Future-proofing the workplace

Advances in technology and new thinking around worker productivity are driving change in the traditional office environment. Already, leading innovators such as Google and Apple are implementing the idea of fewer desks and more open spaces. And, as more and more companies take up the concept of partnering with clients as opposed to working for them, their office design will also become more informal. Closed-off boardrooms and stiff reception areas will be a thing of the past, and visitors with be greeted with coffee and a view of the inner workings of the office as one function flows seamlessly into the next.

The focus will be on transparency, with walls and barriers giving way to glass and open-plan areas that encourage discussion, and the sharing of knowledge and ideas between clients and employees. It is here that millennial influence has come to have an effect on office design, creating an environment that fosters enjoyment of the workspace and working together, without silos. Technology means that where and when employees do their work is far more flexible than in days gone by, with mobile technology and Wi-Fi allowing people to starting to create working communities.

Offices of the future are set to look more like digital playgrounds than traditional workspaces. Technology will play an increasingly pivotal role here – not only when it comes to mobile and cloud computing, but also in terms of organisations’ competitiveness. Ideas such as the “Internet of Things”, which is about using sensors and other embedded technologies to interact with smart devices through the Internet, will become key to maintaining a competitive edge. Brainstorming and collaboration are non-negotiable when it comes to innovation – but they also make for a contented and harmonious workforce.

This means spaces that encourage informal gatherings – think stairwells, corridors and hallways (all of which have the potential to become collaborative spaces) – will become more important in the new workplace. Moreover, spaces that encourage physical movement are already being seen as more conducive to all types of productivity than sitting behind a desk is. “Going green” has become less of a trend and more of a smart business decision.

Think natural light that cuts down on utility costs, a multitude of indoor plants and easy access to outdoor areas and cafeterias that serve fresh organic food – all of which benefit employees and enhance output. Some truly forward-thinking employers are even starting to embrace the idea of the power nap, installing furniture that facilitates 20-minute naps during the day.

This is based on the belief that employees who feel rested and cared for tend to perform better. Some have even provided wearable technology, which monitors the activity and health levels of employees, sending alerts when energy is low and rest is needed to maintain productivity. It seems that office spaces of old are set to change dramatically, thanks both to technology and employers understanding that concepts such as choice, work-life balance and flexibility really do go a long way towards creating a positive, productive and happy workforce

The ins and outs of office relationships can be daunting. Unfortunately, one of the less pleasant aspects of working life is office politics. That said, while office politics may be awkward and unpleasant, they are a reality in many businesses. As a graduate, it’s a mistake to get involved and take sides. So while you should be pleasant and polite to everyone, remember that becoming embroiled in battles that have nothing to do with you will most likely backfire.