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Executives, tear down this wall

How our workplaces have changed the way we work today

Photo by Andrew Loke 

The image of CEOs smoking in their armchairs is replaced by those riding on hoverboards through the office. That is not the only thing that has changed.

Photo by Ross Findon

“Challenging, fun, friendly, rewarding and busy” – a study edited by Quantumworkplaces identified these words as the top five elements of the best work environment. It is a fact – the age of digitalization and transformation has changed the way we work. Values have become different during the last century. On the other hand, this development offers new potential for workplaces and the structures of their environments. An ever-increasing number of independent workers enters different sectors and requires rapid action regarding new work models. Moreover, the amount of data is constantly surging but an in-depth analysis is still hard to find throughout traditional companies.

Achievements such as the initiation of company intranets combined with the use of collaboration tools like Slack or Sharepoint or the simple introduction of barcodes in logistics facilitate work and has increased the efficiency of companies. Notwithstanding, the need to develop and sustain high-performance work teams has proven to be quite compelling.Consequently, the highly acclaimed work-life balance can lose its equilibrium.

From cubicles to open workspaces
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator

The work environment has changed from universal offices based on the concept of scientific management introduced by Frederick W. Taylor to the “cubicle” (a three-walled system) and back to open spaces. The image of CEOs smoking cigars while sitting in their office chairs moved over to those dashing with their hoverboards through the office. Today, the structure of many workplaces is influenced by big tech companies like Facebook, Google, or Amazon. They are focussing more on employee satisfaction and happiness. Thus, it is not surprising that these companies were chosen as the best employers in the US in 2017 according to Glassdoor.

The future of workplaces is getting high attention. Everybody knows the pictures of Google’s “Googleplex”, where gourmet meals, free healthcare, and on-site childcare are offered. According to PayScale, 86 percent of Google’s employees are satisfied with their job. They especially appreciate the meaningful and challenging projects as well as the 80/20 rule (80 percent work for the job and 20 percent self-realization), which allows employees to develop their own ideas in other spheres and fields. This type of work results in a high level of motivation and empowers the employees at their workplaces. Moreover, it simply achieves better results for the company itself.

On the other hand, new technology such as AI allows companies a more differentiating analyze of their employees in order to identify such as toxic employees in advance. For example, Unilever has used artificial intelligence “to screen all entry-level employees for the past year.

Candidates play neuroscience-based games to measure inherent traits. After that, they participate in interviews that are recorded and later analyzed by AI.”

Nevertheless, there are also enormous challenges because of the changing digital landscape. Employers and employees are frequently faced with digital privacy issues. Companies need to ensure that their operations comply with digital standards and that leaks of intellectual property are avoided. Furthermore, according to different surveys, the majority of employees expect predictability as well as flexibility, values which are sometimes difficult to offer simultaneously.

Photo by Mia Baker
In the end, it doesn’t matter.

Despite all discussions, every employee is unique. It would be wrong to stereotype categories of employees to identify their needs and wishes. (Over the last decades many things have changed in the way people work today). The aim is not to establish a perfect manual how a workplace and its employees should look like, but to create a positive atmosphere connected to each company’s purpose in which every employee can feel well and identify with. Therefore, communication and trust are central elements of a good working environment.

Alain de Botton once said that “on paper, being good sounds great but a lot depends on the atmosphere of the workplace or community we live in. We tend to become good or bad depending on the cues sent out within a particular space.” It is our convictions and goals which give our workplace its original character.

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Originally published at www.world-business-dialogue.com

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