Like any cultural movement, whether it’s Europe’s 17th-century “age of enlightenment” or today’s widespread farm-to-table movement, most people don’t realize the impact while they are in the middle of it. Things begin to change around us—gradually at first—and then suddenly it seems like everything is different.
And so began the office renaissance. Like any cultural movement, whether it’s Europe’s 17th-century “age of enlightenment” or today’s widespread farm-to-table movement, most people don’t realize the impact while they are in the middle of it. Things begin to change around us—gradually at first—and then suddenly it seems like everything is different.
Steelcase designers and researchers point to key forces accelerating this change:
1.- Where And How Work Happens Has Changed; Rapid advances in technology allow people to work anywhere, anytime. It’s clear that the old paradigm—one person working almost exclusively in one workspace—does not support the ways people are working today.
2.- The Shift To Creative Work; New pressures to compete and grow businesses shifted organizational emphasis toward work that requires creativity and a new, team based innovation process. “Breaking rules and breaking patterns is where new ideas come from,” notes Bruce Smith, director, global design. Many workplaces don’t make spaces for creative collaboration a priority.
3.- The War For Attracting and Retaining Talent; Employees with coveted 21st-century job skills, those who can help organizations innovate and grow, are a limited commodity. They often choose organizations that offer the most meaningful work and the best working conditions, rejecting anything that makes them feel like a cog in the wheel of industry. This is true for attracting new employees as well as retaining existing ones.
4.- Employee Disengagement Over one-third of workers in 17 of the world’s most important economies are disengaged, according to “Engagement and the Global Workplace,” a study conducted by Steelcase and global research firm Ipsos (www.steelcase.com/globalreport). The study found that the most disengaged workers were also the most dissatisfied with their work environments, citing a lack of control over where and how they work. Workplaces with a strong focus on uniformity don’t empower people. This creates a crisis for organizations that need to be agile and resilient.
5.- The Promise of Technology; Consumer technologies are a game changer for the office. People are accustomed to technology that helps them drive better, manage their home appliances remotely, walk more, sit up straighter or connect more with their friends and family. Then they come to offices where technology largely exists on desktops or mobile devices, and no one has thought about embedding it in the physical environment to help make the work day better. But when it’s thoughtfully integrated in the walls, floors and furniture, technology holds the promise to actually make the work experience more human centered (see “Driving the Wellbeing of People,” pg. 124).
6.- The Anti-Corporate Backlash; As all these forces converge, individuals and their organizations recognize that something fundamental has to change. “It’s like an ecosystem. Organisms in ecosystems evolve because there’s pressure on the status quo,” says Ludwig. “And in the case of the office, there’s an ‘anti-corporate’ backlash because the term ‘corporate’ implies that a space has been created for the benefit of the organization, not the person. It’s putting pressure on the system to change. The design challenge is to meet business needs while we’re serving the needs of human beings.”
“I don’t think we’d want our living room in the workplace. I think what we want is something that’s human and relevant that will spark creative ideas.” Bruce Smith Director, Global Design