The Leader Magazine

DEC 2018

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the lea D er December 2018 45 a break from the past It's important to recognize the history of this topic, and how the workplace's continued evolution has brought us to where we are today. Looking back to the 1950s and 1960s, there was an important movement born out of the German concept of "Bürolandschaft" to create more open, organic, collaborative workplace designs. But the introduction of the personal computer interrupted this vision and played an integral role in the creation of the dense, desk-intensive, highly standardized floor plans that have been the norm, until recently, for global office design. The era of desktop computing and telephony mandated that persons conduct most of their work in a fixed location. In order to get their work done, people needed to be present wherever their technology resided – in an office, cubicle, or conference room – in order to have access to their critical tools. As a result, over many decades, people's choice of where to work was severely limited and the notion of asking users to conform their work patterns to technology-driven workplace designs became an expectation. Even today, many organizations operate under these same assumptions, but this line of thinking has become woefully outdated. A long-overdue reevaluation of this thinking is happening today, largely driven by the rise of mobility in our everyday lives and, more specifically, in the workplace. The last ten years have carried us to the point today where most employee- critical technologies don't reside in a single location. Instead, access to such tools and resources is ubiquitous; our technologies travel with us in our pockets, purses, and backpacks. In adopting mobility strategies, and perhaps without even realizing they were doing so, IT teams enabled new levels of user autonomy that allow people to work beyond the confines of their offices. Now, people are freed from desktop technologies and, more significantly, their actual desks. This has created new levels of expectations among employees that the workplace functions very differently than it once did. Think of employees as consumers Activity-based work and team-centered, agile-workplace strategies have gained widespread adoption in many parts of the world in recent years. These strategies emphasize offering employees a variety of shared spaces and are an excellent means of better supporting mobile work. However, it's not just supporting a greater range of spatial environments that makes the difference in driving improved workplace experience. Employees must be understood as consumers of the space and technology that employers offer. Employees, like consumers, are actively shopping for what tools and spaces best support their work, whether it is within their employer's workplace or not. This idea, referred to as consumerization, is an important one and is recognized by many in the IT world. IT leaders have grown to understand the importance of user-friendly technologies for employees to feel confident and comfortable. Since employees can choose to use simpler consumer technologies such as Dropbox and Facetime versus solutions like Sharepoint and Telepresence, IT organizations have had to take a more human-centered approach that emphasizes simple, intuitive, and enjoyable experiences over the enterprise standardization we previously saw for several decades. Keeping humans where they belong: at the center of work It's important to note that consumerization, now more than ever, is no longer just an IT thing. HR professionals have been evaluating the impact of consumer mindsets in the workplace for several years, and it is time facility and real estate teams embrace it as well. Offering people more choice in their work environments and promoting a broader range of activities is a very important step, but it cannot reach its full potential without recognizing employees as consumers. The first step in embracing a consumerization mindset begins with gaining an understanding of how current spaces and technologies are perceived. What spaces and tools are most desirable? What is least desirable? What inhibits the productive use of space? And, perhaps most important, where do employees enjoy working outside of the office, and why? It's critical to recognize that corporate office spaces are actually in competition with many other places, ranging from employees' homes to coworking locations and even public spaces. If organizations seek to optimize their use of real estate, then they need to know the "competition" and create desirable experiences within their facilities. By shifting mindsets, companies can begin to embrace, introduce and prototype new approaches to their workplaces that promote positive experiences, and ultimately better retain employees and improve their productivity. Organizations that already embrace this mindset are often on the cutting edge of the future of work, but many others still assume that their employees will simply need to conform their work processes to whatever is given to them. Employees must be provided spaces and technology that they believe are intuitive, productive and satisfying. Only then can a human-centered workplace thrive. Ryan Anderson serves as vice president of Product Marketing and Workplace Strategy at Teem, a cloud-based-software solutions firm for workplaces.

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