As a consultant and coach in the Workplace sphere, I want to provide you with an understanding of the key role the Workplace plays in the enablement of core business for any organisation.
But here we are in the era of the Coronavirus and in South Africa, and are currently in a state of National Disaster and lockdown. The need to comply with social distancing has led us to associate the idea of physical closeness with contracting the virus and potentially facing our mortality. Understandably, the anxiety that we feel around human contact has increased to a fever pitch.
But this will pass and we need to look to a future that has to be different from the one that got us to this reality.
We are now in a period of a large global experiment concerning how effective working from home can be and how necessary offices actually are. As Workplace and Facilities Managers we need to be realistic in that it has always been the case that...
Organisations don't really want facilities they want a productive workforce... and we need to be able to accommodate and support that.
So what will it feel like to return to the Workplace and social closeness? As social creatures human beings long for interaction but will this be overshadowed by the fear of germs and viruses? The modern Workplace and the advent of activity based working with its collaboration spaces, hot-desking, shared work booths as well as gatherings around the water cooler and casual collisions with colleagues may trigger social anxiety in what seems to have become a world of invisible threats.
Will the new Workplace be the antithesis of what we had envisaged as being an hospitality like environment to one that is to be designed like a hospital?
We need to take time to deeply examine the way in which we need to change, not only the physical environment of the Workplace but how we interact in order for people to feel safe to return.
As we enter this new VUCA world of work, I thought it was the right time to look back at an important series of ‘white books’ published by ISS in which they set out a vision for facilities management in 2020. You can download all the white books here.
We are now two decades into the millennium. The global Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated our dependency on computers and technology. Just imagine what would have happened to the global economy had COVID-19 happened just 10 years ago? We are also increasingly a world at war and still addicted to fossil fuels. We are in an era of accelerated global competition with an increased but as yet in-adequate focus on sustainability. The advent of technology is changing how organisations plan for, and develop their workplaces.
Individually mobile devices are overtaking the laptop and PC as our primary technology interface. One of the biggest issues facing organisations is the global war for talent. And yet all of this has been overtaken In a matter of months by the coronavirus.
In The Need for Innovation-a Perspective Shift I wrote that disruptive innovation needs three conditions to be present.
I am sure you would accept that the first two conditions exist in abundance. What we now need is a paradigm or a perspective shift, both in our overall theoretical stance as well as our local practices. The Facilities Management and the Workplace industry needs to keep pace to develop strategies and services to support what is an increasingly complex and ambiguous landscape.
Organisations ever-changing competitive requirements and supporting culture need to be reflected in their Workplace, all whilst reducing their economic and environmental impact.
We are no longer confined by the traditional boundaries of the Workplace with the advent of mobile, at home and third workplaces. The more traditional office has been deconstructed and consists more and more of open plan, hot desks and touchdown points.
The Workplace is undergoing a dramatic transformation both physically and culturally. It was increasingly becoming a place where people meet, socialise and build relationships. Will the aftermath of COVID-19 mean that this has to change?
Workplace experience will play a decisive role in developing a strong corporate culture needed to take on the challenges of the 21st-century.
Sadly, the reality is that the majority of workplaces today are not designed to efficiently or effectively evolve to support the dynamics of the organisation's core business. This undoubtedly leads to the reduced levels of productivity reported by most corporates.
What does this mean for the Workplace and the teams that support and deliver services to it?
Our workplaces today need to be in a continuous state of ‘beta’ development if we are to remain relevant.
Regrettably, the change that COVID_19 has bought has been so rapid and so surprising that we are unable to keep up with these developments. The struggle for our organisations and the FM team that the supports them over the next decade will be to balance organisational flexibility with health and safety, whilst enabling and enhancing the ability of the Workplace to unleash the potential of the workforce.
In my post 10 Workplace Questions All CEO’s Should Have on Their Board Agenda I outlined that the CEO as the owner of the company strategy needs to understand the Workplace as the organisation's number one priority and number one tool to affect business change.
