By Madeline Dunsmore
Today’s effective facility managers know that keeping up to date on office trends is smart business. Rapidly evolving technologies are being integrated into office space as companies work to attract talent and increase employee satisfaction. Facilitating and accommodating these modernizations can boost a building’s appeal to potential new tenants and keep current occupiers happy and successful.
Combing through data, we’ve identified seven key areas to watch for in 2019 office trends:
1. Artificial Intelligence/Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
Artificial intelligence (AI) can boost operational excellence in many industries–rapidly analyzing vast troves of data and facilitating evidence-based strategic decisions. This can be a great support to the creative work that can’t be outsourced to a machine. For example, the Associated Press is using AI to generate text and fill in video and image content for routine stories, like quarterly earnings reports, so human reporters can focus on storytelling and more complex news stories.
Virtual reality (VR) has great potential for immersive training and data-visualization — imagine architects walking a client through a virtual building before it is built or psychologists being able to treat a patient for fear of heights without the liability of taking them to the top of a skyscraper. It can “put” people in almost any location or situation imaginable, enabling interaction with items that would otherwise be too dangerous or cost-prohibitive to have in a training environment.
Augmented reality (AR) brings two worlds together adding virtual elements into the physical world that have applications far broader than the Pokémon Go craze. It can simulate face-to-face meetings for participants around the globe or provide access to just-in-time information anytime, anywhere, allowing an unparalleled level of responsiveness.
2. Learning Is The New Working
In recent years, one percent of the jobs created each year are entirely new — that adds up to 10 percent of the nation’s jobs being in industries or positions that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Companies will have to choose between outsourcing to tech experts, hiring a new cadre of workers, or retraining current employees to utilize these new tools. Taking design ideas from university classrooms and technology incubators, corporations can pick the most engaging and effective training strategies for their particular needs and incorporate productive learning spaces into their workplace design.
3. Compression Fatigue
Over the past decade, office space has become denser, less segmented, and more collaborative — in many cases shrinking down to only 100 square feet per employee. Whether that trend remains at current levels or reverses as companies expand office footprints, the new mix of space that has emerged through years of compression has become the new standard. Communal and collaborative environments have replaced solitary cubicles and transformed office interactions.
The flexibility of co-working spaces allows telecommuters or independent professionals to take advantage of interactions and business development opportunities that spring from the proximity to those with complementary skills. Co-working has risen into the mainstream as part of nearly every real estate strategy. This change is driving nearby retail foot traffic and accelerating the adoption of technologies that facilitate remote interactions. Even larger corporations are exploring the benefits of placing teams in up-and-coming locations to increase access to innovation, education, and talent without long-term commitments.
5. Experiences Not Possessions
Today’s more mobile workers have shown increased interest in experiences over possessions. Prioritizing travel and choosing to live in smaller spaces, this growing population is boosting prospects for airport retail, ridesharing, and vacation rentals. Some companies are responding to this value shift by offering schedule and location flexibility to employees and incorporating experiences into office amenities. This could play out by allocating space for a high-end coffee bar or golf simulator into the office instead of having an assigned seat or office for every employee.
6. Home Is Where The Heart Is (Except For When It’s Not)
A new IKEA study says many people feel more at home in their cars or workplaces than they do at home. Perhaps this stems from the recent adoption of residential design elements — emphasizing the cozy, comfortable, and colorful — in workplace interiors. Moving away from utilitarian and minimalist design, many companies are bringing upholstered chairs, indirect lighting, and occasional tables into communal spaces to foster comfortable collaboration and offer employees the warmth and coziness they aren’t feeling at home.
7. Personal Device Integration
Smart technologies are making their way into the office. For example, since nearly everyone has a smartphone, room sensors could be programmed to pull up meeting-specific information or dial into a video conference as a particular employee enters the room, to assist with navigation when visiting a new office campus, or to update headcounts for office events based on the phones in proximity. Company-branded apps can automate workspace tasks — allowing employees to reserve a parking spot, locate an open conference room, log an IT ticket, or update HR information from within the same portal.
Facilities with the flexibility and infrastructure to support innovation will benefit from increasing interest in the technologies and trends that are transforming the workspace experience. Many of these advances are not off on some distant horizon, but rapidly being adopted across a range of industries. Facilities management can play a major role in making these transitions smooth and efficient in ways that benefit both owners and tenants.
Madeline Dunsmore serves as a regional workplace manager in the Newmark Knight Frank Workplace Strategy and Human Experience team. Ms. Dunsmore leads the change management practice as well as leading workplace intelligence assessments for clients to build a better understanding of workplace needs. Her work around telework programs and the impact on managers, the workforce, and space needs, set her apart as a leader in the workplace field. She has also developed change management plans to support workplace transformations including training for managers, facilitating workshops and focus groups, and presenting compelling visions to executives about new ways of working and workplace environments.