October 23, 2016
During the past two decades, workforce composition — and the spaces in which it operates — have undergone massive changes. Connect Medial’s Amy Wolff Sorter quizzed Heather Van Ravenswaay with Houston-based Planning Design Research on office space and its role in employee recruitment and retention.
Van Ravenswaay will be one of the speakers at Connect Media’s upcoming Connect Houston conference, which will take place on Thursday, Nov. 3 at Hotel Derek. Click here to register.
Q. How does today’s workforce differ from that of the past? How has office space accommodated those changes?
A. Today’s workforce consists of multiple generations. We have new technologies that enable people to work everywhere. Further the context of a boss having to see you sit at your desk to know you’re working is antiquated. We are learning that sitting at your desk is not where big ideas come from. . Those ideas come from informal conversations with people, or perhaps when an employee is working out or on vacation, and thinking about work.
One trend that’s under discussion is that of the open floor plan, to help foster collaboration and stimulate ideas. That can work, for certain types of tasks. But the important issue is to provide more choice in the work environment. If the worker is going to do a variety of different tasks everyday, he or she might need a private place to write or review a contract; a more collaborative space to interact with other workers, a formal space to pitch a presentation, and so on. The future is that the work environment should enable the behaviors that are aligned with leaderships future and cultural vision for the organization.
Q. Do people still like commuting to offices? Or are they more in favor of remote work?
A. As I said above, technology enables us to work anywhere. So what is it about an office that attracts workers? It’s still all about the people. People coming together to solve problems and share ideas, is certainly good for business. But when they need to execute work, they need to have a place to do it. If those spaces are not provided at the office people will go other places to find what they need. So yes, more people are working from home, and other places outside of the office because technology allows for that.
Now, the current thought is that the remote workplace is a millennial thing. But what’s happening is that millennials grew up with technology and embrace learning to use technology in new ways. Other generations have been in a workplace environment in which they are assigned to a seat, or they have only a few tasks, so they haven’t known anything different. But workers these days are responsible for multiple tasks. It isn’t so much that millennials are driving the trend of working remotely, as much as they’re able to better adapt to different working styles.
Q. What role does real estate play in employee attraction and retention? How can companies make office spaces more inviting to today’s workforce?
A. Interestingly enough, Houston has lagged behind change in office space – we come from a old school mentality, in which you’ve made it in your career when you get your corner office. But people don’t need that kind of status from an office or real estate – they’d rather get paid more, or get more flexible time. Certainly, they still want a work environment they want to come to, one that is energetic and encouraging, and allows them to work collaboratively and get things done. They also want companies with a purpose. Today’s employees are attracted to companies, because they believe in what the company is doing. Real estate isn’t the status thing any more. Leadership needs to align a company’s direction with workplace design.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Amy Sorter