What we are seeing is that organisations and their executive teams are changing their understanding of the role that the Workplace claims in creating value. We are embroiled in an era of continuous innovation that forces the executive leadership to look outside their organisations for expertise in delivering a higher degree of organisational and work-related flexibility.
Whilst the Workplace is a strategic tool to attract and retain talent, companies must balance this capability with the downward pressure on office amenities for the majority of its workers.
It comes as no surprise that the development of technology is changing the nature of work. Technology is allowing us to work smarter and more innovatively by removing the obstacles for collaboration our organisations. Technology is enabling the wholesale reconfiguration of businesses.
By removing the obstacles to collaboration, change is enabled and creates the opportunity for FM to help reorganise workplaces to make them more effective and efficient.
The development of technology enables new work practices, greater mobility along with virtual working. By increasing the automation of knowledge corporate workspaces are becoming more agile.
Consequently, FM providers must be more resourceful creative and innovative to maintain simultaneous focus on the customer, the building and its inhabitants.
The flight from rural areas to urban centres means that cities are asserting themselves as the central drivers of creativity.
With over 50% of the world’s population now residing in urban areas, we have seen the evolution of the smart city. Smart cities will influence office design and the office's role in local communities.
However, not all urban areas are created equal. Some will become more attractive than others and urban area attractiveness for companies will depend on factors such as the condition of existing infrastructure and the degree of implementation of smart technologies.
Offices will integrate with a local community sharing these resources and amenities. This will result in improved links with government utilities businesses and local populations into tighter more collaborative networks.
Companies are now able to offer more amenities to their workforce meaning that FM providers need to scale their Workplaces more rapidly to new needs to encourage to control the environmental footprint and to develop the ability to enable core business to continue and thrive.
Developing the Workplace as a strategic tool to attract and retain talents and balancing this with the downward pressure on employee benefits as well as on employee wages is a huge challenge.
FM Will be a need to balance the ability to manage talent as well as motivating the disengaged. FM providers need to be innovative to develop new ways to provide inspiring and motivating workspaces that promote productivity and save money.
There will also be opportunities at the opposite end of the cost spectrum among the “mediocre” knowledge workers. Office designers and FM providers need to be innovative to offer motivating solutions at a reduced cost.
Companies will continue to squeeze their Workplace amenities. This will further reduce motivation at many workplaces.
Organisations will have to balance the needs of more diverse and individual-oriented, workforces. There will be more mobile workers, older employees, educated women, and more globally oriented and sourced personnel.
Generation Y will represent the largest new talent pool that companies will recruit from, but older workers could prove the most useful. Recruiting from Generation Y will present difficulties as they are entering the labour force facing a number of structural challenges.
When creating attractive and motivating workplaces, Workplace strategies will have to take a wider range of cultural, generational, and gender factors into consideration.
More and more employees are demanding flexibility where they work, how long they work, how they work and where they work. Virtual work offers the potential for employers to allow their employees to customise their working lives but it also tests organisational leadership capabilities and reward structures.
Virtual work is already technically possible but most organisations are ill-prepared to manage the virtual worker. As a result organisation struggle and virtual work tends to expose poor communication capabilities.
FM providers will need to ensure that overall workspace will be attractive and can house virtual workers when if they feel they need the work needed to come to the office.
As individuals working life gets longer FM is will need to take into consideration the strategic choices in Workplace design and management as younger and older workers express different preferences for working environments.
Introduction of new technologies, and the ability to work from anywhere, is introducing new ergonomic challenges that FM providers must take into account, particularly when designing Workplace strategies, as well as ensuring the employee wellbeing.
Increasing polarisation, use of workers’ own spaces and technologies, and the use of more part-time and freelance workers will lead to a redefinition of employer-employee roles, and to different responsibilities in creating healthy work environments.
Tablets, wearable computers and other mobile devices will become ubiquitous in the office alongside the two most important tools for office workers: smartphones and laptops. These devices are changing the way we communicate with other people and the way we physically interact with our surroundings.
As companies adopt more flexible work arrangements, including third working spaces and temporary war rooms, people are adopting a number of improper postures that will negatively impact their health and wellbeing in the future
The introduction of new technology leads to poor posture, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome.
