Today’s workplace looks much different than it did a few years ago. There are various factors driving this change. Demographics certainly are playing a role. Over 50 percent of the U.S. workforce is comprised of Millennials today, a number that will grow to approximately 75 percent in 2025. These workers look for employers that foster collaborative, inclusive workplaces. And while they value the time they spend with other workers when they are in the office, they also seek flexibility, with nearly 75 percent indicating they look for employers with work from home and work remote policies.
These expectations are changing the dynamics of the workplace. Companies that remain tethered to the workplace of the past put their very businesses at risk. Unable to recruit and retain the best workers, improve productivity, and facilitate collaboration and ideation, they will slowly wither, struggling to compete in a business landscape that bypassed them.
The good news for solopreneurs and small businesses is that the workplace of the future places them on even footing with much larger businesses. Yet, to prepare themselves, they need to understand the implications and what they must do to prepare for it. Following are 10 areas that organizations need to heed when embracing the workplace of the future:
1. Where You Work
There is a “sheep” mentality among some leaders in the business space (one does it, generates publicity, and others follow suit), and numerous companies jumped on the bandwagon of prohibiting remote workers when Marisa Meyer banned remote workers at Yahoo after being hired as CEO. I even know of one well-known technology company that began taking “roll” at 9 AM and 5 PM each day to ensure their workers were at their desks at the beginning and end of the day.
But the reality is that many companies concluded this policy simply wasn’t for them. Offering flexibility gives them the ability to recruit—and retain—workers who they simply couldn’t attract. Data also shows workers with flexibility and those that work remote perform better—from collaboration, to working more hours, to delivering better business outcomes.
2. When You Work
Before the arrival of the 20th century, the 40-hour work week was not the norm. Previously, companies often subjected their workers to 12-hour workdays and expected them to work six or seven days a week. Henry Ford was one of the first to introduce the 8-hour workday, a decision that proved successful in terms of both productivity and profitability. And the 40-hour work week largely remained the norm for the next century.
However, with the advent of technologies, a deconstruction between work and personal lives took place. Many workers can sit at their desks for eight-straight hours and accomplish very little. Measuring whether someone’s butt is in a seat is an arbitrary—and often inaccurate—measurement. Indeed, neurological analysis shows that the brain is capable of deep concentration and focus for only two hours. Further, peak productivity is different for everyone—some wake up at 5 a.m. and do their best work before 10 a.m., whereas others may do their best work in the evening hours. Requiring employees to be in the office and at their desks from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is not only antiquated but counterproductive to the success of the business.
3. Expansion to New Locations
Organizations tied to the workplace of the past find it difficult to growing their businesses. This is particularly true for small businesses that lack the capital to acquire and maintain permanent offices in new locations. Instead, they can tap virtual office addresses and leverage coworking spaces, day offices, and rented meeting spaces that help them to expand quickly and cost-effectively.
4. On-Demand Office and Meeting Space
While some solopreneurs and businesses require permanent office space, many do not. On-demand coworking space, day offices, and rented meeting rooms are a much better option—from cost, to the opportunity to collaborate and interact with other businesses, to professional environments with the latest technologies and top-notch business services.
5. Network of Alternative Work Spaces
Sometimes, workers simply cannot come into the office—whether it is a permanent location or a coworking space or rented day office. Poor city planning and civic irresponsibility has led cities where work commutes take three or four hours a day. Making that commute five days each week simply isn’t feasible. Workers also have family and personal commitments, particularly when both spouses work, requiring them to take children to school or an elderly parent to the doctor.
And while some may simply work from the home office, this isn’t always possible. Here, businesses need a network of alternative work spaces. These may be coworking spaces or a rented day offices.
6. A New Culture
Culture is a critical linchpin for any business. For businesses seeking to embrace a workplace of the future, they must redefine their company culture. “Where” and “when” work is performed is no longer connected with an actual physical location and a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Further, performance—and getting work done—becomes how workers are measured. Businesses also need to establish ground rules when to meeting attendance—when workers should attend in person versus virtually.
7. Maintaining Work-Life Balance
Workers find themselves struggling to maintain their personal lives as technology encroaches on their work-life balance. Eleven percent of workers in the U.S. say they work more than 50 hours a week. Thirty-three percent indicate they work on the weekends and holidays. Research shows there is a direct correlation between workers who lose a balance between work and life and their productivity and retention rates. In this case, businesses that embrace the workplace of the future need to ensure that their company culture and performance expectations account for worker work-life balance.
8. Recruiting and Retaining Workers
The workplace of future enables businesses to attract higher quality talent and to retain them longer. Workers want to work for companies with cultures that promote collaboration and openness. It should come as no surprise that many businesses with permanent office space are re-architecting it to remove communication barriers and tear down hierarchical organizational structures. For businesses using on-demand offices, coworking space is an enabler of the new workplace.
9. Partner-Customer Meetings
Small businesses with permanent offices often find their office location and space less than compelling. Their partners and customers concur when they attend on-site meetings. But for businesses relying on on-demand workspace, this is no longer a problem. Rented conference rooms come with the latest technologies as well as business services such as a lobby greeter, audio and video conferencing, and catering to add the professionalism every business needs.
10. Technology as an Enabler
To take fully advantage of the new workplace, businesses must have the right complement of technology tools in place. I recently spelled out seven technological tool areas that businesses need to leverage to be success—from team chat and conferencing services to project management and productivity tools. The importance of these vary based on business requirements.
Just as many businesses refused to embrace the new work week during Henry Ford’s day, some businesses today will remain steadfast in adhering to past concepts of the workplace. They also will find themselves extinct unless they change. For solopreneurs and small businesses, the turn to the workplace of the future is much easier and faster than larger counterparts. The time to reap the advantages—including the competitive opportunities—is now.