Friday, 17 April 2015

Future Worsktyles | Future Workplaces

I recently co-authored a report for the City of London on Future Workstyles and Future Workplaces. I worked alongside fellow WCO colleagues Rob Harris of Ramidus Consulting and Despina Katsikakis, which was enjoyable and a breath of fresh air compared to carrying out research in my own bubble. The report was launched at MIPIM in Cannes, which unfortunately I didn’t get to, and London, where I ended up.

Both launches were well received with, what I perceived as, genuine interest and intelligent questions. We also received some good reviews on the usual social media channels. I like that people are saying that our reported workplace trends are relevant to all locations and not just to London. It’s great because we actually looked at global trends and then tailored them so that they were more relevant to the City of London. The City did a great job on the look and feel of the report; the new light and graphical format is a pleasant departure from their usual heavy tomes (so I’ve stolen their graphics).
My main input to the report was on forecast changes in workstyles and workplaces. This topic is widely covered elsewhere – the trick is to balance agile working with co-location by offering a much broader array of workspace solutions. For example, in the 90s the occupier option was either a 25 year lease or freehold whereas now we have the choice of serviced-offices, managed space, co-working hubs and garden offices (see shed working) along with short leases. We also picked up on the current trend of providing for well-being and diversity, a welcome shift from the relentless focus on cost and density over the last few years.

Over the years there has been much discussion on demographics and multi-generations such as the Gen X, Y, Z debate (incidentally what’s next, like car registrations do we go back to A?). But as, pointed out by other researchers, the point in time that people are born isn’t the main influence on workstyle, it’s more to do with where they are in their “family-life cycle”. Right now Gen X and Gen Y happen to be at an age of responsibility (looking after families and mortgages) whereas the Baby Boomers have moved on and so have more freedom. Likewise the Gen Z millennials have some freedom now before they settle down. Clearly the latest gen is savvier with technology, and this leads to transferable skills and a different attitude to work and T&Cs etc, but nevertheless it appears to be their place in the family-life cycle that is driving their workplace expectations.

The City of London’s economic data shows that compared to other places, including Greater London, their workforce is younger and more skilled. This of course brings its own expectations and challenges. However, the real key point here is that we now have four generations in the workplace, and they all have a different view on life and different individual requirements of the physical workplace, especially lighting, acoustic and ergonomic needs.

Apparently the City ‘s workforce is also more productive: “The City is highly productive with output per job at £112,000, over 50% higher than Central London’s productivity (£71,000) and almost three times the UK’s rate (£42,000)”. Many of you will know I have an obsession with productivity metrics, so it’s always good to see some robust quantification.

Although employment in the City is dominated by financial and professional services (66%), the Information and Communications sector is a key growth area for the City. Furthermore, “the reliance on technology skills to provide competitive advantage in a wide range of sectors means that the traditional boundaries between sectors are increasingly blurred, even in the apparently tightly-defined business cluster in the City. Large financial services organisations now include growing numbers of employees with technology expertise and most of these consider ‘pure’ technology companies as competition in attracting and retaining talent… There is also the fast growing ‘FinTech’ sector which comprises of firms applying technology specifically to financial services”. So our tech savvy millennials are in demand.

Quite often in workplace we focus on the corporates, the glamour jobs affecting large organisations. I therefore found the statistics, unearthed by Rob, on the size of organisations in the City fascinating. He found that “the vast majority of businesses in the City (14,900 or 98.6%) are classified as SMEs with fewer than 250 employees; while 12,080 or 80% have fewer than ten employees. While this is not unusual compared to the London-wide or national picture, it is perhaps less well known that there are just 205 firms in the City with 250 or more employees”. So there is a diverse and continually evolving range of businesses in the City from large multinational corporations to start-ups. It’s not all about the large corporates and the biggest opportunity for this City, and perhaps for us workplace consultants, is with the boutique professional firms.

The main themes arising from the research include: flexibility & adaptability, choice & experience, agility & connectivity and permeability. Which all in turn leads to a different requirement and use of space. Do check the report out and let me know what you think.

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