Ride the third wave or get left behind.

Technology is at work in almost every aspect of the office. How we work has been fundamentally reshaped by the first wave of the internet (its emergence and explosive growth), the second wave of the internet (applications and software we love and rely on) and now its third wave: The internet of everything.

The third wave (as reported in Workspace Reworked) is propelled by our digital ecosystem. We now have access to incredible computing power, billions of connected devices, ubiquitous connectivity and vast quantities of data. They’re transforming businesses and upending the way we work. Eventually, this ecosystem will infiltrate and disrupt all industries. It won’t be long before we all work for tech companies.

As a result, you need to ready your workplace for the drastic changes that lie ahead.

Your 6-point action plan

It’s never too early to start planning and embrace change. Here are six simple steps to prepare your business and your workplace for the future:

From now until 2020

Align your office with business goals

As technology and operations continue to drive change, there is more pressure to innovate than ever before. Just as technology changes the way we do business, it also impacts where work happens. The role, function and design of the workplace needs to support your business strategy.

Does your real estate or workplace team know what your innovation team has planned for the next three years? Where is your company headed and how are you innovating? A lack of collaboration means missed opportunities for technology and inefficient use of space. Engage your C-suite to understand your business requirements around innovation, then align and adjust your workplace strategy to match.

Choose your innovation model

In the digital economy, you need to develop new products, services and business models regularly. Innovation should be accommodated in your physical space so that employees and even external partners can easily generate new ideas. Decide which model—accelerator, innovation space or coworking—is the best fit for your business.

  • Accelerator: You can partner to launch an accelerator or bring it in-house. The goal is to provide space for startups and high-growth companies to scale, become profitable and make industry connections. If you’re a large company, these work environments can act as a honey trap when you’re looking for new ideas or investment opportunities.
  • Innovation space: Product development is much faster in innovation spaces, which is why many mature companies have built dedicated space in-house for their teams to innovate. They may invite partners and suppliers inside to collaborate on new products and services. As technology blurs the lines between different sectors, it will be key to have space to work with other industries.
  • Coworking: Many companies are taking their innovation space a step further and launching their own corporate co-working brands as a way of tapping into startups and small enterprises. They’re competing with established coworking brands to create industry-specific shared space. This allows independent innovators to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs under the umbrella of an industry titan. It’s a symbiotic relationship for everyone.

Define a workplace technology strategy

There are smart workplace enhancements like utilization technology, digital concierge, and sustainability advancements (like circadian lighting) that cater to the human experience. Map out exactly how your business can benefit from using these technologies in the future, along with a plan to get you there. Additionally stay on top of emerging technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and the Internet of Things. You may not know exactly how this technology will impact your space yet, but keep an ear to the ground on new possibilities as you move your office into the future.

Adopt talent-driven workplace strategies

The war for talent will only grow more intense in the years ahead. While companies will have fewer core locations, they’ll invest more in them to attract talent. User experience will take center stage in workplace design in order to meet the expectations of the next generation and boost productivity of those already in the office.

Provide a greater variety of spaces to work in and enhance connection with employees outside your core locations. Your space should reinforce culture, instill brand and encourage interaction and collaboration.

Build a network of alternative work spaces outside your main hub. That can include a blend of co-working space, serviced offices, the home office, hotels, airport lounges and other flexible and liquid locations for your people to work from.


Identify tomorrow’s innovation hotspots

First and foremost, identify cities with large talent pools. Don’t discount second and third tier locations in emerging markets that are up-and-coming sources of top talent. And, don’t forget that people in different cities often have different strengths. Review your location and workplaces against talent strategy, and leverage labor analytics to understand where your target talent lives and commutes.

Integrate contingent and autonomous workers into space requirements

The contingent workforce will form a key part of the workplace of the future. Employees, contingent workers, partners and outsiders will come together in an office—and remotely—to work on new products, services and ideas. This requires a significant departure from the way the average office is designed and used today. More process-driven tasks will be taken over by specialists and autonomous workers, which means you should design your space to allow more creative and collaborative work to happen.

Assess which business functions will be outsourced or automated, and adjust your real estate footprint accordingly. Create space for highly skilled contingent workers to collaborate with employees on a project-by-project basis. Introduce flexible options into your portfolio to allow real estate to scale as your workforce changes.

The company of the future is expected to be leaner and more agile than today. While change is accelerating faster for some industries than others, everyone’s real estate and workplace strategy must shift. That’s one of the best ways to minimize spend, attract talent, optimize performance, engage your people and ultimately compete in 2030 and beyond.

version of the post originally appeared on our JLL sister site, Future of Work.



About the author

About the author

Michael Jordan, Managing Director, Productivity Strategy
Using his experience in technology, pharmaceutical and financial services industries to help companies set and achieve their sustainability objectives.

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