What will the Future of Work mean for workspaces?

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The future of work. A topic that dominates the corporate agenda, headlines global conferences, and makes the biggest global think-tanks, such as the ILO or the OECD, set up working groups, with the participation of the brightest minds of policy and the business world to respond effectively and understand better the challenges that come with it. Are machines and AI going take all our work away? Is Amazon going to deliver our orders with the latest drone technology to our doors soon? Will 5G going to be available on our smartphones in the next year?

Questions, we all want answered.

One thing is certain: innovation and technology are changing the way we work and live in a rapid pace. Even the most obvious things, such as waking up in the morning or getting a ride midtown, have all completely got new meaning over the last couple of years.

Let’s assume that you, dear Reader, and I were talking about 10 years ago about the future. During our chat you had told me that by 2020 there would be a car that you’d be able to take from the train station of Cologne to the Koelnmesse, which is the actual venue of the Zukunft Personal Europe; the car then would be built on a software platform that you could call through an application on your smart phone, it would not require gas to run as it uses electricity, and, the car would self-drive itself. What do you think? Do you think I would have believed you?

This car is called today Tesla. (To be fair, many of the above introduced functions are only available in the summer of 2018 in the US… Sorry Cologne, you still have to wait for this breath-taking technology to fully arrive in Germany.)


Would you believe me if I told you that by 2030 we will be able to take our own electric flying cars to the venue of the Zukunft Personal Europe, and park it in a special spot maintained for flying cars only? Actually, a German start-up, Lilium, is among the many companies that usher in a world in which the Jetson-type flying cars are reality. In addition, in June 2018, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government signed a letter of intent with top-executives of Audi and Airbus to test air taxis in and around the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt. So, it might easily happen that we would be all able to take flying taxis to the Zukunft Personal Europe from the Cologne airport by even 2025.

Don’t click away.

This blog post is not going to be all about the listing of the latest breakthrough technologies, and with the above examples we just wanted to illustrate the pace with which our world is developing. The “Future of Work Whirlwind” will not leave any sector or profession untouched; our starting point it is.

The Future of Work Village – Zukunft Personal Europe 2018

This year, in 2018, the Future of Work theme will get central stage at Europe’s biggest HR conference, as the Zukunft Personal Europe will launch a totally new exhibition area in the HR Future Trends Hall. The staggering 2500 square meters Future of Work Village will showcase tomorrow’s most innovative workplaces, host networking and discussion sessions, and entertain visitors with dj sets and topic specific workshops.

Some of you might wonder why, in a top-notch HR and people conference, the area of future of work in relation with the workspace get so much attention. By today, there is compelling scientific and practical evidence about the role of the modern workspace when it comes to companies’ talent strategies, employee branding or engagement policies. Indeed, modern offices transfer organisational values and can enhance workers’ sense of identity and community.

Indeed, modern offices transfer organisational values and can enhance workers’ sense of identity and community. Click To Tweet


What HR managers can, or should, do about the workspace? Why should HR and Facility Managers should work more together? Let us explain our train of thought a little bit more here.

It should not come as a big surprise to you that in this currently shifting environment many have already suggested HR to take up new roles. One of the most commonly cited example is from the world-beckoned HR guru, Dave Ulrich, who, in his 1997 Human Resource Champions book, discussed and recommended people professionals to embrace new roles. These were centered around HR to act as a strategic partner, a change mentor, and as an employee advocate.

As employee advocates HR professionals have a significant role in the well functioning and operation of organisations through their employee sponsorship initiatives. This work also combines expertise in the creation of workplace environments that boost employee motivation, contribution, well-being, happiness and efficiency.

The present article, is not about what you need to know about the future of work, but more, why you need to learn about it. This is a fundamental shift which we hope you will start making by the end of this reading. Simultaneously, the goal of the organisers of the Zukunft Personal Europe 2018 with the opening of the Future of Work Village, is to help you move away a little bit from the world of HR, and show you trends and ideas that are unfolding, in the broader sense, in the world of work.

The below points are here to provide you with more practical knowledge and information that could help you discover workplace trends that are going to be more important, than you actually recognize, in the world of work.

Decentralization – Say Goodbye to Teleconferencing!

