The cliché workplace environment of the 20th century makes me think about dull neon lights, desk cubicles, stale air and large IBM computer monitors. I cannot imagine how this would stimulate productivity, innovation and a sense of community for today’s office workers or generation.
Fast forward to 2016, and the new-age workplace is now about fancy ergonomic furniture, architecturally inspired lighting, digital connectivity around the globe and so much more. In Australia, workplace trends are changing fast, enabling start-up entrepreneurs, business owners and employees of organizations the opportunity to run their business and / or workplace affairs from these innovative hubs.
A ‘laboratory’ for innovation
To get a close-up insight on this subject, I recently interviewed Australian serial entrepreneur Brad Krauskopf, CEO and founder of Third Spaces Group. In my 30-minute chat with Brad, what struck me the most about his philosophy and perspective on the future of workspaces hinged around his bold phrase, “laboratory for innovation."
In simple translation, Brad strongly feels that the future workplace should be all about cultivating "health and wellbeing." It’s about building a community of people that will yield an entrepreneurial culture, drive innovation to another level and elevate the thirst for success from the people within. It’s also about allowing select employees (eg. intrapreneurs), the chance to nurture their entrepreneurial ideas outside of conventional office environments, and for the organization at the end to commercially benefit from outside exposure and learning.
It’s not just about space.
Third Spaces Group is comprised of Hub Australia and Coactive8. These entrepreneurial ventures are committed to increasing the collaborative capacity of people, organizations and cities by conceiving, creating and activating work spaces that optimize productivity, accelerate innovation and foster community. Brad’s vision is to "ultimately help their members grow their business, by building connections and offering networking and learning opportunities."
Brad’s message was as clear as crystal: It’s not enough to just offer physical space to workers. Essentially, it’s about creating a competitive learning environment that yields leadership capacity to coach and manage the needs of distributed workforces, and ultimately create more entrepreneurial leaders for the future.
The operating system
When I think about computers and how they function, I think about the hardware and software of the operating system. If we turn our attention to office space, the hardware will comprise of the furniture, the lighting, etc; the software on the other hand, are the people who run or function within the office.
A successful workplace requires the careful management of both parts. Brad simply puts it this way, "A fancy workplace environment with all the hardware and with no ‘soul’ is doomed to fail."
For me personally, I like to use the analogy and comparison of a house versus a home. It’s the shear difference between a sterile, clean and uninhabited environment versus a warm, cozy and relaxed habitat that promotes a sense of wellbeing, purpose, functionality and inspiration.
To achieve this result, regardless of whether it’s your home or office, I believe it requires ergonomically designed furniture, a functional floor space design, architecturally inspired features and, most importantly, the right people with a healthy collaborative team spirit.
Science fiction or reality?
When I imagine future workspace environments, and I start to fantasize the possibilities, I resort to my favorite science fiction movies like The Matrix and Back to the Future. These classics amplify Brad’s vision around the use of technology around the home and in the office.
According to Brad, the distant future of functional workspace will also be about using virtual reality and creating the fourth dimension. Brad’s closing statement was pivotal and thought-provoking. He spoke about putting on your headset and going to work in a virtual world, being part of an artificial environment that your architect has developed specifically for your sensory needs, to amplify your drive, inspiration and productivity to a whole new level.
My question is -- how will organizations of the future adjust and take appropriate measures to best manage their people and the new frontiers of technology? Will workers prefer conventional office space, smart hubs or virtual reality -- or a combination of all three ?