The future of work: Offices are changing, and for the better
Employee experience defines the work and professional environment of the future
Work as we know it is changing fast and in ways most people can’t even imagine. It’s not just that jobs are changing; it’s also how we work, where we work and how employers are adapting to these new rules.
“The future of work is all about employee experience,” says Jacob Morgan.
The best-selling author, an authority on how the workplace is evolving, says employers must adapt their approach if they want to attract and retain key talent.
“It comes down to three things: giving employees physical workspaces they want, having up-to-date technology (the tools they need), and a culture they can celebrate,” says the author of The Future of Work. His latest book on the topic, The Employee Experience Advantage, was released in March.
The human connection
A dynamic work environment shapes the employee experience. Morgan says the design of a space can greatly influence collaboration and productivity.
“It’s about having some open, some closed, some café-like environments, some isolation – It’s about giving employees a choice,” he says. “You can’t have a house with just a kitchen, and you can’t have a work environment where we tell employees to do everything in one room.”
Founders at forward-thinking companies agree. At Austin-based Loom, a work-for-equity platform that connects entrepreneurs with developers, founder Chase White gives employees a choice of workspaces.
“We have a small warehouse space on the east side of Austin for private meetings, but a lot of the times it makes more sense to shake up our atmosphere,” says White. “WeWork Congress gives us a good opportunity for happenstance run-ins, new inspiration – having a flexible workspace helps us stay energized.”
White, who admits he loves the hustle and bustle of other creative people around him, says offices are changing because companies are changing.
“The top-down model is a thing of the past,” White says. “I think a space like WeWork promotes that, since everyone is working toward the same goal, and because of the way the space is structured, and we are in the same room, it leads to the best ideas and products.”
Design for deep thinking
One type of space that every office needs is one that fosters complete concentration. Many WeWork locations feature a quiet room that serves this purpose. The space at global headquarters in Chelsea features walls painted with trees and has hammocks for taking breaks.
“Deep work is what moves the needle,” say Cal Newport, author of Deep Work. “All in all, if you're excellent at giving things intense concentration, this will act like a super power in the knowledge economy.”
Newport says in the future, people will need to be able to do specialized work to set them apart. That requires the ability to focus, which helps people quickly learn new things, enabling them to work faster and at a higher level.
He says there is currently too much emphasis on quickly answering email or spending a good part of the day in meetings.
“I like to tell entrepreneurs that kind of shallow work might keep you from going bankrupt, but it's the deep work that will create the things that allows your company to grow,” Newport says.
At the forefront of this movement, companies like Microsoft need space for a mobile, flexible workforce.
Although Microsoft has a headquarters in New York City, Matt Donovan says that having employees work out of WeWork locations enabled more efficient opportunities for a sales team that fanned out over the region.
“We started to see how WeWork’s footprint across New York could add efficiency for employees meeting with customers and clients,” says Donovan.
The company gave 300 members of its sales staff access to all WeWork locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. It cuts down on transit time, giving them time to meet with more customers during the day.
“And we wanted to think about what would be the impact of feeding off the different energies of the members in the space: the insights into new businesses,” he adds.
A preliminary survey of Microsoft employees in New York found that 84 percent said access to WeWork makes them more productive during the workday.
Doing good by leveraging technology
Greg Donworth, cofounder of Philadelphia’s WeGardn, says WeWork is perfect for a startup company like his.
WeGardn, which launches in mid-April, delivers local, organic produce in a way that is cost effective and environmentally sustainable. The WeWork Northern Liberties member uses a predictive analytics platform to determine how much food to source.
“We have a team that can forecast on a micro and macro level what you are going to order next week,” says Donworth. “Only sourcing what we know is going to sell eliminates food waste—so we don’t have to mark up costs.”
Morgan says in the future, we’ll see more businesses and work shaped by cutting-edge technology—especially those companies that utilize artificial intelligence.
“I’m 100 percent confident, this is truly where impact can be made,” says Donworth.