As the latest technologies in the workplaces will make it even more easier for employees to use digital technologies for collaboration, geographic barriers are about to be removed for good. We will continue to observe decentralization to be more inevitable. This is not a totally new phenomenon, but it is important for us to highlight that its pace is about to accelerate with, for example, the soon to be expected blast of the 5G connectivity. Smart developments such as 360-degree avatars, telepresence robots or holograms will allow our co-workers to attend meetings in a way that would allow them to interact with their colleagues in a super efficient and never observed way.

This is a very much welcomed trend by many. Freelancers, remote workers and the entire gig economy would certainly benefit from these new communication technologies. Simultaneously, HR professionals will be tasked to provide organisations with updated telecommuting contracts, safe work from home policies, or adapt to lead and manage a totally remote workforce.

What will the Future of Work mean for workspaces?

Photo: MetroNaps

Sleeping Capsules, Napping Pods and Energy Capsules

Have you ever nodded off in a long after-lunch meeting, yawned at your desk dreaming of a short but sweet sleep, or had only foggy thoughts throughout the day thanks to a sleepless night? You are not alone! As more and more evidence and practice surfaces on how workplace napping improves productivity and happiness, companies have been slowly but surely implementing, as part of their prevention and health promotion programmes, wellness or napping rooms. These rooms are armed with a variety of sleeping or napping capsules, and not just aim at improving productivity, but physically manifesting company brands and values.

HR’s one million dollar question is whether it should allow its employees to sleep on the job. Certainly, there are pros and cons to this dilemma. What would be important for people managers to consider, should they decide to advocate for the application of napping equipments in the office, is the setting up of internal policies, deciding on space questions, providing enough information to employees, and deciding on the actual cultural fit of such energy boosters for their companies.

The future of office environments

A recent study, published by the Edinburgh University, has found that office workers tend to spend more time sitting then pensioners, that ultimately leads to a higher risks of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, or even cancer. Do you, as many of us, have to manage long daily sitting hours? Should you sit or stand at work? How much does it matter where or for how long do you sit at your office desks?

As more and more insightful research surface on the actual impact of the office environment on our health and productivity, forward looking designer companies are looking into ways to build office environments that rather support than harm us. To fast forward from the already pervasive standing desk concepts, the office of the future is taking shape in the creation of ‘small office’ philosophies, where individual employees or freelancers work in personalized settings; or the embracement of biophilic, textural healing or outdoor philosophies. HR leaders and managers who grasp the real meaning of these forces and their impact on the workforce will help their organisations becoming more effective, and their workforce more productive and healthy.

Organisational design

The link in between workspaces and some of the unfolding future of work trends are certainly strong. Undoubtedly, there is a significant impact of the workplace on employees, though we observe an even more important, indirect, impact that is the connection between how the workspace supports employees to be creative, collaborate, innovate, energised and inspired.

Work has changed and will continue to do so over the next decades, thus organisations and work environments need to even up with these developments. There is no other alternative.

Some countries have even started to recognise the link between the physical environment and employees’ health. Germany has introduced a passage to the legislation about the protection of workers about psychological risks and stress. Belgium has a Wellbeing at Work law, which recognizes the psycho-social risks that may stem from badly designed or organised workspaces, and urges employers to prevent and tackle these risks. Temperature, light, ergonomics, noise, these all can make or break your day.

HR’s role in the Future of Work

As public attention has recently turned to more high-profile questions related to company culture, future of work, future of workspace, employee branding and wellbeing etc. HR’s role is steadily increasing. This is a great opportunity for people managers to reprofile HR, as CEOs and C-suite executives are paying closer attention to the insight and ideas originated by HR departments.

In a nutshell, the future of work is really about assessing how tasks can be done alternatively, thanks to the latest technological developments, and building on the opportunity to think about how you can augment this process in another way.

What does the future of work mean for workspaces? How should HR prepare for the future of work and what role should it play in it? Why not visit the Future of Work Village between the 11-13 of September in Cologne to find your own answers.

In a nutshell, the future of work is really about assessing how tasks can be done alternatively, thanks to the latest technological developments, and building on the opportunity to think about how you can augment this process in another way. Click To Tweet
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