To get a glimpse on what the next 10 years will bring to the workplace and predict how it will transform as a consequence, there are a few points of view we could look at. From building owners, developers or occupiers at a local-scale – single or small network of buildings – to vast-scale changes brought by governments or even global events and cultural (r)evolutions, there are plenty of factors to influence the way the workspace can shift. Also, we would normally see a ten-year period as a long timeframe but it is now turning to be very little if we think at the number of technological advancement we have been experiencing lately.
This article will look at what we consider the most important group of all. That cohort who will be the driver for the decisions regarding how a workspace should be. To understand them will mean to have knowledge of the next phase of commercial building transformation. By gaining insight into the future workforce, the ins and outs of those who will be directly affected by all of this, means having the power to drive and be at the forefront of the change. A possible picture of the next generation of employees is already there. It is a matter of merging their needs and want with the opportunities given by technological changes, i.e. the adoption of automation, artificial intelligence, internet of things and others.
Generations in the workplace: who are they and what is their part in it?
By 2030, the workforce will be formed by four different generations, signing a multi-generation era in the workplace. These are Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1980), Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Z (after 1996). With Baby Boomers still part of the labour force but headed towards retirement, we look at the other groups as those who will fill the senior positions left by them.
It’s Millennials – the generational group born between 1980 and 1996 (34 to 50 years old in 2030) – that mostly will impact the future of the workplace, together with gen Z’ers. They are, in fact, already the largest segment (50%) of the overall workforce and they will expand to 1/3 in the next 5 to 6 years, according to an EY study.
Millennials are a culturally diverse group, having grown up in a society where opportunities to meet and be exposed to different cultures abounded. This background makes them open to diversity, and they expect this in the workplace as well.
- They want a workspace tailored to their needs and lifestyle.
- They have a strong idea of who they want to work for.
- They look for organisations that reflect their core values and that are inclusive, with a strong culture that sees them as equals.
- Moreover, issues such as sustainability are fundamental to them, therefore, this generation is picky about who they work for. It has to be a company that is environmentally responsible and is actively involved in this.
67% of workers believe working with technologies such as AI and automation is crucial and something that needs to be tackled in the next three to five years.
More so when speaking about Gen Z’ers.
- They are a driver for technological implementation as they are the first generation (i.e. digital natives) being born in a digitally and socially connected world.
- They are a tech-savvy group who spends an average of 10hrs a day on social media and sees intelligent technologies as something to be expected.
- Actually, 68% think advanced technologies will improve their work experience.
- Nevertheless, they also crave a human element in their everyday life and prefer face-to-face interactions in the workplace (31%), valuing team-work relationships as a top priority.
Wok-life balance is a cross-generational concern for Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. They are all interested in a work environment that keeps their outside-of-work needs in high regard. 62% of Gen Z’ers, for example, value “a fun, positive social atmosphere at work” more than they are interested in a higher salary. Millennials, too, believe balance is vital and expect the companies they work for to provide it.
So, what can we expect from the future workspace?
Fully integrated intelligent technologies
It is apparent intelligent technologies will have to be an integral part of the workspace. From voice-activated and controlled systems to, possibly, holographic conferencing for meetings, employees will expect IoT technologies to simplify and augment everyday work-life.
A fully automated smart building to support workflow will be the norm. From instant, secure access for both tenants and visitors – gone the annoying check-in process and old plastic cards – to simple booking and set-up of meeting rooms, the smart office will have to create a seamless experience for its occupiers.
Complete automation of internal systems such as climate, lighting and air filtration will be managed thanks to the use of sensors that can analyse aggregated, anonymised, data on tenants – their temperature and behaviour – and the surrounding ambience to correct them.
Office space will be designed to support flexibility and collaboration, with people free to move around and get comfortable like they would at home. AI will personalise how human manage their time to boost productivity. By understanding patterns of work, it will provide employees with customised advice on best working habits so that they’ll learn to work smarter.
Aided by big data and the insight gained from it, more intelligent use of building resources will support sustainability efforts through reduced waste and better energy use. This improvement will also translate in better standing with the previous mentioned generational groups.
Smart Spaces, for example, is already facilitating this transition in the property sector thanks to our app. Our 360-degrees platform “enables” workplaces, tailoring them on the occupier’s need so that they can enjoy a full workspace experience. We do this by integrating our API to typical building systems, therefore, giving full control and understanding of the space to property owners and their tenants. Smart Spaces bridges the gap between networks – both existing and new – and third-parties’ systems, be them IoT devices (e.g. Amazon Alexa or Softbank’s Pepper, the humanoid robot) or APIs such as Slack, Salesforce and Stripe.
Workspace Community for Tenant Engagement
To make up for a better work-life balance and improved employees’ retention, employers will need to provide a better tenant engagement. The employer of today and of the future will have to realise that the separation between life at work and outside of it is getting blurred. They’ll have to accommodate their employees “social” needs in their everyday working life.
Emphasis on healthy habits won’t fade and, indeed, will be part of daily routine both in terms of food and physical activities. Offering in-building amenities with a look at wellness and healthy eating or partnering with selected local providers in the sector will be the differentiator for most companies.
Smart Spaces, for example, let users build a community in the workplace through the use of the Social Wall. Thanks to it, employees can interact with each other and keep up to date on what’s happening around them. An events section provides information on everything interesting in the area, with a way to get tickets and share fun activities with colleagues. Tailored offers and perks are also featured in the app providing additional benefits.
Future Smart Workspace: Productivity and Efficiency Facilitator
Smart technologies are a facilitator to better productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Differing from most new technologies, their adoption has increased exponentially in the past years because of the inherent advantages they provide. For this reason, the use of smart systems is quickly gaining traction in the real estate sector as more people see the benefits connected to them, both in the short and long term.
The expanded knowledge given by the collected big data and predictive analytics becomes a true asset which affects social, environmental and structural aspects of the improved smart building – for both owners and occupiers alike. Specifically, the Smart Spaces platform can make a real difference in the workplace by acting as the neuralgic centre for all smart devices and systems networks while implementing features such as machine learning and predictive analysis to provide actionable insights.