Shifts in the global business environment are driving alternative work strategies says Steelcase’s manager of brand communications, Christine Congdon. She tells us how design is supporting these changes.
22 August, 2011
New realities brought on by today’s increasingly interconnected business environment have led to a growing deployment of alternative work strategies – ultimately impacting the way the workplace is being designed.
“There are a variety of alternative work strategies that organisations are using, such as telecommuting, where employees work primarily from home, or ’hoteling’ plans, in which employees can reserve spaces to work in, much like a hotel room,” says Christine Congdon, manager of brand communications at Steelcase – a leading global provider of workplace furnishings and solutions.
One of the key drivers for these strategies, says Congdon, is the need to optimise real estate.
“On one hand, many organisations have seen that, with the advent of mobile technology devices and Wi-Fi, their employees can work anywhere, and they are often choosing to work away from their primary workstation – so a lot of real estate was sitting unused.
“On the other hand, many have recognised that they need to be more innovative, and so they need to shift some of their real estate from supporting individual work, to spaces that support group work. Offering employees the opportunity to work remotely is one of the top factors determining job satisfaction, and so organisations are trying alternative work strategies as a means to be both lean and creative.”
– In a joint study between Steelcase and Corenet Global in 2009, 69% of respondents were using some form of alternative work strategy.
– Over the next 2 years, the percentage of mobile workers is projected to reach 75% in the US, 50% in Europe and 37% in Asia.
(source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2009-2013 Forecast).
Steelcase’s concept of an ’Interconnected Workplace’ is one that addresses the complex issues that have emerged in this competitive, highly mobile 24/7 marketplace by helping to bring together people, place and technology.
“The Interconnected Workplace offers employees control and choice over where and how they work, because it is created with a palette of place and a palette of posture, meaning a variety of spaces that offer a spectrum of sensory stimulation and a range of posture choices such as sitting, standing, moving. It supports both mobile and resident workers,” says Congdon.
“These range of spaces are interrelated, so they are intentionally planned in relationship to one another. For example, areas designed for socialisation and collaboration are situated near each other, but away from areas designed for focused work.”
A high level of collaboration with clients and their architects and designers is required to make this work says Congdon. “We have a variety of exercises that can be used with clients to help them explore the degree of change they are ready to make, as well as design concepts that can address the unique needs of each organisation.”
There is no ’one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to implementing such strategies, Congdon is quick to point out. The nature of the business and its readiness for change, the speed at which different countries embrace mobile technology, as well as cultural differences are all important considerations.
Moving forward, Congdon says that the need for organisations to “operate very efficiently and continue to be lean” will remain. Yet they will be “willing to invest in spaces that can help them address key business issues, like having more collaboration areas that people can easily communicate, collaborate and generate great ideas”.
Steelcase offers the latest updates on workplace research, insights and trends here.
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