Five office trends to keep you at the front of the curve

I always enjoy when a writer has good organizational skills, especially when they are writing about the organization of your organization.  Ted Heisler, Principal of Interior Architecture and Design at Ware Malcomb, contributed a well-planned essay for The Leader entitled Innovating the Workplace through Design: Implementing Trends that Transcend.  Heisler divided the article into two halves – one is devoted to five key office trends that they have identified and the other analyzes the trends through a case study featuring Ericsson.

The first section is easy to read, opening with a bulleted list of the five key trends, which are then expanded on in turn.  For the sake of my readers with little time to spare, I have outlined the five trends and summarized the key learnings from each section.

  • Technology Transformation – Technology is changing the way we use space.  Telecommuting, VPNs and wireless networks all change the way we use space, and when.  To assume that all employees use their office space 100% of the work day would do them a disservice and could be costing you.
  • Collaboration Exploration – Teamwork is the new “individual contributor”.  Group projects are the norm and space needs to foster, rather than stifle, collaborative efforts.
  • Rise of Branded Environments – Firms today have a philosophy or image to maintain and are capitalizing on their workspace to further reinforce who they are.
  • Mainstream Green – LEED and sustainable design are buzzwords right now.  Although firms don’t necessarily want to go through the expense of formal LEED certification, they are eager to incorporate sustainable elements into their workspaces.  I completely agree with Heisler, since the premium to be LEED-certified does not necessarily have a positive ROI for businesses – paying attention to the items that would earn you LEED credits is often enough to feel good and know that the firm is improving its environmental stance.
  • Change Management in the Work Environment – Younger employees do not have the same work mentality as older employees.  As the workforce shifts from Baby Boomer to Gen X/Gen Y, real estate and facility teams need to understand the differences in how the two generations use space.  Personally, I see a lot of this acknowledged in Technology Transformation, where younger employees are more inclined to technology and flexible work schedules, and Collaboration Exploration, since top schools are focusing a lot of time on team projects to prepare students for the new working world.

If you can spare the time, I strongly recommend reading the Ericsson case study.  Heisler identifies where the key trends manifested themselves in Ericsson’s strategy to bring their workplace design concepts from Sweden to their American offices.  By implementing a “Change Management Program”, they created a forum for the facilities team and the employees to communicate.  The facilities team shares the new concepts that will be incorporated into the office space and the employees have a chance to provide feedback, raising concerns and issues with the proposals.  This idea seems like it would be very well-suited to the office planning and workplace change process.  On top of that, I think it’s simply a thoughtful way to get buy-in from all parties prior to making major changes to the workplace.

The nut of this article is that change happens and we have to be prepared for it.  Heisler even points out that we can’t anticipate the trends of 10 or 15 years from now, so we can only plan to be adaptable as those changes become more germane down the road.

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