There was a time, a generation or two ago, when employees sat in rows and slaved away. Well, worked away. The view was the back of the person’s head in the desk in front of you. And they all had the same desks and the same chairs. The lighting was headache inducing and the globes were the best in the energy wasting department. As for comfort with the office furniture, well, ergonomic was a swear word for angry rugby supporters.
Roll on today. Work practices, work settings and work accoutrements have undergone a revolution. Today we work in different locations at different times and use vastly different everything. Even the coffee has changed.
A job is for life
Going back to those good old bad old days, people took a job for life. They joined the company and tried to work their way up the company ladder. Times have changed. The task force today is younger, smarter and far, far more mobile. People may stay with the same employer for a long time - how long is long? - but swapping (changing?) jobs today is the norm. One of the most popular web platforms for bright young things today is LinkedIn where networking and job opportunities abound.
In other words, work needs a new definition today. People change jobs regularly, work in unusual places including their lounge room, and what they sit on is new with a capital N. And just as work has changed so too has the workspace.
Why the changes?
Health and safety has certainly been a driving force as has fashion. But another factor has been the generational shift. Once the world was ruled by the senior members of society whereas today it’s the bright young things who have stormed the ramparts and hoisted the millennial flag. The average age of workers today is low getting lower. Young people want change, embrace change and fancy their employment locale to be friendly, trendy and flexible.
There are three significant factors at play here.
With the trend for workers to change jobs, change careers on a seemingly endless basis, employers need to smarten up their act if they wish to hang on to their smartest employees, any employees. By making the workplace friendly and inclusive, a work/play balance can be established right on the factory floor. And of course, a happy worker is a productive worker.
Changes in workplace settings and furnishings have been forced upon some bosses while the savvy ones grabbed the changes and ran with them. And the benefits are there for all to see.
Mobility is possible
If the machine, equipment or tools you needed for your work were under lock and key at your work location then that was that. You had to be there to perform your role. Not anymore. The tech revolution has seen work tools become smaller, smarter and portable. You are no longer desk bound. Have phone will travel.
Did you know there is more capability in a single smartphone than there was in the tons of equipment for a space mission not so long ago? Once again, progress and inventions have driven the way we work and where we can work.
So if your place of work and its décor lacks style, flexibility and “attractions”, your staff may be off before you can get them in the football tipping competition. The workspaces of the future need to embrace change and offer options which employees not only like but love.
Where once you might have added a pot plant or two and stuck it on a filing cabinet, today’s workspaces have the outside inside. You could have whole gardens - well vertical ones due to space - and where as much attention is paid to vegetation as it is to furniture and colour schemes. The workspace is welcoming, calming, inspiring and for the employees, desirable. They want to be there.
Unique is key. Making a workspace the same as elsewhere lacks power. Make your workspace different, attractive of course but individual and which sells the mood and message of the company.
Planet friendly environments are essential. Nothing pushes out an excellent worker more than a company with excessive use of resources, a lousy waste management programme and a lack of automation. By leaving a zero carbon footprint you engender pride in your workforce and make employees proud to work for your business.
It’s not a home away from home but it’s the next best thing. Having a workspace where some areas - and generous ones at that -- are reserved for fun, for relaxation and getting away from work is a huge boost for worker morale. They know there are special non-work areas. They can unwind, recharge and become more productive when they do return to work.
Never stand still
Just as work tools and equipment have changed and changed rapidly even this millennium, so too have workspaces taken on new ideas. Thinking you’ve come up with the best there is and now you can sit back and let your staff get cracking is a serious mistake.
Look for new trends in design and purpose. It’s easy to discover what others are doing. Would a particular new trend improve the productivity of your workers? Would a change be better for their health and wellbeing?
Standing still is not an option. Be always looking to improve.
Okay, so what are the benefits?
Spending money on a new or changed workspace can be expensive. But even if the cost is moderate, will that make your business more profitable? Well, in a word, yes. In Spain, the Institute of Biomechanics has found that just by improving the lighting in your workspace, businesses can achieve productivity improvements as high as 20%. Now of course lighting anywhere is a science and in your workplace it’s much more than simply upgrading the globes. But getting it right gets your bottom line right as well.
Ergonomics has come a long way in a short time. Quality chairs, ergonomically designed and built can make a huge difference to the comfort of your employees. Just think how the opposite will impact your business. Doing the right thing with even one thing - chairs - will make your workers, happier and healthier.
Your image comes from many factors not least of which is the workspace of your company. What does it look like? How functional is it? And does that space inspire and excite your employees? Get a big tick for all those aspects and you have an image which attracts and retains workers.
Absenteeism can be a costly problem for business. If your worker is absent they are not productive. And if the absent employee impacts the work of a colleague or colleagues, productivity stalls or falls. What are the comfort levels in your workspace? Is the air quality top class? Is the furniture conducive to good muscular operation? You might be surprised to learn that the cost of your workplace is only a fraction of the cost of your wage bill - something like 10 times more costly to pay your staff that to change and operate your environment. And yet the environment has the power to help or hinder your wage earners. Pay attention to their workspace.
Lose the formal
Trends strongly point to horizontal structures being more popular and more productive than vertical arrangements. Less of the upstairs/downstairs structure. Have meetings in an informal setting. Have the managers on the same level and within easy reach of your workers. The key is the worker. Think people in your layout and design. Lose the formality of old-fashioned ways and bring people together.
Make it easy or easier for people to meet in informal settings. They’ll be happier and certainly more productive.
Why make changes?
Better to ask why not? Anyway the revolution is well and truly here. If you don’t get with the programme you’ll be going out the back door at a rate of knots. The health and wellbeing, the enthusiasm of workers is directly related to their workspace. Sure there are other factors but if you want a happy and healthy workforce, getting stuck into your workspace is fundamental to your success.
And just like the digital revolution and the way we work today, the environment in which we work has changed in remarkable fashion.
There are manufacturers who do nothing other than design and build ergonomic furniture. There are lighting designers who understand the carbon footprint and need for comfort and efficiency in lighting your office.
And there are workspace professionals who understand the need for communication and collaboration and so create unique areas to make your business more efficient and certainly more productive.
Join the workspace revolution today.