There has been a major shift in corporate real estate over the past five years. With the technology industry leading the way, organizations in many sectors are realizing the benefits of taking a people-first approach to transforming their traditional office space into mobile-friendly work environments. It also lowers business costs by more efficiently using space focused on functional need instead of dedicated spaces that go unused when employees are out of the office.
Facilities leaders are embracing the “digital workplace” to address changing employee needs and preferences that have been linked to higher productivity, increased innovation, and easier collaboration.
So what is a digital workplace?
The digital workplace calls for the transformation of traditional office spaces and resources into an all-digital work environment that delivers consumer-like experiences to everyone. This workplace allows people to seamlessly communicate and collaborate across any device or location, and securely access data and apps based on their job role and work scenario.
A truly digital workplace removes the barriers of time, location, device, and network connection. It gives workers greater flexibility and job satisfaction while delivering business advantages, such as higher productivity, improved agility, and support for sustainability efforts. For example, companies can reduce their carbon footprint with a smaller physical facility and help lower energy consumption and emissions by cutting down on employee commuting. Companies that go mobile can offer more flexibility to their employees for where they work while staying within industry benchmarks for total square footage, giving them an advantage over their non-mobile competitors.
What are its implications for corporate real estate?
Although corporate floor plans have evolved over the years, many office buildings continue to fall into a familiar pattern: planners choose a location and build a space with offices, rows of cubicles, and some meeting rooms. In the past when most people worked full time in the office, employees were expected to adapt to this standard layout. But several mega-trends have disrupted this traditional model, such as:
- The changing expectations of workers
- The rapid adoption of the cloud
- The consumerization of IT
- Globalization characterized by a round-the-clock work mode
- The dominance of social and mobile technologies and networks
These forces are increasingly shifting work away from corporate offices toward a flexible, mobile model. And as a result, real estate managers and executives have to re-think the office environment. They need to provide flexible designs that promote innovation, collaboration, and productivity—all while addressing mobile workers’ specific requirements and preferences.
- A few key considerations to support these new digital workplace needs:
- Project-based teams that rapidly form and disband, and may involve different people across different departments or locations
- Collaboration within facilities and across geographies—both formal and ad hoc
- Individual work requiring quiet concentration without distractions
- One-on-one meetings requiring privacy
- Socialization and relaxation to build teams, strengthen the company culture, and relieve stress
At the same time, to avoid wasting capital investments, they need to maintain high utilization of real estate despite the growing mobility of the workforce.
Designing workplaces for today’s mobile workers
A new or remodeled office must take into consideration the different needs of stationary employees (receptionists, inside sales staff, and technical support representatives) versus mobile workers. Mobile employees’ work styles encompass a great deal of variability, so it’s best to provide many options to choose from depending on what they may need at any given time. Empowering employees to select the workplace that best meets their needs for specific tasks results in higher productivity and increased satisfaction.
Mobile workers inside an office are often part of project teams and do not need assigned desks. Instead they need:
- The ability to choose a workplace based on the task at hand
- Technologies such as virtualized apps and desktops, collaboration tools, and document-sharing software delivered to their mobile device (laptop, smartphone, tablet) or a thin client
- Project rooms
- Collaboration spaces for team meetings
- A library or other quiet area for individual work
- Cafes or other social areas for networking
Workers who require mobility outside the office are typically field sales staff, consultants, and other workers who travel extensively. They already use mobile technologies in the field, so they simply bring along their devices and typically do not require an assigned space in the corporate location. When they visit a corporate office, they often are accompanied by customers or business partners.
Their needs include:
- An area analogous to an airport business lounge to conduct meetings
- Access to quiet and/or private spaces for heads-down work or confidential interactions
Are you currently undergoing a workspace redesign, focused on supporting the needs of a new mobile environment? Tell us about it in the comments below!