As the traditional lease model stays with old global corporates, more and more SMEs are only considering serviced or co-working office spaces. The rise of WeWork made it apparent that start-ups, entrepreneurs and now corporates needed a fusion of serviced offices and co-working offices. Cafes, such as Starbucks, had the spotlight as great flexible workspaces for those working remotely and on the go. Nowadays, office buildings need to provide flexible workspace to compete for all of those entrepreneurs, start-ups and corporations of all sizes. No one can deny the prevalent stereotypical stock photo of a laptop, smartphone and freshly brewed coffee on a table with a window view representing the modern desktop. That casual picture of a workspace has moved from café to office building as competition races to provide than just good coffee and cakes. How will future trends change the flexible workplace?
Let’s start with sustainability. You would be wrong to shield your eyes from the fact that long-term planning and actions, in the sense of responsible sustainability for not only your company but also the environment is important. From national to international levels, legal enforcements have already moved companies to put corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the forefront of their goals and values. In line with CSR, the concept of corporate sustainability has been calling businesses of all sizes to optimise their operations efficiency and to keep their carbon footprints as small as possible. Businesses of all sizes including behemoth multinational corporations have proven that sustainability and CSR efforts reap more benefits for everyone which outweigh the costs.
Employees are crucial to businesses and are expected to grow with the company. However, as the voices of employees are becoming louder and more confident in the CSR perspective, the quality of future work environments will continue to rise in standards. Basic needs, such as working WIFI, are already expected in flexible office spaces so what could be next? Example provider, WeWork, is already popular for offering beer on tap and frequent networking events for all members. Well, think back to why trends are moving workers out of cubicles…
As emotional beings, it goes against the values of CSR and sustainability to suppress or ignore emotional well-being. To support emotional well-being, companies such as Google, have been testing and implementing elements to their work environments to also improve work performance overall. Google gained PR for introducing nap pods for their employees and the idea took well to other offices. It’s a great example of how moving workers out of small stuffy cubicles that expect them to stay sitting there 8-hours-a-day, to a work environment providing the welcoming option for a comfortable nap makes a drastic difference in the workplace. Thus, in short, the idea of a balanced work-life is about having the flexibility to take care of your health, physically and mentally, in order to: reduce stress, increase happiness in the workspace and consequently improve work performance.
There is no single formula for a balanced work-life since everyone works and behaves differently. However, considering we’re moving past the old days of simply staying sat in restricting cubicles, we know that flexible workspaces must find new ways to be more flexible and meet the wide range of needs. We could see the future flexible offices’ standards raise the bar. Standards will pressure more office spaces to offer even more healthy food and drink options, exercise spaces with personal trainers, shower and locker facilities stocked with toiletries, nap pods, mentor meeting zones and more smart platform integrations on-site; to make maintaining work and personal lifestyles seamless. Smart system integration leads us to another crucial part of the future, technology.
More science fiction seems to become reality and then there’s also the fear of AI taking over our jobs or even our lives. As complex technology becomes normalised and more integrated with our work lives, there will still be a war going on for work-life balance which demands more time disconnected from technology. Advances in technology and AI will increasingly ease workloads and increase efficiency in many new ways. Rather than expecting everyone to be more productive throughout a whole day with the help of advanced gadgets, we could see workdays or even weeks shortening. We can already see that in flexible workspaces people start and stop their work days as they please. For example, if MR (mixed reality: combines augmented reality and virtual reality technology to make digital objects interact with real-world experiences) improves to make live video meetings/conferences more akin to face-to-face interaction, then those travel times to meetings could be cut down. Increased time to spare from work could then be focused on personal well-being and developing communities, thus we could see people on their laptops a little less.
There is plenty more to speculate about the future, however, Unity Working believes that values for sustainability and work-life balance with remain core to the flexible workspaces of the Future.
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