From healthier, people-centric designed offices to increasingly flexible workspaces, Work Design Magazine’s very own, Bob Fox, shares seven workplace trend predictions he expects to see in 2018.
2018 has arrived and Work Design Magazine is looking forward to an exciting year ahead. Work Design publisher, Bob Fox spent the month of January talking to industry experts, clients, peers, and reviewing patterns in the market to round up his predictions for the biggest workplace trends in 2018. He has narrowed down the list to seven major trends, some with a few sub-categories, that he predicts will make an impact on the workplace this year.
We will be checking back in with more articles on the topic each quarter to see how accurate the predictions were and how/if they’re being executed in the workplace.
Be part of the conversation! Make sure to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below and to let us know if you think we’ve missed anything.
The Value of Healthy People (Wellbeing)
As the ‘war for talent’ continues to brew, CEOs’ and their company’s highest priorities are to attract the best talent possible. We’re going to see more organizations realize that they need to invest more in their people; it’s their biggest and most valuable asset. Innovation depends on people and a company is only as good as the talent it can attract and retain. Companies are already attempting to draw in the best employees with modern workspaces and top-tier amenities. While it’s not always immediately apparent, one of the most cost-effective solutions is creating a healthy work environment. We should all know by now that health is an important factor in optimizing performance at work. This is starting to be a higher priority in workplace design with ideas such as biophilic design, sit-stand desks, food & nourishment, wellness programs, increased physical movement, WELL certifications, and HR leadership taking a more active role in workplace design.
Communities Become Curated (The Community Manager)
The commercial office market is being disrupted and many developers and landlords are still struggling to differentiate themselves in a very crowded market and desperately trying to avoid commoditization. If you stop and think for a moment where there is real value for a tenant’s business, its improving their ability to connect with others, build relationships and generate new businesses. In its simplest form it’s the community, but to increase the efficiency of gaining that benefit it helps to focus on the right groups of businesses.
Traditionally the only real example of this has been a medical office building. Doctors refer business to other specialists often located in the same building. This concept is extending into other industries. Co-working spaces, naturally provide a form of curated communities. They create the loose connections and fringe businesses that stimulate new ideas, innovation, and new opportunities. The community manager plays a key role in facilitating these relationships and connecting people. Office buildings have always had property managers, who service the properties, now there are businesses, like Convene that provide the space, the amenities and the food, but more importantly serve as community managers. These spaces, increase collaboration and facilitate shared ideas between tenants, but they become an economic advantage for those businesses that are engaged. When people and businesses who share common industry relationships work together in close proximity, they can easily team up and refer business to others. A simple example of this idea would be a marketing agency who brings in a neighboring graphic design company for help with a client project or consultants in the real estate and architectural industry. The ability for neighboring companies to share new ideas will lead to innovation and create future value those buildings and environments that provide that will enable more business, increasing in value.
A project that comes to mind when I think of curated communities is the space Fox Architects created for OG Systems. The company uses a unique and sophisticated type of technology, so the type of talent they need is relatively limited. Therefore, their space was specifically designed to bring people in and build a community while also serving as a social/training/event sort of space. With such a large part of their business being about attracting talent, the spaces serves as a platform for them to engage in community and hold conversations to reach out to a limited unique area of expertise. The open plan space with ‘pub’ as the central feature, opens up to the second floor with a flexible seating area.
Flexible Workspace Gets More Flexible
Flexible alternatives to co-working, activity-based workspaces, unassigned seating, and ‘resimercial’ office design are rapidly increasing as the workplace increases the types of flexible work environments. In 2018, I believe we will start to see the workplace become even more flexible. As organizations evolve, new workspaces will need to allow for people to connect rapidly across all levels.
We are living in an environment where technology is rapidly increasing the speed and amount of knowledge we are confronted with. In order for businesses to better manage themselves, communicate, and share ideas, that information must flow outside of traditional hierarchal structures. Organizational structures are rapidly evolving, but the flow of information should not be inhibited. New workplaces are increasing in variety and types to accommodate a much broader range of function, and people are moving to the space that best supports their work. Many organizations are limited by the concept of Ownership of space, which runs deep in the culture. As that begins to erode, you will see an increasing amount and variety of options. If you’re interested in learning more about this concept, make sure to check out the book ‘Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World’ by General Stanley McChrystal.
When the Fox Architects team was was designing a new space for Brunswick, we had to consider the variety of types of work being done in their office. People needed to be able to meet in different types of spaces, for meetings that range from casual to formal. Employees also wanted have the option to be able to concentrate in quiet areas or collaborate in open areas. This resulted in a variety of options that offer increased flexibility.
