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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.

A Perspective Shift

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.

  1. There needs to be a shortage or starvation of resources;
  2. Increasing pressure on delivery and performance;
  3. A perspective shift in how we look at innovation

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?


1. Evolution or Revolution?

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.


Implications for Facilities and Workplace Management (F&WM)

  • F&WM providers need to develop flexible service blueprints that create better relationships with customers. We need to evolve from considering the workspace as a built environment asset to the Workplace as a core enabler of Business
  • F&WM providers need to ensure that the Workplace continues to remain aligned with the core organisations’ strategy. Service-centric approaches need to be offered that reflect the brand, and culture at the right price point
  • As F&WM providers we cannot assume that what is intuitively obvious to us is equally obvious to the Customer.  We must help management understand the connection between the Workplace and performance
  • F&WM providers are in the ideal position to develop stronger relationships with HR and IT. We need to assess if the current workspace is having detrimental effects on worker productivity and satisfaction and identify potential workplace reconfiguration opportunities. See  Chief Workplace Officer – a Promotion for Facility Managers?
  • F&WM providers should expand the use of contingency and scenario planning to justify space allocations.  This would allow for a quicker response to changing needs.
  • F&WM providers need to understand that FM services are intangible and the need to engage with their customers to ensure  that Workplace strategies remain in-line.

2. Technology Accelerates Collaboration and Change

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.


Implications for Facilities and Workplace Management (F&WM)

  • FM providers need to develop an active approach and methodology for collecting  data and conducting analysis to become the trusted advisor to their client organisations.
  • FM providers need to work with customers to examine how the introduction of new technologies will affect the Workplace  and service offerings
  • FM needs to develop collaborative and transparent business processes and practices that use and display accurate and current  information via common terminology. This includes the development and collection of relevant workplace productivity measures to ensure that the Workplace is operating as effectively as possible
  • FM, marketing, HR, and IT units need to identify ways to create seamless organisations that provide similar Workplace  experiences, virtually and physically
  • FM and corporate IT providers will be challenged to develop  robust security solutions for the future office
  • The challenge for FM providers will be to identify their role in the collection, management and analysis of data.
  • FM needs to lead the efforts that promote productivity and efficiency in the future workspace
  • FM providers need to be attuned to workers’  needs and organisational requirements for strategic agility and flexibility.

3. Smart Cities

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.

Implications for Facilities and Workplace Management (F&WM)

  • Integrate geographic information systems, as well as building information systems, into their Workplace management systems and in the selection of  new workspaces
  • Improve product development processes by providing a combination of lean transformation and skilled teams
  • Manage an increasingly distributed footprint of commercial, industrial,  campus, suburban, and residential spaces
  • Ensure that each location or workspace is effective and efficient – even those that are not in the central office workspace.  This will include the management of:
  • Environmental systems’ complexity and their interactions
  • Business risks while implementing new tools and processes
  • Workspaces, whether onsite or at a third space, can and are working together
  • Forming, reconfigure and dissolve networked teams on an as-needed basis
  • Workspaces and global projects virtually through cloud technologies
  • Sustainability programs that utilise collaborative consumption systems.

4. The Polarisation of Workplace Amenities

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.

Implications for Facilities and Workplace Management (F&WM)

  • FM providers must create and maintain the workspace as a critical element in helping employees feel engaged at work by  providing more differentiated service offerings
  • FM providers need to identify the correct balance between standardisation and individualisation in the Workplace 
  • Moving from purely B2B to more B2C type of  relations – the facility as a hub where employees can get personalised services.
  • Workplace and FM providers need to balance the amenities they offer with the organisations’ strategic ambitions and culture.
  • A balance will have to be struck between the quantity  (m2 per employee) and the quality of the Workplace experience
  • The polarisation of work and workplaces will polarise the FM market. Market-leading companies will be able to use the Workplace as a strategic asset in attracting the best, most talented workers they can. Others will have to develop creative solutions to offer the best amenities they can at reduced costs
  • Companies and their FM providers need to think of new ways to empower employees to influence the design of their Workplaces
  • The FM industry needs to engage with architects, office designers and the construction industry to a much higher degree  to ensure that office designs enable flexible and productive workspaces that are easy to maintain
  • Companies will increasingly make use of distributed  office and work environments to reduce travel costs.

5. Workforce Diversity 

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.

Implications for Facilities and Workplace Management (F&WM)

  • FM providers need to transform and diversify to better serve their core organisations’ needs.  The changing social composition of workforce will transform the FM industry as well.
  • More diverse FM providers could help clients attract, retain and motivate a  more diverse employee base in core organisations.
  • Workplace strategists and FM providers can help core organisations differentiate themselves from their competitors via  their office amenities
  • FM providers can do this for global organisations by helping create, adapt and implement Workplace strategies  to different local needs and cultural requirements.
  • FM providers need to move from being purely focused on business-to-business  solutions towards a business-to-consumer relationship, where the facility can act as a hub where employees can get services (laundry etc.)
  • FM providers will be faced with competing  priorities from below – workers demanding customised and personalised solutions – and from above – CEOs demanding standardised solutions to reduce costs.

6. Focus on Employee Health and Well-being

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.

Implications for Facilities and Workplace Management (F&WM)

  • FM providers should change their focus towards providing hospitality services to take care of their clients’ individual  workforce needs
  • FM providers need to convey to customer CEOs the importance of investing in the Workplace as well as in the building space
  • FM providers need to develop personalised communication with end-users
  • FM providers will increasingly have to balance
  1. demands for controlling/cutting costs coming from management with
  2. ensuring the productivity and wellbeing of office workers
  • FM providers should make sure that cost-cutting does not lead to a significant decline in worker productivity
  • FM providers could develop workplace healthcare concepts as a product line
  • FM providers should develop services that set up workspaces in private spaces or in fixed third workspaces
  • FM providers will have to assess whether
  1. it is cost-effective to provide amenities that improve employee wellbeing themselves,
  2. if they should collaboratively source these services with nearby companies, or
  3. if they should arrange service arrangements with other providers.

7. Workspace Personalisation

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.

Implications for Facilities and Workplace Management (F&WM)

  • personalising the physical workplace environment is the fundamental tension for FM providers: they have to create greater  Workplace efficiency (cut costs) to satisfy  senior managers without damaging what makes an effective workspace – happy and engaged employees.
  • FM and corporate IT providers need to find ways to collaborate and develop mutually supportive Workplace  strategies to avoid eventual conflicts.
  • FM and corporate IT providers will be challenged to deliver  robust security solutions for the future office
  • FM providers should invest in understanding the people and their needs at the Workplace, including developing methodologies  and key performance indicators for ongoing data collection, to be able to  advise CEOs as to why one Workplace  solution is better than another
  • FM providers need to “do more for people and do less for buildings”
  • FM providers should work with peripheral manufacturers and office furniture designers to remove typical office headaches.
  • Theme 8: Sustainability and the Workplace of the future


8. Sustainability and the Workplace of the Future

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.


Implications for Facilities and Workplace Management (F&WM)

  • FM providers will have to analyse sustainability challenges and consequences on supply and value chains, as well as on  building design, management and maintenance
  • FM providers will have to conduct systemic design, including employing building information modelling (BIM) techniques
  • FM providers should use information from BIM to improve building designs and inputs to their models by analysing how people  actually move through and use workspaces
  • FM providers should assess sustainability challenges according to regional conditions and challenges
  • FM providers should look beyond the confines of the core organisation and see how employees and other companies, including  competitors, could help develop sustainable workplace solutions.
  • Conclusion


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.

People  I  Place  I  Performance

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