The changing face of the workspace

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Remember the 1980s’ hit New Zealand television show Gliding On? If you were to watch a re-run, you’d be hard-pressed to relate to the office setting that the programme portrayed.

From cigarette smoking at desks to wearing ties and knitted vests, working with unwieldy computer monitors and rotary dial phones, to watching the clock for an on-the-dot sign-out at 5pm – it’s all from a bygone era. The office arena today is a completely different beast.

Today, flexi-time or remote working options may have replaced the rigidly-monitored clocking-in process, entire workplace precincts are designated no-smoking zones, dress codes are generally fairly relaxed and technology has gone flat screen and wearable.

Changing business models, more flexible physical workspaces and the power of a millennial workforce have all been disruptors in the office sector – and there are more changes ahead.

New York-headquartered Fit Small Business, a leading digital resource for small business owners, has identified some trends for the office sector that may have relevance for the New Zealand market as it adapts to changing expectations from people right across the organisational flow chart.

• Forget the “female” and “male” signs on bathroom doors. They will be replaced with gender-neutral imagery/words reflective of changing societal attitudes to gender assignation. Non-binary bathroom amenities will be a visible nod to more inclusive practices across the business environment.

• Animals will have a place in offices and this may go beyond emotional support animals. Studies have shown that having dogs in the office can lower stress levels, reduce absenteeism, boost productivity, improve morale and even extend the hours that a worker puts in. As an organisation, Google has a special place in its code of conduct for dogs, stating: “affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture”, while at Amazon’s Seattle offices, more than 7000 dogs are registered to come to work.

• Artificial intelligence will start to make a real impact in the office environment by taking over mundane and routine tasks like helping to find information and sifting through large volumes of data, says digital analyst, Gartner. As voice-activated assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant start to become more mainstream within the home, they’ll start to be more accepted in the workplace.

• The use of wearable workplace technology will become more widespread. According to a PwC report, The Wearable Life 2.0: Connected Living in a Wearable World, by 2020, more than 75 million wearables will pervade the workplace. This can be for wellness applications in general office environments, but for those working in dangerous fields like manufacturing, construction, oil, and mining sectors, the wearables will take on a health and safety role.

• Office buildings will need to look at offering electric vehicle charging stations to meet the changing expectations of vehicle owners. Just how the costs are apportioned will be up for debate/negotiation, but business owners may see the provision of charging units as a bonus for staff. 

• Maybe one day, the office of today will look as antiquated as the one seen in the 1980s re-runs, but for now, there’s plenty of exciting change to take on board. www.bayleys.co.nz/workplace/articles/insights  

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