Does the Future of the Office Lie in Agile Workspaces?

Friday, December 4th, 2015
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Due to the proliferation of the Internet-related technologies such as portable smart devices, as well as increasingly flexible attitudes toward the nature of remunerated employment when it comes to hours, physical location and trends such as activity-based working, demand for agile workspaces is on the increase.

The agile workspace could soon emerge as the defining office environment for advanced economies in the wake of breakneck technological advances, ensuing changes in the way that companies conduct business as well as activity-based work trends.

“Australia has seen a growth in the workplace flexibility trend – whether this is working hours, types of work available or even the physical space employees work in,” said David Gardner, vice president of Clipsal and Schneider Electric Partner Business. “The way offices operate and the way people work is changing.”

This increased emphasis upon workplace flexibility and staff well-being will undoubtedly have ramifications for the way physical offices are designed, configured and operated.

“According to the Fast Forward 2030: The Future of Work and the Workplace research survey, commissioned by CBRE, 85 per cent of respondents claimed that general employee wellness is a critical issue to ensure success for workplaces moving forward,” Gardner said. “The focus on the physical office has increased the pressure to ensure that workspaces for tenants effectively facilitate their changing flexible work practices.”

The rising demand for flexible workspaces means that owners and suppliers of office property will need to include related considerations in the development or refurbishment of projects in order to compete effectively against their peers and retain tenants over the long haul.

“In order to keep occupancy rates high, facility managers, as well as architects, consultants and contractors, need to consider the workspace as a truly fluid environment – somewhere that is dynamic, flexible and easily adjusted to changes,” Gardner said. “Building owners and facility managers need to re-think and innovate in order to break the mould and shift away from the traditional static office structure and compete with emerging workplace competitors.”

The creation of adaptable workplaces further benefits building owners by enabling them to configure and adjust their facilities to meet the requirements of future tenants, without the need for exorbitant outlays.

“Building owners and facility managers aren’t at risk of high refurbishment costs if tenants change requirements or new tenants move in – they can easily adapt to a changing environment, which is the key to long-term success,”  Gardner noted.

According to the CBRE report, a shift toward agile workspaces is already taking place at the uppermost echelons of the corporate world as a result of greater emphasis upon activity-based working.

Luis Colmenares, product manager at Clipsal by Schneider Electric, said leading corporations in Australia are also pursuing the transition toward agile workplaces.

“It’s definitely starting to take off – you ‘re getting all these new offices, for example the Commonwealth Bank and some of those other big buildings, that are starting is to take this on board,” he said.

According to Gardner, the demand for agile workplaces is already creating waves amongst the designers and developers of Australian office spaces, whether cut from whole cloth or retrofitted.

“This trend has now become a key consideration for architects, consultants and contractors planning both new and existing building fit-outs projects for buildings across the country,” he said.

Unlike other measures to enhance built assets that entail large-scale refurbishments or overhauls, Colmenares pointed out that creating agile workplaces can be as easy as installing systems that facilitate the more flexible utilization of existing office space.

These include cable management systems that permit the quick and flexible reconfiguration of the power systems and electrical devices that comprise the key infrastructure of the modern office.

“The technology is easily scalable, if the demands or requirements of a given office space change, it’s easy to accommodate that,” said Colmenares.

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