4 business trends that change what we need from our offices

The Robin Team
The Robin Team

The workplace has certainly changed over the past few years. Social media is now acceptable to use at work at many companies. Some businesses have adopted more casual dress codes, breaking away from the "Casual Friday" tradition and embracing jeans any day of the week.

Snacks? The broken vending machine at the bottom floor has been replaced with organic fruit and a kegerator in the office cafeteria.

Vacation? Take one - it's an Open Vacation Policy.

It's a big difference from just a few years ago. Companies are finally paying attention to the fact that happy employees are productive ones, so a comfortable and efficient work environment will help the business' bottom lines.

But these examples I just listed are just a few ways that offices are changing. Here are four major business trends that companies should pay attention to when it comes to their workplaces, as they greatly impact what workers need from their office spaces.

1) Mobile Workforce

Work isn't just done at work anymore. It's done on the train, at the coffee shop, in a hotel, or at home. Smartphones, tablets, cloud storage, and the growing ubiquity of wifi connectivity enable this shift to a mobile and dispersed workforce.

When all you need is a screen and a wifi connection to perform your tasks, you have less of a reason to sit in your cubicle all day long. This is why a lot of office space goes unused. As a result, companies accrue unnecessary rent and utilities costs maintaining space that isn't occupied. Better tracking of what space actually gets used could prevent this.

2) Remote Workers

Thanks in part to mobile technology but also to changing attitudes about work-life balance, many people work from home on a full time basis. However, companies still often have these folks come into the office for monthly or quarterly meetings to keep in touch.

When these remote workers are in town, it's important for them to be able to take advantage of their travels and have access conference rooms for meetings. Sound familiar? Well, if your office is optimized for cubicle space with minimum conference rooms, this is the opposite of the set-up that your dispersed workforce actually needs.

2) Temp Workers

The number of temporary workers in the United States has jumped more than 50% since the recession ended four years ago to nearly 2.7 million — the most on government records dating to 1990. Companies want their payroll expenses to match revenues. Companies are still uncertain about the economy and want to match payroll costs to the revenue.

Some employers also want to circumvent new health care laws that require them to provide medical coverage to permanent workers. If temporary workers are a foreseeable part of a company's future hiring strategy, the office should accommodate that. If they temporary workers work from home but occasionally come to the office to collaborate, then conference rooms and other meeting spaces should be made a priority.

If there is a varying number of temporary workers filling the office at any given time, the office should be set up in a way so that it doesn't feel empty, bleak and depressing during times of slower traffic as this kind of environment could negatively impact the productivity of permanent workers.

3) International workforce and the global economy

The internet more easily connects us with global partners, meaning that we collaborate with people who are on completely different timezones. This could mean that building hours should extend to align various timezones and the needs of employees who own those relationships.

4) Collaborative Millennials

Millennials are entering the workforce in droves. In just a few months, 3.7 million college graduates are potentially going to throw their hats into the ring and search for that allusive first job.

Young people are well-known for liking collaborative work. We maintained multiple chat and text conversations while doing our homework, we enjoy multi-play video games and all those notorious participation awards have given us a real sense of the value of group achievement.  All of this is partly why we are a generation of ambitious team-players. We want workplaces that are collaborative, too.

Internal chat systems are one way to provide the connection that this young workforce seeks. But to appeal to educated and tech-savvy millennial applicants, companies need to find ways to make their offices more collaborative in the physical sense, too. Ample meeting space and trading cubicles for open-desk seating are just two ways that companies provide collaborative environments.

How Companies Can Respond To These Trends

Companies can - and should - apply data to their decisions about how to improve their offices for the new realities of today's business world. With sensor technology and the Robin platform, companies can analyze presence in certain areas of the office to determine what areas actually get used and which ones are wasted space.

Additionally, with more tactical "at your desk" work getting done at home, the office is shifting to becoming the place where people meet as opposed to work. Finding conference rooms, booking conference rooms for meetings, and finding your boss for a quick catch-up are all things that presence tracking can help with.

All of this creates a more efficient, energetic and productive work environment that both employees and the companies they work for can benefit from.

How are you reacting to these business trends? Let us know in the comments.

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