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The Future of Work: Meeting Tomorrow’s Workforce at the Intersection of Design & Technology

May 24, 2016 by Lisa Hurd Walker

“Welcome to the future.” “The future is now.”

That’s what they keep telling us, at least.

Except that in some ways, the future is looking more like an amalgamation of past, present, and future: a hybrid rendering of the “best of the best” across decades of experimentation and technological innovation. Think Herman Miller design ingenuity meets modern technology, virtual reality, and remote work preferences, as one recent Fortune article describes.

For the future of work – and work spaces, more specifically – company leaders are drawing upon lessons learned over the years. Drab, depersonalized cubicles lined neatly in a row? Think again.

But companies are also putting the nail in the coffin on the open-office concept trend. Why? Because the intent behind a fully open concept – to spur spontaneous collaboration – has in many ways backfired over the years, turning the potential for greater creativity and team building into incessant interruption without alternatives to complement different work styles, leading more coworkers to don headphones as a “do not disturb” warning.

When given the opportunity, employees have spoken out, and companies are responding. Productivity lives at the intersection of design and technology, all with the end user in mind. The personalization trend has hit the workplace.

A smarter option is available.

Futuristic workspaces aren’t a far-off reality. They’re being envisioned as we speak. At Fuze, we’re paving the way with smarter technology on the frontend and backend to create a more immersive work experience for next-generation workspace design.

Randy Howder, principal for architecture and design firm Gensler, recently told Fast Company: “Smart conference spaces will facilitate meetings by providing easy access for devices to connect to monitors and seamless methods for remote workers to join the meeting via audio or videoconferencing. Sensors may track metrics on meeting participation to ensure that team members each have an opportunity to give feedback.”

The devil is in the details when it comes to smooth adoption, and for teams living in an “always-on” work reality, connectivity is essential. Technology that is intuitive and feels like a natural extension of face-to-face communication will make unproductive meetings a thing of the past.

Flexibility is key.

Workers are requiring more individual time to complete projects. In fact, a recent Gensler study showed that in 2013, workers spent 54 percent of their time on work requiring individual focus, up from 48 percent in 2008. Modern offices – and the technology driving those spaces – must account for workers needing to transition easily from one task to another: from large-group brainstorms to solo projects; from laptop to mobile; from office to car to loft to coworking space to coffee shop. UX design matters as much as furniture and spatial design when it comes to the workplace of the future. All should operate harmoniously if you want employees to feel successful and reap greater productivity gains from supporting the way they uniquely work.

Personalization matters.

The workplace of the future, according to Howder, can have a “modular approach to furniture, giving employees a budget to choose from a collection of pieces that allow them to customize standing or sitting desk features, desk space, and other elements that adapt to both their type of work and their individual bodies and work styles.” Ergonomic chairs custom-made to fit your body have been added to the list of possibilities, too.

Just as your furniture should support your work style (literally), so too should your technology be anything but one-size-fits-all. Employees should be able to choose Mac or PC, work-at-home or work on-the-go, and applications should equip them to have all of their customer, team, and project information at the ready regardless of where work happens.

Boundaries are shifting.

According to Ken Raisbeck, EMEA head of occupier advisory at CBRE, Ltd., “agile, flexible working [will] become the norm, [and as a result] workplaces will become more of a luxury or reward.” With workspace becoming a work perk, expect fewer distinctions between work life and personal life. As more employees are given the option to work remotely – either as an incentive or as an option to tap talent across an increasingly distributed workforce – work is becoming more energized by all that can be accomplished within a single day.

The workspace of the future rewards teams with the freedom to dial in or log on whenever, wherever, however it suits them best. In doing so, we’re giving rise to a new definition of “business hours.” We’re redefining what it means to be “open.” We’re reimagining what it means to be available, connected, and engaged. And we’re that much closer to fulfilling all the promises of the future of work.

Lisa Hurd Walker
Lisa Hurd Walker

Lisa is the VP of Brand and Corporate Marketing at Fuze. 

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