From a mere ‘working’ space, offices are turning into a space that cultivates a sense of community, even as it drives productivity
Investment bank UBS has released, as part of its Global Wealth Management study, a list of cities with highest average annual work hours. Mumbai tops the list, with 3,315 average annual work hours, or 12.8 hours a day for a five-day week. Delhi is also among the top-10. As time spent in office is rising, and a generational shift in the workforce takes place, are we thinking how workspace strategies must evolve?
A younger workforce’s demands are different from that of traditional office goers: It expects more freedom, autonomy and flexibility. Surveys show that among the determinants of the millennials, interest levels in one job over another are the presence of canteens, coffee bars, wellness facilities, rest areas and green spaces in the office. They also expect retail convenience and healthy food, exercise facilities and work-life integration services such as child day care centres, showers, dry cleaning.
Globally, an array of forces is reshaping the world of work. Tech breakthroughs, climate change and urbanisation are under way. There are shifts in global economic power, demographics, and workforce and customer expectations. Disruptive innovations, radical thinking and new business models are emerging across industries.
Most companies realise these dynamics will transform the way people work, but we rarely think of such challenges in the context of leadership, business development and talent acquisition. Each of these dynamics impacts the look, feel and purpose of a workspace. In India, given the environmental pollution levels, workforce wellbeing is becoming even more important. Work-related stress drains a company financially owing to manhours lost to sick leave. Work-life balance can be a source of competitive advantage.
Wellness is understood more broadly. Companies investing in the mental and emotional health of their employees are including swimming pools, aerobics and therapies for relaxation at the workplace. Nutritionists and fitness trainers are made available onsite. With more dual-career couples in this generation, workspaces are going to have to be more sensitive to family and parental responsibilities of the workforce.
Spaces are dedicated for relaxation and cultural needs of employees through curated performances, classes, talks and exhibitions for art and cultural experiences that reduce the distance between corporate cultures and local communities.
Bringing all these facilities under one roof, and making diverse workforces interact more amongst themselves, can foster collaboration and innovation, and promote a sense of community. It aids creativity. All this happens beyond traditional meeting and conference rooms. Over a glass of juice or after a yoga session.
The idea being that just human beings are not compartmentalised into silos, so also their lives. A collaborative idea is less likely to happen in isolation. The environment must let employees feel both independent as well as connected.
This new thrust, an opportunity to create a new employee value proposition that isn’t solely reliant on pay, is great for attracting and retaining talent, and signals progressive corporate culture and values.
As companies look to develop a strong social conscience and sense of environmental responsibility, the workplace must reflect this, both in terms of corporate culture as well as physical spaces. The office space becomes a symbol and proof of what the company stands for. For example, if a life sciences company is likely to prefer a transparent office, a media office may go for open, flat and democratic spaces.
The workplace is evolving to be more just than a place of work. It’s where the workforce also relaxes and socialises. Naturally, it is going to look and feel very different. Most companies recognise that this is the future of the workplace and many have started preparing for the inevitable.
By- Sahil Vachani. The author is MD, Max Ventures and Industries Ltd