The Future of the Workplace: Collaboration, Working Remotely and More

Nearly a decade ago, workplace collaboration was all the rage. CEOs and senior staff were knocking down walls to create open offices, forgoing the traditional corner office and getting employees from different departments to work together in the same space. It even seems hard to imagine that this trend started a decade ago. So what are CEOs and senior staff asking for now? Privacy – and they want their offices back.

When surrounded by other people chatting, typing and talking on the phone, many employees have found that they have to sneak off into conference rooms or wear headphones just to get their work done. It seems like the pendulum has started to swing away from the big, open office.

Another pendulum swing is that the gig economy means people are working remotely more than ever before. Working remotely is a great perk for employees, but I’ve noticed many companies struggle with the virtual workforce, prompting me to think maybe all these fads will fade away.

So how can we expect the workplace to change over the next year, or even the next 10 years? Below are some thoughts.

Rebuilding some of the walls they knocked down
As noted in a Wall Street Journal article, many people in leadership roles are opting to take the corner office rather than sit with the whole staff all the time. Today, however, a private office is less about status and more about having a space to think. One downfall of the open office is that everyone can tell when the boss is stressed or feeling down, and they have nowhere to go to deal with it. Managers have found that having a personal space to regroup helps them be better leaders and keep company morale high.

Companies will continue to encourage working remotely, but not go crazy
The Wall Street Journal’s article stated that the percentage of employees working entirely remotely is at an all-time high of 20%, up from 15% last year. Although some companies have found that allowing employees to work remotely reduces costs, its real value is in increasing employee autonomy and satisfaction. Shifting to remote work takes strategy and investment, but the reality is that more workers are going to expect (and need) to work from anywhere in the future.

That being said, a distributed workforce can oftentimes hinder collaboration. I believe that when you are working in an office, collaboration will occur naturally. Regardless of the tools we have to communicate no matter where you are in the world, a digital workforce can have a negative impact on morale and culture. We are thankful for tools like Slack, where working remotely isn’t in opposition to collaboration. In fact, it can create radical transparency: there is no such thing as a closed meeting when there are no doors.

Shared spaces won’t be limited to the people at your company
Co-working spaces are popping up all over the country to support freelancers and remote workers from all sorts of industries. These shared offices can provide the best of both worlds: a quiet space to work and an opportunity to socialize and problem-solve with other people (without the possibility of them assigning a new project in the lunchroom). Although open offices may be on the decline, collaboration is not—in fact, co-working spaces may increase cross-sector collaboration.

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