AGILITY @ Work: The impact of six forces on the way we work

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This report sets out to predict the future of work. It presents six trends or forces that are reshaping work, and in turn allowing companies to change the way they organise work. These external forces are: demography, culture, technology, sustainability, transport and property. Together they not only comprise the key overheads of a business, but also the drivers of change that no company can ignore if it is to get into shape as the world emerges from recession.

That shape is a corporate ‘six pack’ - a new way of structuring work, based on a new set of assumptions and an understanding of new opportunities. This can be achieved through the adoption of new approaches to workplace provision such as activity based working and a new view of a polycentric city.

We believe that these six drivers will reshape organisations in the ‘tennies’ to be fitter, and leaner – the ‘six pack’ for the corporation that provides a much lower cost base for work. We have looked at the ‘cost of work’ – a measure of the overhead required today to allow a person to be productive. For a leading, blue chip organisation this is anywhere between $19,000 and $22,000, at the moment per person per annum in a capital city. The target for some companies is now under $7,000, achieved through innovation, mobility and the adoption of new workstyles.

New technology will have a dramatic affect on how and where work is done. We present the key drivers and enablers of change, for both small and medium sized businesses as well as multi-national enterprises. Trends such as accelerating the adoption of mobility, virtual workplace portals and the migration to ‘cloud computing’ will see a gradual transition to ‘empty’ or thin office buildings, devoid of all technology.

This research not only looks at evidence based on case studies from early adopters of radical workstyles across the globe. It also discusses issues with leading heads of real estate from global companies to understand their thinking, concerns and aspirations for the new world of work.

What is clear is that work is rapidly becoming something we do, and not a place we go to. Mantras such as work ‘on the pause’, or ‘management by results’ show that supervision and presenteeism are giving way to trust and empowerment. People will in the future be increasingly free to choose their work/place.

This has a big impact on sustainability. Two of the key contributors of carbon emissions are commercial buildings and commuting to those buildings. Both can be challenged by changing patterns and places of work. But there is still a gap in the provision of places to work ‘on the pause’. This report will look at early examples of ‘third spaces’ and discuss the growth needed to accommodate an increasingly agile workforce. We predict a new network (both virtual and physical) that in effect becomes the ‘office’. This hub and spoke approach will be crucial, as multiple locations in a city give rise to consolidation, and continued transport congestion make movement around a city a continuing issue – immobility in the city will lead to a growth in the demand for multi-centric working.

Work will no longer be about a building, a dumb container, to which people commute and which ‘houses’ the corporation’s infrastructure, data, technology and files. Work is now permeable – the boundaries are blurring and there are better, more efficient places to house technology and data. The future is being redefined.

This future will result in corporations leasing less real estate. As they emerge from recession, fit corporations that have adopted ‘six-pack’ thinking will be able to achieve growth in headcount without taking on additional square feet.

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