The nature of the work we do has radically changed in the past decades, but the places we do work — the actual workplace — lags behind. When you walk into an office today you might see some modern elements, like open floor plans and standing desks, but you might also see uninviting furniture, bland meeting rooms, and no access to natural light.
These workplace features (and their juxtaposition) reflect a deeper lack of supportive technology, collaboration, and flexibility. These are all concepts young professionals have come to expect. So, how will workplaces rise to the occasion? What will the future workplace look like?
In an effort to answer these questions we spoke with workplace experts and conducted a Censuswide survey of 500 corporate executives. The results will challenge your assumptions about how successful workplaces will operate in the future — and beyond.
You can read the full results in our new report, The workplace of the future: Human happiness and high-tech spaces. Here are the highlights:
Employers think they’re on track, but employees disagree
The Censuswide survey offers key insights into where company leaders see the workplace heading. According to the survey, 99% of executive respondents indicated that they were confident that their employees feel happy and engaged in the workplace, and 97% were sure about their company’s ability to keep up with modern workplace trends.
But, are employees happy and engaged? In a Wakefield study conducted earlier this year, we learned that many U.S. office workers are consistently upset about one thing: their experiences with workplace technology.
On an average day, office workers reported wasting close to half an hour a day dealing with workplace technology problems. What is causing their workplace technology woes?
- 44% of those surveyed complained about spotty Wi-Fi service in the office
- 46% were upset about printer issues
- 34% said their office’s tech was so outdated that it needed a complete overhaul
One thing is clear: There is a discrepancy between how employees feel about the functionality of their office and what executives believe to be true about the day-to-day in their workplace.
Open floor plans: the solution or the problem?
Though controversial due to lack of privacy, many companies have adopted the open office plan despite pushback from employees. In fact, 92% of executives surveyed believe an open floor plan is beneficial to workplace productivity.
While open floor plans are popular and useful for cross-functionality and employee collaboration as well as office hoteling, office space design needs to be more purposeful than it has in the past. Areas for collaboration, private work, and small conferences need to be carefully crafted with an eye for thoughtful design in buildings created for desks and cubicles. This mentality is championed by Envoy’s Head of Workplace Technology, Matt Harris.
“We’re seeing a trend in the move to open offices,” says Harris, “but we’re finally realizing that the open concept is more nuanced. It’s more about dynamic work environments and workspaces. This shift involves addressing the need for a variety of different working spaces. For example, soft seating and comfortable spaces, closed off dark places, warm and well-lit places. We need to take that open environment and make space for those places to exist.”
Is remote work the way of the future?
Designing the perfect layout is only part of the battle for the ideal workplace. Advances in technology have made remote work and flexible work easier than ever before for those who can’t enjoy the perks of being in the physical workspace. But, is remote work the way of the future?
After all, it allows companies to hire the best people without requiring them to relocate. Companies with remote employees also have less need for bigger office spaces and additional resources. But, according to our research, while the option to work remotely has its appeal, the main reason employees want to work on-site is to have a chance to socialize with coworkers.
Our Wakefield survey of 1,000 US office workers found that socializing with coworkers was the top reason (54%) employee respondents listed preferring to work on-site vs. working remotely.
As workplaces become more collaborative and relationship-based, fully remote workers miss out—even as remote technology somewhat improves. Instead, the key is creating spaces where on-site and remote employees can work together with little interference.
The trick to remote-friendly spaces is you have to think about both sides of the meeting experience. You have to do the work in the office to make sure every conference room is video-enabled, but you also have to support the remote person, making sure they have everything they need to be seen and heard.
Human connection and the future office that works for you
Because of strict budgets, limited space, and antiquated workplace tech, life in the office up until this point has been about compromises and workarounds — accepting uncomfortable spaces and working around outdated technology. But, the next generation of workers will be less tolerant of these inefficiencies.
If your workspace is going to be comfortable, welcoming, and inclusive, says Envoy’s CEO Larry Gadea, you have to do better. And he has a clear idea of how that will look.
“The evolved workplace will work for you, so you don’t have to work against it or around it,” says Gadea. “It will be responsive — it will know your problems and needs before you do.”
As an example, Gadea imagines interactive, personalized messaging screens on every wall of your workplace, which employees can interact with to get real-time information. “You don’t have to check the mailroom or run around the office to get a meeting room. It’ll tell you if you have packages waiting and which rooms are available. If you have a bigger or more complex office — or you’re just visiting for the day — it could give you directions to your next meeting.”
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