an ABW environment gives them more energy, helps them achieve better results and is more stimulating.

British utilities company National Grid certainly found this to be the case when they achieved an 8 percent increase in overall productivity and a reduction in operation costs of £8-10 million per year as a result of implementing ABW.

Smart space utilization tools

To minimize costs and optimize the workplace environment for different types of work, such as brainstorming or focused research, FMs must arm themselves with accurate, real-time data on space utilization.

Assessing which spaces are being over-used or under-used forms the foundation of an action plan, while giving facilities managers a way to measure what is and is not working.

To read continue reading the full article – that covers strategic seating, eliminating wasted space, consumer-grade mobile apps, AI & predictive analytics and more – head over to FMJ.

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Jane Young

Jane Young

Last updated February 11, 2020