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April 03
Part 2: Trends Reshaping Today's Workplace

Zipcar 2.jpg Zipcar office.jpg
The award-winning Zipcar® headquarters in Boston incorporates all of the innovations of the modern work environment, including a comfortable, inviting design and creative spaces for brainstorming.  

Office environments continue to evolve to meet the changing work habits of today's culture. In Part 1 of our discussion about trends reshaping today's workplace, we noted how the three trends of co-working, the multi-generational office and the need to focus are a main topic of importance. It is also known that flexible work environments, corporate identity and talent management, and wellness and productivity are challenging offices to provide the best possible experience for employees.

4. Flexible work environments 

Technology and the new working cultures it allows may have freed us to work in previously inconceivable ways but what is most intriguing about the ongoing debate is how it has shifted perceptions of the workplace. Far from spelling the end of the office as futurologists thought around twenty years ago, flexible working has changed our relationship with the workplace. It is many things to many people, especially those for whom the 9 to 5 is no more (or never was). It is a link to the firm, a repository of knowledge, a meeting place, a social space, a source of identity and a source of comfort.  

This enduring human attraction to bricks and mortar, despite whatever technology makes possible, is what made flexible working a big workplace debate of today. The desire for flexible work environments has been accompanied with data showing that employees are not as effective in specific ways when working apart from one another. This is especially evident as innovative companies around the world provide offices designed to encourage in-office collaboration, noting the importance of physically being at work.   

5. Corporate identity and talent management

There has always been a close link between the labor market and office design. In the wider business community, the conundrum that has dominated management thinking over the last two decades is this: if your main asset is knowledge and that knowledge is largely locked up in people’s heads, how do you attract those heads to your organization? Then, how do you make them stay there?

It is this riddle that has led to the dominance of ‘soft’ issues in management thinking and why workplace design has focused increasingly on softer business issues such as corporate culture, the environment and knowledge management. It has driven the growth of flexible work practices as organizations have tried to give people a better work-life balance. It has driven the softening of the workplace itself, the growth of break-out space and the focus on the team. And, of course, it has pushed on the idea of employer branding and how to convey identity at work.

Branding in the workplace may largely have focused on replicating a corporate identity, but now there is a far greater focus on reflecting important values to staff. Where once you had logos in the carpet and walls in corporate colors, now we have visualizations of how the company addresses business and environmental issues, the intelligent use of colors and materials to convey ideas and emotions, imagery from packaging and marketing campaigns and manifestations of the outside world.

6. Wellness and productivity

We know that workplace design has an impact on individual productivity and business performance. At some level, whether through academic research or personal experience, everybody knows that there is a link between our surroundings and our wellbeing and happiness. That is why what we find in practice is that most people work in decent, if not exceptional, workplaces and are provided with a fair degree of comfort, natural light, fresh air and control over how they work along with all other features of the contemporary office.

How do you see these trends affecting workplaces? Are there any trends you think should also be included in this discussion? We would love to know.