The Changing Office Environment

As new generations come of age and enter into the workforce, technologies have advanced, the office environment have been forced to change to reflect the emerging ways of working and ethos of the new cohort.

New Generation of Workers

The new generation of workers has played a key role in the development of the office design and ethos. When designing an office environment, the primary generation at the moment are Generation Y, it is important to incorporate their needs whilst creating a workplace that is inclusive for all the generations. Consideration should also be taken to predict the needs of future generations, Generation Z, therefore often the best solution is a flexible, reactive space that can grow with the needs of the business and employee.

Offices are becoming spaces where sitting behind a desk is not the only option, companies are now giving their employees the freedom to decide when and how they work which often results in a happier more productive workforce. A domestic, home-from-home feeling is also becoming the norm with tradition, corporate, regimented offices becoming a thing of the past. Employees are likely to spend more time in an office that is less formal as they feel comfortable and ‘at home’. Generation Y tends to place a higher importance on work-life balance and treat work as an extension of their personal life not just something that pays the bills. They value fun, social places that allow for quick collaborative meetings rather than formal, lengthy meetings. All these are important factors to consider when designing an inclusive office. The emerging Generation Z into the workforce is also something to bear in mind, as these new cohort of workers become more prominent what will be there preferred way of working?

New Generation of Employees
Agile Working

Agile Working and Laptops

Laptops have become more of the norm for everyday working, although never originally intended for long-term use, with advances in technology and their ability to allow the user to have flexibility have made them popular as an office workers’ main computer. The fixed nature of the keyboard, mouse, screen in one unit goes against the need for the user to change the different components to achieve the correct posture whilst working on a computer.

Laptops play a big role in agile working, they allow the worker to move around the office, work for home or off-site with ease. It is important when planning an Agile office design to consider the wellbeing and ergonomics surrounding laptop use, solutions include the availability of screens to plug your laptop into, laptop stands to adjust the height of your screen and a separate keyboard to allow the user to achieve the correct posture.

Desktop power is also vital in an Agile office, allowing workers to use their laptops in all locations around the office, from more traditional desks to integrated power within soft seating and upholstered elements. Technology improvements in data storage and Wi-Fi speeds have also increased the ability and availability of this nomadic style of working.

Changes in Desking

Technology advances and the change in how the office environment is used has also lead to the evolution of the way traditional desks are utilised and the need for alternatives. More collaborative desks or tables that allow for teamwork as well as individual work have become very popular.

Alternative tables and work positions have become favoured with the trend towards flexible working. Workers don’t just work on traditional desks but can move between soft seating, meeting setups, collaboration tables and poseur height touchdown tables depending on the type of work they are doing at any particular time, it also encourages collaboration between different departments.

Hot desking has become increasingly popular with one-third of all workers in the UK working this way, having no desk assigned to any one individual and just finding an empty desk to work at day by day. Research into this way of working has been mixed. Employers on average are cutting the costs of running an office by 30% but some surveys have shown that there has also been a drop in employee morale in the office where hot desking has been introduced.

Changes in Desking
Flexible Working

There are some key areas to consider when implementing hot-desking to support employee wellbeing and maintain or even increase productivity. It is important to encourage users to adjust their workstation to meet their needs, adjusting the monitor, chair etc… to a comfortable position can reduce health problems in the long term. Shared workstations can also lead to germs and bacteria spreading, the average keyboard, mouse or phone can contain as many as 10 million bacteria, this can be greatly reduced if antibacterial wipes are used on a regular basis.

Hot desking also takes away the ability to personalise your desk with family photos, plants etc which psychologists have suggested could have contributed to the drop in morale, however there are other ways to make your desk feel more personal, for example changing your desktop to show family photos. The way hot desking is implemented plays a key role in the success for the business and on the employee. Moving around an office can lead to increased communication between employees and greater creativity however if implemented without due consideration employees can be left feeling undervalued.

Flexible working seems to have emerged due to a number of factors over the last 10 years, advances in technology and the empathise on employee happiness, especially for Generation Y, have contributed to the office environment becoming more agile and social. As technology continues to advance and employers place more importance in retaining employees and therefore their wellbeing the workspace design looks to continue to evolve and embrace new ways of working.