There is a convergence of issues developing that will lead to a highly flexible and collaborative workplace experience. Successfully achieving this involves a unique process that integrates IT, real estate, and HR teams.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Marquis, VP of Global Strategy, Marketing & Product Development for Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions (GWS). Johnson Controls is a leading provider of facilities, corporate real estate, and energy management for many of the world’s largest companies.
Our discussion centered on the dynamic changing workplace environment and how Johnson Controls GWS foresees the future workplace.
“What we are seeing is an increased need for collaboration and flexibility, and the solutions must focus on technology and the physical environment,” Mark said.
That focus on the physical environment also relates to utilization. In the United States today, the only 48 percent of desks are utilized by employees. This statistic is a barrier that represents a considerable excess cost for these corporations.
In addition, noise, lack of privacy, and limited dedicated concentration areas inhibit employees to deliver productive work. Due to these barriers being present, approximately 20 percent of time spent in the office is unproductive.
These are troubling, but perhaps not surprising; after all, specific areas of the workplace are necessary to support effective collaboration and varying work styles. These key areas – like heads-down quiet rooms and flexible collaboration areas – are responsive to behavior. Without them, workplaces continue to be models of inefficiency.
There is a need for quiet thinking space; we need to think before we can effectively collaborate. Work typically requires both. Many of the spaces designed in the recent past were very open cubicles. Post-occupancy research revealed that these spaces are not as productive as they can be. Distractions are prominent and productivity actually decreases.
Fortunately, Johnson Controls GWS is involved in research that focuses on the changing nature of work, technology, and collaboration.
Due to rapidly changing information, these issues/barriers cannot be solved through a traditional approach. In order to meet these challenges, the IT, HR and real estate teams must work closely to effectively ensure that the workplace is functional and meeting all the needs of those using the space.
“We can’t design brick-and-mortar real estate without considering the way that we work — and how we use technology” Marquis said. “Right now, we go to the office to collaborate. That means we find other areas, such as our homes, to perform the heads-down tasks.”
Placing an emphasis on collaboration spaces within the workplace poses considerable challenges for corporations and how they successfully enable them. These challenges often relate to the integration of technology. (As an aside, the sound kept dropping while Mark and I spoke by phone, an irony that further highlighted Mark’s point about needing a solid technology infrastructure to enable technology-based collaboration.)
Johnson Controls GWS has developed a prototype that they call the “eco-office of the future.” It’s a smart working environment shaped around a community; it provides a highly flexible and adaptable work environment that can support a variety of tasks.
The work environment of the future will require multiple types of collaboration and the technology to support it. It will also need to have open collaborative spaces and quiet concentration zones. People working with these teams will also be in a variety of locations and time zones, and they’ll communicate using a variety of devices. The space, the people, the tasks, and the technology all need to be integrated and flow seamlessly.
The research also realized that there is a shift to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where organizations need to support multiple devices and technological platforms.
The technology we use in our personal lives is changing more rapidly than the workplace. Home workers do not have the same level of support across the organization. This convergence of our personal lives and our work lives now demands equipment that can seamlessly span work and non-work.
The physical environment itself is becoming a technology platform. Global work happens across time zones, and when combined with our lifestyles, it further drives the notion that the 9-5 office is simply not realistic anymore.
“I communicate collaboratively and use tools and networks that extends the boundaries of the organization and beyond,” Mark said. “I come in the office and can continue to communicate with whomever I need to.”
Real estate professionals are the ones who must lead the charge into the future, but they need HR and IT experts to be at their side. The pace of change is increasing rapidly. Organizations that are working in relative silos will need to broaden their sphere of influence and build the specific agenda for success. They must leverage their relationships to articulate the value that real estate brings that has a positive impact on the core business goals.
We are in a very exciting time. And through the convergence of technology and collaboration of real estate, HR, and IT, tremendous potential can be realized for the future workplace.