A look at trends that are re­shap­ing mod­ern of­fice

Los Angeles Times - - WORK LIFE - By Jena McGre­gor Jena McGre­gor writes a daily col­umn an­a­lyz­ing lead­er­ship in the news for the Washington Post’s On Lead­er­ship sec­tion.

A cou­ple of years ago, Ya­hoo Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Marissa Mayer made the con­tro­ver­sial an­nounce­ment that her em­ploy­ees could no longer work from home and would need to re­turn to work­ing in the of­fice.

But lots of com­pa­nies wrestling with how to get peo­ple to show their face at work, in an era dur­ing which telecom­mut­ing is in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, are try­ing to lure them back rather than man­date it. While or­ga­ni­za­tions have long em­braced the ben­e­fits of “hotel­ing,” in which em­ploy­ees re­serve desks for them­selves rather than get­ting a ded­i­cated space to work ev­ery day, many are tak­ing that con­cept even fur­ther, adding concierge-like staff and other perks to give work­ers more rea­sons to comeon site.

That’s one of the big take­aways of a re­port re­leased last week at Neo Con, the an­nual mega con­fer­ence at­tended by ma­jor de­sign­ers of cor­po­rate Amer­ica’s of­fices and cu­bi­cles. The re­port was put to­gether by Knoll, the work­place de­sign com­pany, and Un Wired, a Bri­tish pub­lish­ing and events busi­ness fo­cused on the fu­ture of work. It sur­veyed lead­ers in charge of the fa­cil­i­ties and real es­tate of 46 global com­pa­nies.

Here are high­lights from the new re­port that re­flect how the mod­ern of­fice is chang­ing:

Peo­ple spend only about half their pro­fes­sional time at cor­po­rate head­quar­ters. The lead­ers sur­veyed said their work­ers spend about 49% of their time in the com­pany’s main of­fice, with the rest of their time di­vided be­tween other of­fices, client sites, work­ing from home and “third spa­ces” such as cof­fee shops or the side­lines of their kids’ soc­cer field.

They also spend a lot of time away from their desks. On a typ­i­cal day among the com­pa­nies sur­veyed, desks are in use only 47% of the time, and meet­ing rooms are only in use 50% to 60%.

The “hotel­ing” con­cept is ex­pand­ing. Many com­pa­nies have been prac­tic­ing the idea of “hotel­ing” for a while, in which em­ploy­ees re­serve desks when they need them rather than hav­ing their own. Some, how­ever, are tak­ing that con­cept even fur­ther now. As the mod­ern work­force in­creas­ingly in­cludes col­lab­o­ra­tive teams of clients, part­ners, free­lancers and con­tract work­ers — as well as trav­el­ing em­ploy­ees — the of­fice is be­com­ing more of a hos­pi­tal­ity hub than a home base.

“These ecosys­tems have ex­panded,” said Knoll’s work­place vice pres­i­dent, Tracy Wymer. “The fa­cil­ity needs to ac­com­mo­date them. The clos­est anal­ogy is a ho­tel lobby ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said, where ho­tel guests and the peo­ple they need tomeet with can con­gre­gate.

That’s lead­ing to more, and dif­fer­ent, perks. Knoll’s re­port states that “the move to concierge ser­vice” is chang­ing the na­ture of the work­place. “At some of­fices, a host, of­ten cre­ated from a com­bined fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment and IT sup­port func­tion, pro­vides a one-stop shop for all sup­port needs, from travel to tech­nol­ogy and per­sonal shop­ping, dry clean­ing to bi­cy­cle re­pair.”

New tech­nol­ogy could make spend­ing time in the of­fice more at­trac­tive. Although some peo­ple may think we’ll all be work­ing from home in our pa­ja­mas, Knoll’s re­port de­scribes a fu­ture for cor­po­rate real es­tate that turns the of­fice into part of the “In­ter­net of things”— the tech in­dus­try’s term for Web-en­abled ev­ery­day ob­jects. Al­ready, sen­sors can help com­pa­nies man­age their energy based on how manypeo­ple are in the build­ing. But Knoll’s re­port says much­more is com­ing.

“Real-time real es­tate,” Wymer said, could one day pro­vide work­ers with in­for­ma­tion on con­ve­niences (like whether the espresso line is too long on the third­floor) as well as op­por­tu­ni­ties for col­lab­o­ra­tion. For in­stance, it could let you know if your team mem­bers are eat­ing lunch to­gether in the cafe.

Such tools could one day help you “know who’s around you, who may have worked on some­thing sim­i­lar to you,” Wymer said. “The ul­ti­mate goal is to drive a higher de­gree of in­no­va­tion.”

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