Every second day we hear about ‘new or ‘progressive’ styles of how employees will be working in the near future from organizations based on their personal ‘vision’ or on their key assumptions, which often has a rather narrow focus.
Some of theses reports include, PSFK’s comprehensive ‘Future of Work,’ Intel’s white paper entitled ‘The Future of Knowledge Work,’ SAP’s ‘The Future of the Workplace,’ and Sodexo’s detailed and FM-focused ‘Workplace Trends’ report, to name a few.
Now while these reports may not be off base and, in some cases, may actually make excellent points, offer up extremely valuable insights and identify key trends, these specialists usually just tackle one part of the problem, and not the whole.
According to the author of this excellent article, there are routine flaws in the thinking that can lead these reports to make narrow and sometimes incorrect assumptions and so draw similarly flawed conclusions.
- They place undue focus on Generation Y. That said, it’s worth noting that Millennials will still be a minority of the workforce in 2020—the appropriate end date for many of these reports. A more sophisticated approach would be to consider the multi-generational workplace.
- They like gimmicky designs. These reports often depict the office of the future with design quirks such as slides, isolation pods, etc. For most workers, the office of the future will be a sober and nuanced evolution of the office of the present…with a touch o cool, of course.
- They ignore the complexities of behavior and motivation. Too much emphasis is placed on design as a way of changing behavior. People are motivated by a range of factors, many of them outside the control of the organization.
- They fail to distinguish between people and technology. Just because a technology exists does not mean the staff will use it and in the way it was intended.
- They subvert language. Technology empowers people as well as enslaves them. Agile working means giving people flexibility, as well as extending the workplace beyond the walls of the office. Collaboration refers to not only sharing ideas but also ensuring that knowledge workers don’t withhold their intellectual capital…an important asset you might want to hold on to if you want to hold on to your job.
- They ignore the influence of the present. Our images of the future are invariably refracted through the prism of the present. Predictions must accommodate this distortion to some degree.
- They focus too much on extroverts. Open design plans may work well for the extroverted worker, but what about those employees who like their privacy and space? Many of these reports continue to promote values that ignore the needs of nearly half of the office working population.