New ways of working demand a fresh look at workspace

MeetingroomsThe new business model, empowered by the possibilities of big data and the scalability of the cloud, goes hand in hand with a new working structure built primarily on flexibility and mobility.

Disruptive tech start-ups in every sector, quick to innovate and quick to market, succeed by putting the customer first, offering more choice and better service at lower cost. Inspired by the social and shared economy, innovative companies such as Netflix, Uber and Airbnb have revolutionised the way we consume entertainment, transport and accommodation, closely followed by the ‘fintechs’, currently  in the process of transforming banking through crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending.

What this means for the majority of businesses is that they’re racing to adapt their working methods to remain competitive and attract staff. For CEOs, CIOs and anyone involved in facilities management, this translates into the need to provide the right working environment to get the best from employees, teams, partners and clients, with a keen eye on resource, expenditure and compliance.

Regardless that the current generation will be working longer than their parents, the future workforce will be dominated by Millennials, currently in their twenties and thirties. A report last year by financial consultants Deloitte estimates that they will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. Not surprisingly, it’s their aspirations and choices that increasingly dictate the way we manage the workplace.

Brought up on advancing technology, a global financial crisis and embedded as a matter of course in social media, Millennials want the organisations they work for to offer a base that will encourage innovative thinking, develop their skills, and make a positive contribution to society. On the other side of the coin, communication skills and collaboration now appear top of the list of preferred skills businesses look for across all sectors, including retail, healthcare, banking and energy.

This new way of working will increasingly embrace mobile working from a variety of workspaces that will include home, office and probably a ‘third place’, a physical ‘somewhere’ that joins the dots between virtual working anywhere, with an actual place in which to meet and discuss ideas.

However hyper-connected we become, people still form the centre of the workplace. Whatever technology we have at our fingertips, most of us still need social engagement and collaboration to innovate and produce our best work. Video conferencing, email and instant messaging all play their part, but meeting face to face with colleagues, partners and clients is still vital to build and strengthen relationships, internally and externally.

This means that however mobile the workforce, facilities managers need to be in a position to provide employees with the right atmosphere and structure that aligns with the culture of the company and generates a high level of productivity. Employees’ intent on mobility may start by thinking that working in a coffee shop or hotel lobby is part and parcel of flexible working, but who really feels professional surrounded by noise and struggling with intermittent Wifi?

This is where the new commodity – meeting space – comes into its own, allowing us the flexibility to choose the best environment that fits our needs at a given time, without the constraints of paying for full-time space when we don’t need it. Partnering with a flexible workspace-as-a-service platform such as enables companies to match the way employees want to work, while providing a professional and productive environment that keeps everyone engaged.

Fifty percent of the Millennials in the Deloitte survey said they wanted to work for a business focused on ethical practices, with resource scarcity and climate change top of the list. Meeting space as a shared commodity taps into this way of thinking and ultimately keeps both facilities managers and employees happy, and develops the structure for future innovation and success.