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Exploring offices of the future

An example of a trendy, designer, and green office space. An example of a trendy, designer, and green office space.

As the world’s business environment evolves, so does the design of the workplace. Human capital management solutions provider Manpower South Africa Managing Director, Lyndy van den Barselaar, takes a look at emerging global trends in workplace design, layout and functionality.

“As the number of millennials entering the workplace rises, we see the structure of the workplace changing dramatically as companies are creating environments that will appeal to the up-and-coming generation. This generation is brought up on mobile technology, fluent in social media and concerned with issues like climate change and sustainability. Millennials are looking for workplaces that reflect their ideals,” explains van den Barselaar.

Global advertising agency Havas Worldwide published a Prosumer Report titled Millennials: The Challenger Generation, which took a look at this new generation and the impact they are expected to have on various aspects of the world – including the workplace.

One of the findings of the report was that their work style relies heavily in the four C’s of customisation, communication, collaboration and creativity. “Smart employers are making changes to their work processes and their work spaces, to better appeal to this generation of fast-thinking, collaborative minds,” says van den Barselaar.

She notes some of the top trends for workspaces coming out of this realisation by employers:

1. Shared work spaces

There is a definite trend toward workspaces that can be used by different employees at different times, rather than designated desks or working areas, as well as social spaces being incorporated into office buildings. “This style of working appeals to the ideas of customisation, collaboration and communication, allowing employees freedom to choose their workspace for the day and making it easier for them to work together and interact socially with one another,” explains van den Barselaar.

2. Flexibility

Another rising trend in office space design is that of supreme flexibility of a space. “Built in furniture is being replaced by easily moveable furniture and even walls that can be moved and rearranged. Basically a fully customisable workplace,” says van den Barselaar. “This allows the space to be rearranged when necessary and on a whim. A flexible space also appeals to the idea of creativity.”

3. Environmentally friendly materials

With heightened awareness globally around issues like global warming, emissions and climate control, there has been a rise in the amount of environmentally friendly or ‘green’ products available – including building materials. “From the use of recycled materials, to efficient energy use and even the elimination of paper all together; modern office spaces are truly aimed at caring about, and for, the environment,” explains van den Barselaar. Companies such as Siemens, Google, and GlaxoSmithKline are examples of large corporations caring for the environment and therefore, their employees. “This appeals to the ideals of the millennial generation, who are known for being concerned about issues surrounding the environment, humility and humanitarianism,” she notes.

Caring for the environment also reflects positively on an organisations social responsibility and general reputation.

4. Multifunctional structures

“With the dwindling use of paper in modern workspaces, companies are finding more creative ways of facilitating the need for writing. This trend has seen the introduction of entire walls painted to act as white boards, or desks painted with chalk paint,” notes van den Barselaar. This not only fosters customisation, creativity and collaboration, but also supports the environment in the process.

5. Design

No longer does a workspace have to be uniform and boring. Quirky designs are being welcomed into modern workspaces all over the world. Google’s London Headquarters are the perfect example, incorporating a different theme for every area or room in the building. “Not only does this incorporate an element of fun into the workplace, but can also stimulate the creative mind-set of employees,” says van den Barselaar.

In conclusion, she says that it is imperative for employers to take these trends into consideration. “In order to attract and retain fresh, young talent, it is necessary to appeal to the millennial generation. By incorporating some or all of these elements into your workspace; or by finding unique ways of introducing customisation, care, collaboration, creativity and communication into your workplace, the task will be made easier. If you are finding it hard to think of ideas, ask your employees for what they would like to see in the workplace.” 

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