27 June 2017

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Small Enterprise Magazine - Feb'15 Issue

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I feel the world around us is fast changing and work places are no exception. Technology, as it does to everything it touches, is bringing about great changes in the way people collaborate and work. The term ‘work places of tomorrow’ has been around for quite some time now. From environment friendly offices, fun offices, cost-efficient budget offices, flexible offices and shared offices spaces, changing office design concepts, lifestyle work places, workplaces are undergoing a sea change which was hitherto unheard of. Not very long ago, the workplace was remarkably static. Many of us still work in big offices, in cubicles, and at the same desk and computer every day. However, this is headed for a change.

Being averse to change can never be an “in-vogue” thing and corporate houses are increasingly coming to terms with this fact in the light of high attrition rates and fire-fights within organizations. Until few years ago, HR policies, favorable organizational cultures and initiatives were more a matter of a choice rather than indispensability. However, as we all know, no boon arrives without an equal share of bane. Globalization, information revolution, knowledge economy and liberalization have uncorked a whole wide world, unveiled opportunities and challenges; gigantic stress levels and sowed even fiercer competition. Hence, the need for change was felt in a more pressing way than it ever did before. Traditional rigid model of workplace is transforming into more and more flexible options keeping in mind work efficiency and productivity.

I observed that workplaces are beginning to be less centralized, more mobile, and more flexible than anything most people outside the startup and freelance economy have experienced before. It is evident that the trend is going to be further pushed forward by rapid uptake of mobile technology, economic volatility, and the global war for skilled talent. We are rapidly approaching the ‘death of the office’ as we know it. Workforce will become a lot more fragmented and office would no longer be a fixed location. Technology, mobile and the internet are enabling us to work virtually with anyone, anytime and from anywhere- while on the go. Even board meetings nowadays often happen offer Skype or through video-conferences and people prefer it as it cuts back on travel time and costs.

Moreover, the country’s Gen X workforce is predominantly young and dynamic; hence keeping the work place vibrant and flexible wherein each individual can freely express their identity is of high importance. Work places are starting to incorporate leisure areas where employees can relax, paint and decorate or may even brainstorm with the team on any business centric issue or a decision taking activity. Nowadays, we are also getting to see clothing etiquettes becoming more flexible and offices are having in-house chemist stores, gyms, canteens and stylish cafés.

Employees spend around 85% of their time at the workplaces and organizations are leaving no stones unturned in fine tuning the place to suit today’s generations mindset and why wouldn’t it? – It is evidently making a positive impact on employee’s productivity. Employees are even encouraged to personalize their workstations as per their choice and we often get to see paintings or impressive wall art created by employees themselves, within the office. Modern offices are breaking all stereotypes about workplaces being an essentially ‘grave’ place meant for ‘all work and no play!’.

As per a PwC survey “Future of Work: A Journey to 2022”, conducted amongst 10,000 members of the public and 500 HR professionals across China, India, Germany, the UK and the US, 75% of Indian respondents opined that they would want to work for an organization which has a powerful social conscience, while only 26% valued a job that makes a difference. Specializations are poised to become a core trend. Professionals will tend to have ‘personal’ brands and sell their skills to those who need them. Job security is most important for 53% of Indian respondents but 58% do not expect traditional employment to be around in the future.

The survey also brought to light the aspect that India office of 2022 is to be occupied by individualistic, diverse and tech-savvy employees who want to work flexible hours from a location of their choice; while being technologically connected to bosses, peers and clients. About 57% of Indian employees felt that technological advances will play the most important role in transforming the way people would work in the next five to 10 years. People preferred caring companies which has a powerful social and environmental conscience as their ideal employers rather than the big and elite corporations and also those organizations that are fragmented into looser networks, brought together by technology, with social media heightening connectivity.

I see companies are providing non-conventional and innovative methods of compensation to their employees in addition to the traditional salary-based compensation model. The most popular among these are opportunities for global assignments and support for pursuing higher education.

Others include in-house doctor and in-house fitness centres, providing casual/open work environment and flexible work arrangements. The coming years are expected to witness greater focus of companies in offering wellness and preventive health programs as a key tool towards employee retention and engagement initiatives.

In certain sectors like for example the manufacturing sector, owing to the nature of the industry, the companies are providing support to their employees for pursuing higher education, as the demand for skilled manpower is significantly higher in such sectors. In the services industry, likewise, companies are providing opportunities for international assignments to their employees.

Working environments will continually adapt, leveraging technological advances as well as allowing for more remote and virtual working culture. The employee of the future will be increasingly restricted by time constraints in a workplace that incorporates space for social interaction, is a place of equality and offers employees a greater choice of when, where and how to work.

As Dr Marie Puybaraud, Director of Global WorkPlace Innovation at Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions, puts it, “Workplace change and innovation are critical to the future of organisations in a dynamic, economy-driven and knowledge-based society. Managing change is a vital dimension underpinning the successful transition to new work styles, patterns and locations.”

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About the Author: Sudeshna Datta, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder, Absolutdata Analytics, an ISO 27001:2005 certified market research and data analytics company with offices in India and US and has many Fortune 500 companies as their clients.

 

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