Architecture & Design, Real Estate, and Technology

Technology and the changing workspace

August 27, 2014
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Recently, Mike VanGessel of Rockford Construction wrote about how the way we live is changing, and his discussion leads to a conversation regarding changes in the way we work.

In order to create efficient and productive workspaces, we must consider new trends and the impact they have. Technology is a significant driver behind many of these trends, so let’s look at a few ways that it has affected the way we work.

Smaller workstations

Advancements in technology have led to smaller workstations — the average workstation has shrunk from 12 feet by 12 feet in the 1970s to 6 feet by 8 feet today, and it continues to shrink.

We no longer need a large amount of space for stationary computers or printers. Additionally, storage needs are vastly reduced as information can be quickly accessed on our laptops, tablets, or phones.

This increased mobility has also given employees the freedom to work in areas away from their primary work area. In fact, conference, training and break-out areas have increased by 17 percent since 2002. As the amount of time we spend at our workstation has decreased, so has the size.

Co-working

Technology has also led to the development of co-working environments.

Grand Rapids has several: Start Garden, Blue 35 and The Factory, to name a few. Co-working spaces are an attractive way to work downtown for a fraction of the cost of a traditional office. These have risen in popularity among entrepreneurs, independent workers and students.

In general, for a membership fee co-working spaces offer room to work along with a variety of other amenities like high-speed wifi. WeWork in New York City offers amenities like lounge areas, a printing center, gaming room, bike storage and even a sports bar.

Generational differences

Maybe the most significant effect of technology is evident in the difference in work styles between baby boomers and millennials.

Baby boomers tend to prefer to work at dedicated workspaces with room to spread out. The majority are also reluctant to work remotely, instead preferring to work at the office.

In contrast, millennials relish flexibility in where and when they work. As children, they learned using technology, and therefore they work using technology. They adopt new, sophisticated technologies quicker than previous generations. In general, they view cubicles negatively and many are not attracted to working in a big private office.

With these differences in mind, workspaces need to be more flexible than ever. To attract top young talent, companies are using workspaces as a catalyst to develop a culture of technology and creativity.

More informal meeting spaces encourage impromptu meetings and an opportunity for collaboration. Because mobile technology is available at our fingertips, these meetings are often as productive as a prescheduled meeting in a conference room.

The way we work

Technology has considerably changed the way we work. We work in smaller spaces, and the availability of technology like tablets and phones allows us to work away from offices. Many of us enjoy working from cafés or coffee shops.

Co-working has gone from a fringe concept to overwhelmingly popular, including here in West Michigan. Workers with varying technology skills now occupy the workplace. The next time you consider making changes to your workspace, keep these technology trends in mind.

Human capital is the largest expense of most companies, and creating an environment that promotes productivity is an investment in your company’s future.