Office of the Future: Our Magnet Design Draws Employees Back to the Office
Millennials are coming into the workplace in droves. These new faces represent a generation that grew up with social media and don’t require face-to-face meetings to have “friends” or feel connected to others. They can collaborate and build trust virtually. So what does that mean for the future of the workplace?
Twenty years from now the norm will be remote work and the traditional office will not exist. Sure there will be scheduled time for co-workers to come together as a team but the boss (who is a millennial) will trust that his or her staff is completing their work even if they are out of sight.
Combine the remote workplace with technology advances in 20 years and we have a completely different work environment. Employees won’t use CPU’s or keyboards. The little handheld device we all carry - or wear on our person - will “talk to” smart surface technology around us to allow just about any surface to become a monitor. The current way we think of a computer station will evolve, which is great news. Ergonomics will be substantially improved by allowing movement. Workers won’t be hunched over a keyboard for hours; rather they can spend their day in a fully reclined position, or standing upright, with adjacent surfaces interacting through technology.
The office of the future excites me, but I agree that people still need in-person coaching, mentoring and connection. Psychologists can attest to this argument. People need people, even if they don’t think so. If you caught the movie “Her” you can imagine what kind of wormhole humans can go down letting technology make our lives “easier” or “simpler.”
DLR Group’s solution to the office of the future is a workplace that quite literally becomes a magnet…. drawing employees back to the “office.” The magnet offers a place employees would rather spend their day because it provides more than sitting at home alone or in a coffee shop. We are seeing the beginning of this phenomenon with Co-Work spaces like Galvanize, Gather & Gather. These are great examples of facilities that blur the lines between office and social venues.
The first question you may ask is “How can a space attract employees?” The space makes them feel good. In nature this concept is called Biophilia. Studies have shown that being surrounded by nature improves both physical and mental health. While a rain forest in the office is unrealistic, a more practical approach is a space that is tactile, varied and has ample quality daylight. Living walls combined with natural materials bring a sense of the outside into the work environment. Biowalls used in conference rooms and other spaces that have high occupancy provide “home-made” oxygen and create a healthier workplace.
The next question is "How will this impact productivity?" Productivity can be improved by offering a variety of interior settings that allow employees to choose where they want to work that day based on the mode of work required. In the morning workers may gather in a bistro area for coffee and informal interaction with their colleagues. Messages can be returned via the version of “email” we will be using at that time and schedules can be firmed up. Next, employees may transition to a gathering place on the floor designed for teamwork or to a privacy “hive” for focused work. Structured meetings would be held in enclosed meeting rooms and Town Hall meetings would be led in the open space we dubbed Village Green.
If you attended NAIOP’s Development ’14 Conference in Denver you may have seen my presentation of the magnet office of the future concept. If not, contact me and I’d be happy to discuss the magnet in more detail. I personally don’t want to wait 20 years to design this type of space. I want to make the office of the future the workplace of today.