Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer caused an uproar three years ago when she killed the company’s famous “work from home” policy. She argued that employees would be more creative and imaginative if they worked daily at Yahoo’s facilities. Now Google also supports this philosophy.
Mobile and virtual work are significant trends disrupting the organizational structures of many industries. Initially, many companies moved towards more flexible work environments, allowing employees to work remotely and implementing mobile workspaces to reduce space requirements and overhead costs.
Now Yahoo and Google are trying to counter these trends. Their task is to create jobs that motivate employees. In theory, this should lead to better performance. Here are five key points to consider when preparing your workplace for the digital age.
1. Start with a blank sheet of paper
What would your company look like if you started using modern technologies? What physical space will you need, and what will it look like?
You can independently identify urgent changes to improve the workplace of the future. For example, many employees don’t have to work at a particular desk all day. And many offices have open floor plans that can be distracting for workers. So why not designate certain conference rooms as quiet workspaces when not in use?
One more thought. Promote collaboration by placing tables in capsules rather than in straight lines.
2. Focus on Flexibility
Although virtual work is not going to give up, it remains clear that meeting face-to-face with colleagues contributes to increased collaboration, innovation, productivity, and engagement. The requirements of employees are constantly changing from physical interaction to virtual, so the office itself must become flexible. The key is effective office space management.
Diverse spaces for collaboration, concentration, and communication are common features of many companies. Google will take that one step further at its London office by creating capsule rooms called Jacks that can be broken down and rebuilt to fit the size, look and feel of the rooms to suit the needs of the moment. Each module has a built-in video conferencing system, which ensures the convenience of interacting with virtual colleagues.
3. Collect data
Until recently, it was difficult to determine how the office environment affects worker productivity. Technology is now available to monitor the movement of people in their workspaces and create interaction dynamics that measure the performance of the office itself.
Data can help companies position departments about each other and define formats that maximize interaction between employees. Companies like Vega offer wireless sensors for every workspace and meeting room that track movement, highlighting when space is free and available for other uses. In London, the Space Syntax Lab uses an application called Depthmap to create office heat maps that guide workspace design.
4. Keep your connections open
When video communications were unpredictable, and broadband costs were high, it only made sense to open communication lines between offices during meetings. But with video calls, which are now inexpensive and familiar to our lives, it is possible to organize video connections much more often.
Take, for example, Dr. Martens. Last year, the shoe retailer introduced StarLeaf video conferencing to its business, facilitating communication between the boardroom and retail outlets. Equipping more than 20 stores in the UK with the StarLeaf Breeze client running on a PC allows store managers to attend weekly gatherings to keep up to date with retail updates and gives them the flexibility to react faster to emerging trends.
Some of the latest collaboration tools include video conferencing as part of their packages, such as the recently launched Facebook Workplace and Microsoft Teams, which use Skype. With the power of these tools, why not encourage employees to have a video on their desktops while they work in peace? Random social video interactions with others working remotely can help increase the sense of togetherness and support remote workers.
5. Explore all aspects of the 24/7 workplace
Working anywhere and at any time has both conveniences and pitfalls. Not all companies understand how the demands of our ongoing culture can negatively impact employees. However, the American insurance giant Aetna tried to solve this problem by paying its workers for the night. Workers wear Fitbit trackers and those who can prove they get seven hours of sleep over 20 or more nights in a row get $25 a night.
The French government is currently trying to pass a law that includes a “right to disengage.” The law requires employers to protect employee rest periods and privacy by regulating the use of their digital tools. This requirement has already been implemented in several sectors of the French economy, in particular in the field of information technology.
To sum up: what lessons should be learned by leaders who want to create a new generation of digital jobs?
- Virtual work has entered the business to stay. It should be an integral part of the entire workplace design.
- Companies can personalize physical and virtual workspaces for mobility, flexibility, and collaboration.
- To protect the welfare of their employees, companies must regulate a culture of constant work.