Leadership Drives Culture
Organizations are created and driven by their vision, mission, and purpose and the leadership of an organization is vital in ensuring that these vision and mission goals are communicated clearly and aligned. Branded office spaces are popular tools to help communicate messages and strengthen their brands. We see the leadership of organizations use their workplace to reinforce and align that message and use the workplace to move their business forward. The space must ‘talk the talk’ and be consistent with the values and expectations of leadership. There are many great examples of visionary leaders using their space as a leadership tool, to see some, check out our CEO’s Talk Workplace Series.
A great example of a branded office is the project Fox Architects worked on for NEI. The space is themed around nuclear power and features a glowing blue wall which is symbolic for the inside of nuclear reactor, which glows blue! A three-story staircase wraps around the core feature wall made of stainless steel mesh with blue LED lights behind. It’s a very powerful statement for anyone in the nuclear industry – they immediately understand the purpose and the mission of the organization.
It’s Not About Open vs. Closed
The idea that ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to work environments is dead. The workplace design industry is filled with over simplified conversation about open vs. closed plan offices, and the truth is, it’s all irrelevant. It’s born out of a cost reduction mentality that permeates much of corporate America. Cost is important, but it should not be the driver. The workplace and all of its accoutrements have to support the leadership goals of the organization first. Space is in many ways similar to fashion or technology – things go in and out of style all the time. What’s actually important to understand is that each organization is different and has a set of unique requirements needed to achieve maximum performance. And their space should appropriately reflect that. Rather than arguing over open vs. closed, we should be considering and evaluating what will create the best working environment to support the needs of the specific organization. It is important to consider where the physical space and commercial real estate can provide the best value. It’s not necessarily about a real estate deal, while the deal is important; it’s more important to create a highly productive and powerful tool that can propel the organization forward and enable it to achieve its goals. While efficiency and cost are important factors when considering a new space, it’s really about what will build the most value.
The concept of recognizing that every space should be unique to its occupiers is exemplified in Washington REIT’s space. The space reinforced the culture of the organization and how the desired behaviors of how employees work. It was designed to reflect the collegial and supportive culture they work in. This an office where there’s a lot of confidential finance information and deals being put together, so it was important for there to be an open portion of space for collaboration, but also to have semi-enclosed spaces so private conversations can still be made. This space is therefore tailored to the type of work that they do and has a high level of functional value in the way that the space is supporting the way they work.
Data? What Data? Meet the new employees: Siri & Alexa
Let’s face it, technology in the workplace isn’t a new concept. You’re probably tired of hearing about it. This year, as it continues to drive workplace success and efficiency, I expect to see a rise in ubiquitous technology, including work-related apps. We are seeing (or probably not seeing) more things that are wired (or wireless) connected to devices or networks. Smart phones and wearables (like Fitbits and Apple Watches) are being more integrated into the workplace. Devices are keeping track of where we are and how we are using space. Siri and Alexa, our virtual assistants are becoming more like real assistants. They are listening, answering questions, and are creating our to-do lists, making phone calls, scheduling meetings, and even ordering coffee (making the coffee is not far off!). Artificial Intelligence is starting to understand who we are, what we do, and anticipating what we want or need. It’s controlling the lights and the temperature of our workplaces. Autonomous cars are not far off from driving us to work. All of this data is stored in the cloud and will come back to help our haunt. Block chain technology is opening up more transparent and secure transactions.
One of the biggest threats is cyber-attacks, large or small, they are real threats and have the ability to inflict real damage to businesses. The risks and costs are real. Cyber-security is one of the fastest growing industries and unfortunately is a necessary part of technology.
Women Rise Up in Numbers (Disclaimer: Remember, I’m just a guy!)
Unless you’ve been hiding out under a rock, this is one of the most significant and profound cultural shifts happening in our society. Perhaps caused by more divisive politics, sexual harassment, ‘boys will be boys’ excuses, unequal treatment, and related crises, this issue is rapidly rising front and center. Women bring tremendous insight into any business. They have always been providing leadership, but their voices may not have always been heard. It’s not the dated and sexist ‘Jaded Workaholic’ kind of female leader that is emerging. Female leaders are smart, respected, passionate, caring, hardworking, and thoughtful. This year, more than in any other, women will rise into more leadership positions and as this continues to happen, you will see healthier workplaces, higher performing organizations, and a greater focus on deep meaning and purpose, which is what really drives organizations. This is what will impact and shape our workplaces…to be continued.