Work is no longer confined to the work place. New devices, new categories of device and ubiquitous WiFi have made it possible to work almost anywhere. One thing that hasn’t changed much is the workplace. I attended an event co-hosted by Microsoft and Steelcase at the Steelcase WorkLife Center Showroom to see the companies’ vision of the future of the workplace. The event was called Work. ReWorked.
Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the event by Microsoft as part of its Device Influencer program. As part of the program the company provides me with hardware and software for evaluation purposes. It has not asked me to write anything, express any opinions other than those genuinely held and does not ask for pre-approval of anything I write prior to publication.
If management is about enabling employees to do their best work then the future of the workplace must be creating work spaces that support it. The problem is that work isn’t what it used to be. Technology has enabled many employees to work from anywhere. As an entrepreneur I have the flexibility to work wherever I choose. I also have to be able to be productive everywhere. Neither is necessarily conducive to doing my best work.
Over the duration of my entrepreneurial journey I’ve worked from home offices, shared offices, coffee-shops, airports, customer offices – and everywhere in between. The problem isn’t places to work – but finding places where I can be productive. Finding a space where I can focus isn’t always easy. Even in spaces that have been created to encourage collaboration amongst entrepreneurs it’s hard to sometimes find the perfect space to do my best work.
In the last couple of years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about creating collaborative work spaces. As I design the physical layouts for COMMS.BAR retail locations I’ve been looking at how to create zones for hosting workshops; spaces where entrepreneurs can do independent work; a combination of seated and standing desks. It’s a challenge I haven’t yet found the answer to.
The Future of Work. Reworked
I was invited to an event, Work. Reworked by Microsoft and workplace equipment designer Steelcase exploring the future of the workplace. The event was to launch a report coauthored by the companies on how organizations can create work spaces where every team member can do their best work. The focus was clearly on finding a balance between solo work and collaboration.
Where the water cooler was seen as the focus of serendipitous creativity and collaboration, the future seems to be a device. From 70″ Surface Hubs and 28″ Surface Studios to Surface Books and Surface Pros, a series of examples showed off how organizations could allow office-based and mobile workers to work together – either physically or virtually. Or a combination of both.
For those of us that travel for business, Steelcase now allows organizations to replicate the experience of premium or business class suites on the ground. I’ve added a Steelcase Brady Work Lounge to my list of items for my home office and COMMS.BAR locations.
I’ve long enjoyed working on airplanes – perhaps because it was one of the few places where there were few distractions. There’s also something about the textures and position of the seats – not to mention being above the clouds.
The Work Lounge caters to people that need some privacy without the confines of a separate office, while allowing them to remain part of an open plan work space. It’s a business class work space.
Watch my video summary of the Brody WorkLounge at the end of this post
One of the themes of the event that was discussed at length during a panel conversation was the need to provide a space that caters for the 5 generations currently sharing offices. This presents a significant challenge for every organization and requires careful integration of both office hardware and technology.
Touch screens are clearly the future of device control – it’s one of the reasons I chose to switch from Apple products to a Microsoft Surface device at the end of last year. I’ll write more about that in the coming weeks, as I review the Surface Book 2 and compare it to my current workhorse – a first generation Surface Book purchased in late 2017.
Working with startups I see some of the more progressive work spaces in Canada. Startup offices have become a way for innovative companies to show off their creativity and I get the sense that there is a healthy competition to create the most innovative work space.
The spaces are partly a reflection of the creative team members these early-stage companies hire. They are also designed to attract the kind of creative and non-conventional talent that will help them to grow. They are also designed to enable employees to work differently to large Corporate firms. Startup work spaces are designed to promote collaboration – whether it is the layout of desk space – or the lack of formal desk space. Desk-top machines are largely a think of the past in many offices, except for a few industries where a desktop monitor is necessary because of the computing power or size of display needed to complete core work activity.
Here’s my summary of the Work Lounge, recorded at a recent WorkReWorked event in Toronto.