The Workplace of the Future

We’ve all heard about the non-traditional workplace provided to employees of Google, Rackspace, and others. The question is, will all employers look like that in the future?

Recently Kieron Monks gave journalist and trend forecaster James Wallman a shot at answering this very question. His insights and perspective are nothing short of fascinating. That conversation is summarized below.

Wallman sees the future holding a place for three different work-environment models.

  • The “Hotel California” model: “A workplace so good you’ll never leave.” The lights are on 24/7 because there is so much there that it’s as much fun as life outside of work, and with better food. Here, coworkers are friends, where work and play have become the same and work is something they want to do. A strong sense of mission is key for companies operating this model, in order to capture the hearts and minds of employees: Appealing to shared values in order to recruit, keep and motivate a sophisticated workforce. And more and more social benefits now come in to play, where management must sell intrinsic value rather than just a living to a generation of employees that have come to expect more.
  • The “Martini” model: defined by extreme flexibility, inspired by the classic TV ads which promised “anytime, anywhere.” Wallman notes personal relationships with someone who trades stocks from the island of Mauritius, and another who runs a restaurant, located in South London, from Bali. The attraction of course being that they can operate their business at their convenience, from wherever they want, without having to work around fixed hours.
  • The “Third Space” model: for people who enjoy the freedom of the Martini model but also appreciate regular human contact. Wallman points to the rise of relaxed co-working spaces for freelancers of all disciplines that combine games rooms with stable facilities, such as the Fueled Collective site in New York City.

Looking even further ahead, Wallman notes the possibilities available via automation to give workers even more freedom, including permanent disruption of the five-day week. However, as with all social trends, the shift must work its way through the early adopters.

But Wallman believes these trends will rapidly become a universal touchstone, offering value for businesses and fulfillment for employees. “It may seem like fantasy” he says, “but the standard of living changed incredibly in the 20th century.” And Wallman predicts that will continue in the 21st century. “When we go to work, it will be to enjoy ourselves.”

Definitely something to think about.

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