If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that change is constant. Of all change, perhaps the quickest comes to the world of technology. Technology has greatly impacted the way we communicate and collaborate with one another in the workplace over the last decade. The office was a destination ten or fifteen years ago. You came to work and were tied to your desktop computer until it was time to go home. Good design and technology give us the autonomy to experience the workplace the way we want to experience it today. We have the opportunity to work from almost anywhere, whenever and however we want to, using wireless and mobile technology. We are able to connect employees, customers, and support staff all around the world to improve communication and collaboration throughout an organization because of technology.
It’s important that designers create spaces that support this evolution in mobile working. Studies show that employees who have choice and flexibility in the way they work are more actively engaged at work. Providing employees with technology that allows them to be mobile is the best way to give them this experience. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, “Employees want and expect work-from-home opportunities and, overall, their ability to do so is producing positive gains in engagement.” With tools like video and voice conferencing, email, and instant messaging, employees are able to work off site with ease. Organizations are pushed to make an investment in technology and the infrastructure needed to support mobility due to the rise in mobile and wireless work. This means investing in tablets or laptops, having the necessary software available for out of office connectivity, and putting policies in place that give employees the flexibly to work outside the office.
Not only is the shift in mobile work affecting the way we work outside of the office, but the physical office is evolving as well. We are seeing fewer “owned” spaces and more shared, communal spaces in the office with the ability to work remotely as well as the constant rise of real estate costs. Organizations are also finding ways to get more use out of their space. This includes having unassigned workstations that are not owned by any one individual. Instead, there may be 3-4 seats, or workstations, for every 5 employees. This allows organizations to minimize their footprint while fully supporting those working in the office. Recent Knoll research reveals that “57% of companies foresee introducing more unassigned seating over the next 5 years, and the number of workers in unassigned workspaces is expected to nearly triple, rising to 32% of the workforce from the 11%.” We can create more collaborative settings throughout the workplace with the decrease in owned space. These settings range in size and functionality, and all support wireless technology and flexibility. Workplaces are able to better support collaboration throughout the organization and accommodate the various workstyles employees prefer with this shift.
The office will always remain. However, the way we work within or out of the office will constantly change. The key is having the ability to support employees when they choose to work remotely, while maintaining a physical space that fosters collaboration and productivity while in the office.
Lauren Elliott NCIDQ, IIDA
Associate, Registered Interior Designer