Trends Blog No.1 blog

Five workplace trends for 2015

04 June 2015, by Duncan Mitchell

The tech revolution is disrupting traditional working practice and workspace planning has to reflect the changing times. Employees have increasingly high expectations around how their employer should respond to the revolution. Those that fail to adapt and change will find those employees are harder to retain. Those who move with the times will liberate employees to become more productive and more loyal. Here’s our take on the big themes for 2015…

1. Collaboration isn't everything

For the last decade, there’s been an obsession about the importance of collaboration – so much so that it’s become a ubiquitous theme, an ‘uber-fashion’. And that’s caused loose thinking and planning around ‘collaboration’ which debases its value. It’s not the collaboration that’s important… it’s the outcomes from it!

We think there’s a growing realisation that, while collaboration is still important, what surrounds collaboration needs to be better considered and supported:

  • Great collaboration requires preparation and preparation requires quiet, focused thought. Do individuals have good places where they can go and think?
  • Obsessing over collaboration can mean that the requirements of introverted and often more thoughtful voices are ignored. We’re not all extroverts who like to be around people all the time. Introverts are an integral part of an organisation, so think about what they need.
  • Emphasising collaboration in the workplace leads to too many meetings and that can interrupt an individual’s 'flow state’. We all require long periods of uninterrupted time to be truly productive. How can work policies and spaces be planned to strike a balance between team time and individual time?

We’ve created all sorts of workspaces that support collaboration and we’ve always tried to deliver creative solutions that support quiet, focused work. It’s about getting the balance right.

2. Flexible work practices are becoming the norm

The traditional concept of workers being tied to a desk in sight of a manager has had its day. Workers increasingly want and expect employers to adopt flexible work practices. Even governments have noticed! The UK Government, for example, has just legislated that all workers have the right to work from home. This is driving two fundamental changes:

  • The adoption of more sophisticated management practices founded on trust and outcomes
  • A revolution in thinking around space requirements and workspace planning

We’re helping a number of clients get on board the train. 2015 is the year we think it will leave the station.

3. Acknowledging the right of people to be ‘disconnected'

The technology revolution has us enthralled and we seem to have blithely accepted the need to join a ‘connected, always-on world’. Now for the backlash. People are tired of being expected to answer mobile phones and emails all hours and meeting unreasonable expectations of round-the-clock availability. Burn out and stress demotivate people and ultimately reduce productivity. 

Watch out in 2015 for protocols being developed by people (and organisations) about responding to different forms of communications in different time periods.

4. Choice about where, when and how I work

People increasingly want to choose where they work at any particular working hour. They may want to work in a quiet zone, a formal meeting room, an informal meeting space or a breakout space. They may even want to go to third-party spaces such as a client, co-working space or a public café. Facilitating these choices will help businesses derive maximum productivity from individuals. It recognises that workers have a better idea of how they work best. It’s about changing focus away from managing time to managing energy. 

Watch out in 2015 for organisations giving people technology that supports these more flexible ways of working – most of us already have a smartphone and tablet – and providing a bigger range of shared places to work in the office.

5. Giving up my permanent desk

When people have workplaces with a range of different places to work, they’ll realise that they don't necessarily need a permanently allocated desk! The stats back this up. In most knowledge-working offices, over 30% of desks are empty at most times. We believe this figure will only rise as businesses and workers abandon traditional working practices. And 10 years on, we’ll be looking back at the times of ‘having our own desks’ as weird! 

There’s a challenge though in making this transition successfully. We have to figure out how people can share desks and still personalise their workspace when they want to. We’re putting energy this year into creating some interesting solutions.

If you’re looking to change your workspace in 2015, we can help you create solutions that not only take you to current best practice, but allow you to adapt more effectively to future change. Give me a call!

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About the author

Lives on Asian food. Listens to music that sounds like a washing machine. Once played the clarinet! Dreams of lazy days sailing. Rides a mean mountain bike. Predicts the weather. Avoids crowds and dancing.

Duncan leads our Wellington team and has been the driving force behind our workplace strategy practice since 2003. He continues to challenge how the workplace (physical environment, technology, people and process) can best support organisational performance.

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