Baltimore, Md., -- Faced with a tech-savvy and increasingly mobile workforce, today's companies are searching for ways to stay competitive and attract the best and brightest by investing in workplaces that both express their missions and serve employees' needs. What's next for the way we work? Architecture and interior design firm RTKL offers the following predictions for 2006.
The iPod Worker: Today's workplace is no longer a 9-to-5 proposition; instead it's a place for workers to come and go as they please--to still get their work done but do so without constant monitoring. This has less to do with work-life balance, and more to do with a growing acknowledgment that workflow is unique to each person. Tomorrow's leading companies will recognize this shift, embracing their employees' passions (whether they are money-driven, activism-driven or even health-driven), and creating workplaces that serve as "home bases" for strategies that extend beyond the office walls.
According to Dennis Gaffney, RTKL Vice President: "Smart companies are looking at ways to mine value from an increasingly independent and idiosyncratic workforce. Providing workplaces that acknowledge workers' absence as much as their presence is a key way of achieving that; companies will ensure that when they're there, workers' interactions with the space are as meaningful as possible."
Building the Brand: More and more, companies are leveraging their workplaces by making them showcases for their brands. Through a series of well-orchestrated touchpoints, these brand-rich environments help employees to better understand the company's core values; they boost investor confidence; and they give customers and clients a more interactive experience with the brand. Expect to see different types of companies--from law firms to lobbyists, manufacturers to distributors--look for ways to better express through their workplaces who they are and why they're different.
According to Gaffney, "Over the next couple of years, we are going to see a variety of companies take more of a retail-style approach to their workplaces by attempting to forge emotional relationships between the tangibles of the brand and the people who experience them."
The Open-Source Workplace: The CEO is no longer the oldest, most powerful guy in the room. In this age of open-source communication, ideas can come from anywhere, so even the mail clerk has a say in the way a company does business. Corporate leaders are no longer dismissing this trend as a recipe for chaos but welcoming the input. The upheaval of hierarchy can be a path to greater productivity. Expect the new workplace to acknowledge this transparency of power and embrace the free flow of information and a flattened corporate structure.
According to Wendy Mendes, RTKL Vice President, "Companies are looking for ways to bolster 'peer production' instead of the manager-directed edicts of past. This will take the form of more flattened corporate hierarchies and a much broader and more inclusive conversation."
Swimming in the Blogosphere: As the definition of "conversation" changes to reflect the digital age, face-to-face communication is becoming obsolete. More and more CEOs are turning to blogs for internal mission statements and messages, and workers are relying on digital media to communicate--even with employees who sit a desk away. As people become increasingly tied to their computers, and become slaves to their PDAs, companies will re-evaluate the ways in which they use their space to engender effective face-to-face interaction and reflect the corporate mission.
According to Mendes: "If all communication happens at the desk, companies must find ways to get employees to interact with the workplace. They must find ways to reap the benefits only face-to-face communication affords. And they still seek the morale-boosting benefits of human interaction. Look for smart companies to design their workplaces to respond to these issues."