Work culture and workspaces – the only constant is change

February 6th, 2020

The culture of work has changed – and continues to do so. Where, how and when people work is rapidly evolving, driven by technology and fresh attitudes towards everything from wellbeing and the family / work / life balance to personal ethics and environmental concerns. In today’s mobile device-driven, fully-connected, always-on, digitally-transformed economy, the traditional five-day working week (introduced by Henry Ford in the USA in 1926 and John Boot – of Boots the Chemist fame – in the UK in 1933) now seems hopelessly archaic. And with employment methods such as zero hour contracts, the gig economy and four-day working weeks making headlines, as well as most of us being able to work from anywhere we can connect to WiFi, the traditional ‘office’ now also seems destined to be consigned to history. In fact, we’ve been partnering with our clients for some time to deliver the ‘new normal’ working environment. That is, the future-proof workspaces the 21st century business needs to boost the productivity, motivation and collaboration of their people, while helping them to recruit, delight and retain the very best talent.

Here are just some of the changes impacting work

According to a CIPD survey into UK Working Lives in 2019, improved work–life balance through access to flexible working was one of the seven key pillars of job quality, with more than half of UK workers (54%) working flexibly but with two in three of those who didn’t work in this way (68%) wanting to.

The number of start-ups in the UK hit a record high – 660,000 – last year. That growth is being matched by what’s called the ‘human cloud’ – a vast global pool of freelancers available to work on demand from remote locations – is doubling in size every year. Another key change has been the collapse of the traditional up / down corporate ladder, in favour of a more grid-like structure, where ideas and people (and promotions) flow along horizontal, vertical and diagonal paths. We’re also seeing the end of retirement as the number of people choosing to stay in work over 65 is rapidly increasing, through either necessity or desire. And age isn’t the only way workforces are becoming massively more diverse – the balance of genders, sexuality, races and creeds continues to change for the better, too. Jobs and careers themselves are also being remodelled. Figures are disputed but research by Dell Technologies, with the Institute for Futures (IFF) for example, recently reported that experts, ‘estimate around 85% of the jobs today’s learners will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.’

And we haven’t even yet been able to fully factor in the impact of technologies such as AI, machine learning, block chain and robotics on our already volatile work culture.

How are these changes impact workspaces

In working with a wide range of clients of every size, in an equally wide range of sectors, we’re finding that the changing culture of work is necessitating new ways of designing and delivering new workspaces. For a start, the emphasis is on looking at the available space much more ‘holistically’ with the emphasis put on Activity Based Working (ABW). This is the idea that no employee has an assigned workstation. Rather, the broader workspace provides employees with a variety of predetermined activity areas that allow them to conduct specific tasks from collaborating and learning to focusing and socialising.

The 9 to 5 is dead – discuss

Our conversations with clients are much less about working hours and weeks – in many ways the 9 to 5 no longer exists – it’s much more about what people have to achieve and then creating the best ways and places to enable them to do it. Employers and their employees now consider the traditional environment of being tied to a desk as equating with drudgery, especially when people can simply pick up their laptop and work where they like to get the job done. Business owners and their teams are keen to deliver more with less – whether that be less space or less time. And, as we’ve clearly demonstrated with the projects we undertake for clients, the right workspace design can turbo-charge productivity, motivation and collaboration. You can see our carefully researched results in a couple of our case studies, here: Virgin Experience Days and here: Salon Supplies. What’s more, what we do also helps our clients to recruit and retain the best talent, as you can see from this case study: Juice+.

The benefits of today’s changing working culture and workspaces

Our workspace re-design and refresh solutions perfectly reflect the changing nature of work. They include less fixed and more open plan offices, break-out and socialising areas, hot-desks for those that come and go and far fewer meeting rooms for teams that now prefer to gather on Skype. The conclusions we draw from the revolution we’re seeing in the way people work, and how and where people work, are two-fold.

Firstly, an organisation’s not only benefit from improved productivity, motivation and collaboration but may well need less space in the future, reducing the size of their premises footprint along with the many overheads associated with it, so saving money. And secondly, the opportunity for genuine flexible working – from four-day working weeks and remote working to businesses only stating how many hours they want each employee to work and then letting them decide how to work them – will increase.

The anecdotal evidence from organisations that have implemented various forms of flexible working is that their teams have fewer mid-afternoon slumps, Monday morning blues outbursts and frantic Friday afternoon rushes to finish tasks. They report their people are happier, healthier, more engaged, efficient, focused and disciplined. Overall, they are more motivated and productive and less stressed and burned-out. Our changing work culture and workspaces can deliver a win-win situation – for business owners and their people.

Next Slide Previous Slide

Our Insights