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FUTURE OFFICE
Fast Forward!
Crystal-Gazing tomorrow’s workplace
Issue Date - 01/07/2012
 
Setting up goals for a bright tomorrow is imperative for any business. And for this, it is important to know the trends shaping the future. One such trend speaks that the physical workspace is not only changing its shape and design, but also moving out of the high-rise offices in the business districts, and moving into the homes of employees or internet-enabled cafeteria and airport lounge. This and more, The Human Factor explores...
 
he corner office and a private closed space in the workplace has for long been the goal and the holy grail of executives entering the workforce. But with corporations encouraging more interaction with colleagues, and communication technology revolutionising the way work is conducted, the closed office spaces may well be on their way out. What then would the future workplace look like? Would the physical workspace shrink in size and importance? Can technology make the physical workplace redundant?

If we need to understand the nature of tomorrow’s workspace, it will be wise to try and understand the nature of the work that will be conducted in offices and the workforce that will use these spaces. The world’s workforce is undergoing a revolutionary change catalysed by dynamic technological development, a change that is altering life and lifestyle, and blurring the difference between office and home.

As more and more economic activity shifts from the agricultural and industrial sectors to the service sector, the location where a job is performed will become irrelevant. The way we communicate and interact has evolved tremendously since the advent of social media and the internet. The way we work together is evolving too, allowing for more flexibility and increased productivity.

Progressive service sector organisations are already actively promoting a ‘work-from-home’ culture. A recent Reuters study suggests that one in five employees around the globe telecommutes frequently and that one in ten employees works from home every day. A few years ago tele-working was seen as a perk to employees, today it is being used as an efficiency increasing tool that affects the bottom line. In a recent survey, 62 per cent of businesses reported having employees who work remotely either full time or part time. Of these businesses, 34 per cent of employees conduct work away from the office, spending about 40 per cent of their time at either a client site, at home or in public spaces. These numbers reinforce the trend that the physical workspace is not only changing its shape and design, but also moving out of the high-rise office buildings in the business districts, and moving into the homes of employees or internet-enabled cafeteria and airport lounge.

The percentage of companies that allow remote work varies by the size of the business. Larger businesses are more likely to allow remote work as a matter of policy than small businesses. This is not only because it is becoming easier and cheaper to work remotely, due to accelerating technology, but also because it is becoming clear that remote working programmes benefit both employees and employers through increased productivity, reduced overhead and happier employees.

A recent Stanford University study found a 12 per cent increase in performance from home-working, of which 8.5 per cent is from working more minutes of per shift and 3.5 per cent from higher performance per minute. According to the same study, home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and psychological attitude scores, and their attrition rates fell by 50 per cent.

While the increase in productivity speaks for itself, there are some key drivers behind the shift from office to home. One is that more women in the workforce are creating a demand for more flexible hours. Another is the new generation of employees, who do not look to work at any organisation for a long period, do not mind working long hours as long as they have the flexibility to decide the location and time of work.
          

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