The challenge is deciding where the onus for better workplace ergonomics lies the company or the employee particularly as the relationship between employee and employers evolve towards shorter, more flexible arrangements.
The introduction of wearable computers will introduce new risks for injury in the Workplace. The challenge is that these devices overload our cognitive capabilities to process visual information “to the point where wearers miss things which are ‘utterly obvious’.”
Humans have already been shown to be incapable of operating mobile phones, and other embedded electronic devices, while driving. People who attempt to operate hands-free devices have demonstrated comparable levels of impairment as drunk drivers.
The wearable devices Google Glasses, iWatch, and eventually computers in contact lenses – pose several workplace risks that FM providers will have to plan and compensate for.
In research conducted by ISS survey, respondents identified personalisation of the workspace as critical or very important for almost 70 per cent of employees. Allowing employees to personalise the workspace correlates to create productivity increases.
Despite this, the ability for individuals to personalise the physical workplace environment will continue to decline driven by the need to reduce costs and increase workspace flexibility.
Virtual workspace personalisation via IT platforms and devices, including employees’ self- procured technology, could be one of the ways that FM providers may create a sense of personal control over workers’ workspace. These devices will allow future workers to develop local immersive work experiences regardless of where they find themselves.
Workspace personalisation creates tension and will continue to be one of the greatest disruptive forces shaping the workspace.
The challenge for FM providers is that current workplaces are ill-prepared for these developments. The majority of current workspaces are ill-prepared for the personalisation revolution.
These challenges cause many workers to avoid coming to the office and seek alternative working arrangements elsewhere. FM providers need to “eliminate” the workspace headaches by adopting a new approach to thinking about how technology is being integrated into the new workspace.
The BYOD revolution poses security challenges for both IT and FM departments due to the technology itself and the user. The level of security on BYOD devices is low.
For example, ninety per cent (Android) to one hundred per cent (iOS) of free apps send data unencrypted. Ninety per cent of vulnerabilities common in desktops were also present in mobiles (both Android and iOS). Eighty-eight per cent of mobile applications tested had one or more security flaws, such as transmitting sensitive data.
Users tend not to upgrade their operating systems and have a tendency to leave their devices at airports, coffee shops, bars, etc. Over half have sent work emails to their personal phones. Almost half of all users allow others to borrow their devices and have logged onto unsecured wireless servers.
Sustainability is a growing requirement from businesses and government. The need for reducing the environmental footprint of offices is a recognised opportunity for FM providers to introduce new Workplace strategies. To reduce the environmental footprint of the Workplace of the future, FM providers will have to look beyond the confines of their organisation.
To achieve sustainability goals, FM providers will have to look at how they can work in collaboration with other organisations, and even with competing organisations.
With buildings producing 40% of the world carbon the need to reduce the environmental footprint of offices is a growing challenge.
Sustainability is a growing requirement from businesses and governments and their customers and users and is increasingly a tool to attract talent and enhance global competitiveness.
Workplaces into the future will be qualitatively different from what they are today.
Driven by a post Coronavirus reality, introduction of disruptive technologies, pitched battle for talents, fierce global competition, and a greater focus on sustainability, CEOs, workplace designers, and architects are changing the way they plan for and develop Workplace strategies. Workplaces will be increasingly global, smart, collaborative and sustainable.
Increasingly, Workplace strategies need to respond to the core organisations’ ever-changing competitive requirements, increasing the organisations’ attractiveness to talents, reflecting their brands and cultures, and reducing their environmental impacts. As a result, Workplace strategies include disruptive business models that are becoming increasingly asset-light, mobile, and flexible.
Most workplaces, however, are not designed to efficiently or effectively evolve as the dynamics of core organisations’ businesses change. Many managers are struggling to develop the right workplace strategy for their organisations.
Workplacefundi aims to help customers, aided by FM providers and managers (in-house or external), to create Workplace strategies that offer proactive, service-centric approaches that reflect, support and improve the core organisations’ strategic objectives, brand, culture, and Workplace productivity at the right price point across the entire range of potential workspaces and workspace strategies.