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Changing Nature of Workplace Implications for Quality of Life

Working methods, places and spaces are increasingly the subject of close scrutiny due to technological advances that are changing the perspectives of both the employees and employers as they strive for progress and performance.

Disappearing Boundaries

We take our work home but we also bring a part of our private lives to work. We are faced with a complex model: increasing dependency on technology that encourages us to stay connected all the time, but also greater freedom to be more flexible. As individuals, we struggle to manage this complex model which we’ve not yet learned to master collectively, at the organization level. One explanation for this may be that we remain troubled by tensions between assessment, based on work output quality, and assessment based on permanent availability as the hallmark of trust.

A steady state characterized by permanent change and the need to be always available puts pressure on the identities of individuals, as they strive to harmonize their work life with their personal life. In essence, work was previously dictated by place: we were either at work or not at work. It has recently become more a matter of time rather than place but even notions of a workday and a workweek are fast disappearing, as many people can and do work anyplace and at any time. Should we resist the temptation to continue separating work and life and instead accept that it’s all simply a part of life?

Beyond Work Content

Just as the focus for retail is increasingly targeting “experience” in the face of stiff online competition, so the workplace appears to be following a similar path. Indeed, employers are feeling the need to reinvest in the workplace and differentiate it from their competitors’ workplace, from employees’ homes, and from cafés, airport lounges and even working in hotel lobbies. Employees are increasingly mobile, flexible and autonomous; as such, they can work from more places than ever before.


Combining Places and Spaces

Rather than an absolute necessity, is the physical workplace becoming a rallying point for the culture of the organization, a place that employees really only go to for face-to-face dialogue and exchange with colleagues? If the centre of activity is the key link, how is this achieved and maintained? By paying greater attention to employees’ wellbeing? By creating an environment that makes employees feel almost as if they are at home even though they are at work? The fusion of “spaces” as home-like environments that are actually workplaces within café environments appear to be a feature of the workplace of the future. Organizations are actively designing collaborative spaces like these to inspire their employees and foster a culture or hub of cooperation and innovation. They seek to break up the monotony of the workday with high-quality interaction. A comprehensive range of services also offers individuals improved quality of life by helping them to harmonize their work and personal interests. The resulting convenience may be seen as a response to the pressures of work-life harmonization but this prompts a number of questions centred on relationships.

The progressive “workplace” looks like an enhanced community that benefits from access to both work and liferelated services and spaces that were previously available to individuals only outside the workplace, if at all. These amenities include fitness, nutrition, concierge services, social and leisure facilities, and green spaces. At best, the workplace is set to become a vibrant precinct, a hub for employees, an environment characterized by services and amenities designed to improve their Quality of Life at work and beyond. With this development, the intersections between home, work and the local community change.

If improved Quality of Life is to support the progress of individuals and the performance of organizations, changing relationships nevertheless raise questions of personal autonomy and choice.

Future work skills for 2020

To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements. They will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these skills. Workers in the future will need to be adaptable lifelong learners.

Businesses must also be alert to the changing environment and adapt their workforce planning and development strategies, to ensure alignment with future skill requirements. Strategic human resources professionals might reconsider traditional methods for identifying critical skills, as well as selecting and developing talent. Considering the disruptions likely to reshape the future will enhance businesses’ ability to ensure organizational talent has and continuously renews the skills necessary for the sustainability of business goals. A workforce strategy for sustaining business goals should be one of the most critical outcomes of human resources professionals and should involve collaborating with universities to address lifelong learning and skill requirements.

Aerotropolis: Airports as the new City Center

Airports have become not just 21st century business magnets, but also regional economic accelerators, catalyzing and driving business development outward for many miles. As aviation-oriented businesses increasingly locate at major airports and along transportation corridors radiating from them, an aerotropolis emerges, stretching up to 25km from some major airports.

The aerotropolis, in fact, is the concrete urban manifestation of the global meeting the local, with the airport serving as its physical interface.

Airports increasingly serve as virtual headquarters for geographically dispersed corporate staff, executives, and board members who fly in for sales meetings, client contacts, and high-level decision-making. The fullrange of office services and business support staff of a traditional corporate complex are available, including meeting rooms, computers and advanced telecom, secretarial and tech assistance. Propitious opportunities await corporations and metropolitan regions that can marshal the vision, planning skills, and coordinated actions to capitalize on this new transit-oriented development era.

“Rateocracy”: Working and managing in an era of extreme transparency

Today, consumers rate sellers on eBay, restaurants on Yelp, and local companies on Angie’s List, providing detailed product reviews online. Job hunters and employees can read and rate employers on Glassdoor.com. College students rate their professors on ratemyprofessors. com. Neighbours and friends can view each other’s reputations (and their own) at honestly.com. And Facebook’s more than 1.3 billion users can endorse a product or organization by “liking” it.

Soon, we will also rate corporations on their behaviour and have realtime mobile access to the aggregated, stakeholder-generated reputation scores of nearly every corporation on the planet. We will use this information to reward and punish companies by buying their products or spurning them. We will have entered into a completely new era of corporate reputation, one in which reputation is radically transparent and extremely valuable.

This new era is called Rateocracy because it will combine real-time ratings within a transparent and democratic structure. In fact, we can anticipate that virtually every person, place and thing will have a numeric social rating. Corporations, managers and employees will learn to live with “coveillance” — a world in which nearly everyone observes and rates the behaviour of everyone else. How organisation, both large and small, operate within such an environment is worthy of deep consideration. Existing organizational models may be challenged.

Global rewards and recognition: Bridging culture and generations through localization

Overall, 87% or more of the global workforce has engagement levels that leave room for improvement. One of the most effective ways to increase engagement is through recognition and rewards programmes; in fact, most regions of the world rank recognition as one of the most important drivers of employee engagement.

In addition to promoting higher engagement levels, such programs have the added benefit of yielding 21% higher retention rates, 27% higher profits, and 50% higher sales to those organizations that implement them. In order to be optimally effective, recognition and reward programs must be formalized and designed to consistently and fairly reinforce desired behaviours company-wide. When implemented on a global scale, these programs must also meet the diverse needs and preferences of a multinational, multigenerational employee base, which takes careful assessment.

Recognizing and rewarding people in the way they wish is a fundamental prerequisite to increasing employee engagement, which can be particularly challenging for multinational organizations. To successfully implement a global recognition and  rewards program, organizations must be mindful of the ways in which their workforce may differ culturally, generationally, and individually. For their efforts, multinational organizations will not only reap the extraordinary financial benefits of an engaged workforce, but also show their employees that their company cares about them and their preferences.

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