There’s no doubt about it, the rate of change in working practices and cultures is gathering pace. If we could turn back the clock just five years, things would look very different to the home working, the remotely based teams and the agile workplaces, complete with huddle spaces and hot desks, that are increasingly becoming the norm today.
Much of this change is driven by the development of technologies that support new practices. Ease of use, reduction in cost, more integration between systems, and the development of technology that actually solves problems are all factors contributing to the shift in work practices. And whilst cultural changes may drive new ways of thinking, in many cases, these can only be realised thanks to the availability of the technological solutions that enable them.
So let’s look at the important trends that will impact the workplace over the next decade
- People will increasingly work remotely. This may be from home, but could also be from a supplier or client’s office, from a coffee shop, or indeed from across the world. So does this mean the central office will disappear? We don’t believe so. Companies will still need to provide an environment to allow activity-based tasks and an infrastructure to support collaboration between team members.
- A massive shift in the profile of the modern worker. By 2020 it’s likely that nearly 60% of the global workforce will be Millennials and Gen Z. What does this mean for employers? Well, it’s vital to understand these young peoples’ needs to be able to attract them. Like it or not, workplaces will have to change to entice this huge section of the workforce. It’s a generation wedded to technology. Is it any wonder they become frustrated by rigid and old-fashioned working practices that don’t maximise their skills? At the other end of the scale, older people are choosing – or being financially forced – to work longer, but don’t necessarily want to continue with the 9 – 5 grind.
- There will be a real need to find ways to keep workers engaged in their jobs and connected to their team members. To ensure a distributed workforce feels part of the team, organisations will need to develop strategies to link together social and work interactions. And crucially, the technology provided must feel familiar to the dispersed workers. The line between home and work technologies is rapidly blurring.
- As a result, we will see the adoption of agile working practices, creating a flexible and productive environment. Set workstations will become activity-based working areas giving flexibility for staff to work where and when they want. Formal meeting rooms will give way to more relaxed huddle spaces. Technology will no longer sit on the desk but will be carried with you, to be used wherever you choose to work that day.
The benefits of flexible working
From the obvious benefits of giving more flexibility over when and how you enjoy your leisure time, and the removal, or at least drastic reduction, in a daily commute, through to improved employee mental health, a flexible approach to working brings many benefits – both for the workers and their employers.
In fact, a company’s approach to the work/life balance issue is often critical when a job is being considered by a candidate. Increasingly, if you want to attract the very best talent, you need to have a great offer – and a flexible approach is becoming central to this.
From an employer’s viewpoint, an agile working place allows a more rapid response to changes in the market, and results in improved concentration levels, greater productivity and loyalty, and can ultimately save money. More importantly, it is likely to support the good mental health of its workforce. The mental health charity, Mind, states that whilst employment can provide identity, contact, friendship and structure, one of the hardest things to do when suffering from mental health issues is to try and adhere to the structure set by an employer. It becomes highly stressful, and stress is a foremost cause of absenteeism. Clearly, if it can be reduced by a more flexible approach, this major cost and inconvenience to the organisation can also be lessened.
With around 2 million people suffering work-related mental health problems at some point, it makes sense to foster an environment that allows staff to determine their own schedule.
One thing’s for sure, the new generation of workers will not be content with the same routines as their parents. The organisations that thrive and attract the top talent will be the ones that adapt and change to the new world of work.