Jobs and the Future of Work

Here’s how a cleverly designed office can boost productivity

A building is pictured with employees in their offices and reflections in their windows at Santiago town,  Chile, July 13, 2017.  REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido - RC122793C490

Organisations are starting to realise that having more flexible workspaces can reduce occupancy costs. Image: REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

Washington Botelho Souza
Managing Director, Corporate Solutions, Latin America, JLL
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum on Latin America

People are the heart of any company. And the value a company attributes to its employees can be seen in its workspaces. A recent piece of JLL research, the Future of Work, showed that the changes in the way we work and the interaction between different generations are transforming the concept and function of offices.

The current hyper-competitive environment of converging industries and short product life cycles are forcing organisations to innovate continuously. At the same time, companies are finding themselves forced to deal with an increasingly fluid workforce, which includes telecommuters, freelancers, temporary workers, hired employees; while their workspaces need to meet higher expectations of productivity improvement.

Large and small organisations are starting to realise that having more flexible workspaces can help improve the management of this workforce. These flexible spaces comprise different types of space that can promote collaboration and innovation, attract and retain talent, and reduce occupancy costs.

There are many factors leading to an increasing demand for flexible spaces: from businesses seeking to reduce occupancy costs, to become more agile and protect themselves from market volatility; to workers seeking to work closer to home or remotely.

Nowadays, the most common type of flexible spaces in the market is co-working, an office environment shared by multiple companies and professionals; but there are also occupiers turning their own offices into a more flexible space, adding new types of work environments, where people can choose the way they prefer to work.

In the face of this new scenario, how can improving the employee’s experience be a competitive differentiator to attract and retain talent and help them to be more productive?

Companies can adopt different strategies, including:

A reactive approach: acknowledging that the work environment should convey its culture and vision to employees;

An active approach: defining environments that mirror the company’s values and encourage behaviour aligned to their vision;

A proactive approach: using the workplace as a competitive differentiator to bring and retain talent that act as brand ambassadors.

These initiatives provide an increase in the employees’ commitment with the company, the culture and the workspace, to foster productivity and engagement. More than just a place to work, organisations are delivering environments that favour collaboration and drive innovation. And continuous innovation is critical. Where it comes to their workspaces, organisations must be proactive in coming up with innovative ideas.

There is huge opportunity for innovation in property. The Future of Work research provides an example of one of our clients, who worked with an architect to incorporate research on the five senses in its redesign of several European offices. The research fed into the design by showing how appealing to each of the five senses can affect a person’s ability to work towards different outcomes, from individual concentration to group collaboration.

Using this research as a base, the architect took a different approach to each city, building out the Milan office around typical Italian locations such as a garden, a cellar, a theatre and a tailor’s shop. In Paris, the office was built as a “worksphere ecosystem” to incorporate values such as collaboration, transformation and the importance of the individual, along with classic French traits like passion, pride and love. This is how the property industry can play a key role in helping companies face ever-changing scenarios.

In addition, over the next three to five years, the standard of excellence for the human experience in property will comprise:

⦁ The growing collaboration between the HR, IT and property teams to offer users integrated services and a unique experience in work environments. The goal is to offer variety and flexibility, so people don’t have to work exclusively at a desk, but can also work remotely and in common spaces, where they will connect with peers, improving communication and collaboration between teams.

⦁ Internet of Things and predictive technologies will be fully applied, so the Facilities manager will be capable of anticipating and adjusting spaces, according to users’ demands based on data;

⦁ Hyper-customisation and flexibility of services will make employees feel supported and included, while enhanced assistance services will make them feel more secure.

The most successful companies on this journey will be the ones that truly understand what the new workforce means by "purpose" and "achievement", and design their space occupation strategies based on these findings.

If disruptions, uncertainties and change are inevitable, building an operating environment informed by data intelligence and business analytics, consolidated to adapt to an evolving market, is certain to be the best strategy.

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