How has the face of work been evolving over the years? A few decades ago, many workplaces are impersonal, cubicle-filled scenes, with employees holed up in their own private spaces. Such layouts are said to minimise distraction and power productivity, but the walls seemed inhibitive, curbing both creativity and collaboration among workers. And back in the 1970s, Xerox has been working on our “Office of the Future” vision—having created one of the first modern computers that will eventually transform how companies conduct their business. By heavily investing in technology, the company have been gradually paving the way towards the modern digital era.

Fast forward to recent years, and offices are moving towards flexible workspaces that can accommodate to the needs, preferences or working habits of their employees. The workplace is constantly changing, and it’s partly due to the impact technology have on how we work and collaborate with one another. These have, since the first few attempts to design the perfect office in 1958 years ago, affect the bottom-line of businesses for businesses, and will continue to do so for the next decades to come. Particularly, these four facets of the workplace have been evolving:

  1. Physical space: Many companies are combining contemporary architecture and interior design to offer engaging, inspiring, and environmentally sustainable office spaces. By reducing footprint, and maximising the use and scalability of office spaces, more are hoping to encourage the concept of working anywhere, anytime. They’re also moving on from desks and hierarchy, and gearing towards driving productive collaboration and outcomes.
  2. Technology: Mobility, cloud, social, and teleworking features can greatly aid productivity and performance at work, and this is carried out by deploying secure, manageable devices and applications along with ubiquitous connectivity and IP telephony. More are striving for less dependence on paper documents, while reducing waste through smarter printing practices. Businesses are also seeing how to boost productivity with better collaboration tools—both in person via in a variety of meeting spaces—as well as within virtual spaces.
  3. Process and practices: Fluctuations in headcount is a reality for some businesses, so flexible office spaces can reduce the unnecessary drain on resources. In-depth digitisation of existing processes and workflows can also enhance governance, compliance and collaboration with content.
  4. Culture and people: Businesses are cultivating office cultures that prioritise team efforts over hierarchy, while attempting to retain existing employees and attract more talent. With a more productive, responsive and flexible workforce, they can better engage with customers to deliver outstanding customer services.

The disruption of the past decade is now common knowledge, but can any business predict and adapt to the next wave of technological and business trends? Workspaces are always in flux, and we can either passively let change happen, or actively navigate our own path. Staying proactive about steering through this evolution is what establishing an intelligent workplace is about: positioning your organisation—across its physical spaces, technology, processes and operations, and culture and people—such that it’s ready to tackle any disruption.

Modern Workspaces Are More Flexible

According to research firm Tech Research Asia, some companies are sticking to traditional desk-bound offices. Others look to mobile devices or apps, with probably the most adaptable to changing trends work style being pursued called Activity Based Work (ABW). The following data points are derived from in-depth interviews conducted in 2014 to 2015 by Tech Research Asia, with 25 of Asia Pacific organisations that have adopted ABW.

ABW is concerned with office-based employees, offering a new approach to work that builds on approaches like hot desking. However, it should be viewed as a unique working style. It removes seats in the office and the hierarchy this entails by offering a broader variety of shared spaces, where employees can choose where to work depending on the task at hand and outcome desired. It also provides employees with time and place independence.

Adopting ABW or other highly mobile working styles require the executive office’s input. Businesses with ABW are twice as likely to nominate the CEO as their key decision maker than other role. However, as any workplace change involves employees, having a multi-stakeholder team—from HR, finance, operations, IT, and service delivery teams—is critical to ensuring support and success.

Topping the list of drivers for adopting ABW are real estate-related factors. Most organisations are drawn to this, due to lower office costs arising from reductions in floor space per employee, and increased flexibility in space. Many also want to tap on ABW to showcase their offices and values. Improved talent management and productivity are also popular factors.

Yet, the biggest challenge to implementing ABW is the office’s culture and people. As this involves fundamentally transforming the way employees work daily, hurdles will emerge. This can range from employees not wanting to be untethered from their personal spaces like their own desk or cubicles, to refusing to embrace this new way of work.

Find out more about ABW in our next blog post, where we will delve into encouraging flexible working styles at your office.