Staying on top of change: Five ways to futureproof the workplace

Change is coming to workplace as advancing technology and data driven insights fuel new ways of working for employees in the office.

February 07, 2017

Both companies and their real estate will have to adapt. In fact, a workplace designed on today’s needs and assumptions could be redundant in little more than a decade, according to JLL’s Workspace, reworked report.

“Size and scale no longer guarantee success,” says Tom Carroll, Head of EMEA Corporate Research at JLL. “The companies that survive the changes set to take place will be those who successfully manage this uncertainty and seize the opportunities created by disruption. Leading firms are already identifying ways to use technology to transform the products and services they provide, the structure of their operations and the ways in which they compete.

“Critically, these firms are aligning their real estate and business strategies. From individual buildings right up to global portfolio strategy, technology and organisational changes will dramatically transform real estate requirements.”

So how can firms take steps today to put them in a better position tomorrow?

Put data science in the driving seat

Sensors and smart systems are already appearing in many offices to measure how buildings are used. In the coming years these will enter the workplace at a rapid rate to not only improve the operational efficiency of buildings, but also generate huge volumes of data on workplaces and the people who use them. This data will lead the design of physical space, empowering occupiers to align the configuration of their spaces with business outcomes.

All this data raises the risk of too much information which isn’t being analyzed in the most effective ways. Companies need to manage their data properly by defining their data strategy and getting the right people in place to lead it.

Vijay Rajandram, EMEA chief data officer at JLL says: “It’s key to understand the objectives in capturing workplace data and build an engagement strategy in partnership with the c-suite and human resources. Data should be dynamically captured and plugged into an eco-system that allows companies to respond quickly to insights derived from the information.

“However, robust data policies and change management processes will need to be put in place to ensure employees understand what data is captured and how it is used. The important thing is to truly strive to make things really easy and helpful.”

Embed technology into workplace strategy

By 2020 emerging technologies like virtual reality will begin to enter some of the more leading edge workspaces, while the number of devices connected to the internet is predicted to surge to 20 billion. Over the coming decade advances in computing power and artificial intelligence will transform how people work, allowing companies to operate more responsive business models.

Meanwhile, the ubiquitous adoption of devices such as smartphones will facilitate a smarter approach to workforce management and influence worker behaviour. Remote working will be facilitated through faster connections via 5G networks and fiber optic cable.

Companies will need to review their technology platforms, identify where smart technologies can enhance the work experience for employees, test new systems and technologies and ensure that smart systems adopt best practises in cyber security.

Create an experience led workplace

User experience will become an increasingly crucial factor in the workplace design. Offices with generous food and beverage provisions, kitted out with gyms, games and recreation spaces are becoming increasingly common as firms compete for top talent. Giving employees choice and flexibility over where they work is also becoming a top priority as companies fit out their offices with a greater variety of spaces to work in and give their staff the best gadgets to work from.

“By 2030 around 30 percent of corporate portfolios will comprise flexible space as companies attempt to scale their portfolios in response to increasing numbers of contingent and autonomous workers,” Carroll adds.

Review facilities

By 2030, offices will become locations for employees, contingent workers and outside experts to work in dynamic and fluid teams. Workplaces will need to be more modular and suitable for cost effective redesign while accelerator, incubator and innovation spaces will be a core component of real estate and innovation strategy.

The number of sites in a company’s real estate portfolio will also be affected. Portfolios will be streamlined into core locations situated in strategic sites that bring together partners, clients and employees and support talent attraction.

In addition, companies become more dependent on the speed and resilience of communication networks, optimal connectivity will become a key competitive advantage – as vital to workplaces as the provision of water, electricity and gas, and a key driver of location and real estate decisions.

Take health and wellbeing seriously

Drab, airless offices aren’t good for anyone. Better design, combined with rise of smart buildings, can help to improve indoor air quality, make the most of natural light and creating active workplaces can have a big impact on productivity, sustainability and wellbeing, which is good for both companies and employees.