NEW WAYS OF WORKING
For generations, Bene has been exploring modern office work and the changes it goes through. Based on this continuous trend research, Bene develops innovative spatial concepts. In recent years, one trend has become much clearer; the ongoing digital transformation and technological development in our lives is bringing people and organisations closer. Relationships intensify across national and continental borders and we are more mobile and flexible than ever before. Our work lives and private lives are merging, making our biographies individual, versatile and complex.
Studies like the Global Workshifting Index from Citrix Systems (2012) attest that work is becoming increasingly mobile and more location-independent. In recent years, many companies adopted work-shifting approaches, being careful to provide a technological working environment that made it possible to work from home and elsewhere. Although the spotlight is swinging back to the usefulness of being physically present for certain tasks, greater flexibility is now expected in many respects.
It is not just the Generation Y who are used to being able to access their information anywhere – at the airport, in a co-working space etc. A move towards project-oriented working practices is becoming increasingly noticeable on the contract side too. Tamara Carleton, Ph.D., CEO, founder, Innovation Leadership Board, describes it thus: “we follow more of a Hollywood model of operation that means depending on the programme or initiative, we assemble the talent we need, set that up, ensure the delivery, oversee quality and we may or may not tap the same people for the next initiative.”
Work Life Integration
“In Europe, work-life integration is definitely an issue around personal fulfilment. The opportunities to work autonomously and creatively, to create your own scope and to be able to talk to interesting people, whether colleagues or management, are increasingly important to us.” Prof. Marion Weissenberger-Eibl, Ph.D.
We use the term Work/Life Integration instead of Work/Life Balance because the latter evokes a binary opposition between work and life. In fact, the traditional image of a scale associated with work/life balance creates a sense of competition between the two elements. Work/Life Integration is an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define “life”: work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health.
The significance of the workplace
Experts have a range of opinions on the role of the office in a more flexible working world. Some see the physical space as a place for meetings and dialogue as the foundation on which to build trust: “I think all these people in these organisations are individuals; they belong to tribes, they have cultures, they have rituals. That is not generally looked at. The solution lies in understanding these tribes, understanding these rituals. As an example: having Sunday lunch with the family is a ritual that unites people today. In the work context, how does one capitalise on and make the most of these things to build trust and community? Looking towards the future, I think the work place is somewhere more of this should be happening,” says Ali Ganjavian, co-founder, Studio Banana. Others take a sceptical view: “I don’t think the workplace or the employer can provide community; I think it provides a salary, more and more now,” Prof. James Woudhuysen, journalist; visiting professor, London South Bank University. Still others focus more on a space as a source of identity which expresses a shared culture and vision. “A lot of people say in the future there will be no offices, no headquarters, because we are all networking, we are nomads, working from different places, anytime, anywhere and so on. There is, however, that emotional component – the sense of belonging, culture and vision – for which we need a physical, bricks and mortar platform. For me the question is, will we see a new evolution or a new mantra of space in this digital world to support this kind of requirement and shared values?” enquires Klaus Sandbiller, Ph.D., head of Group Real Estate, Transactions & Projects, UniCredit.
Workplace design is also still seen as crucial to staff retention. “It’s important to companies to have impressive premises. Both to the outside world and internally, because it helps attract good staff,” emphasises Sarah Claes, project leader, Zenon Concept GmbH. “Employee wellbeing comes to the fore. We need to focus on creating spaces that are good both for contact and for health. Communication rooms, relaxing retreats, and areas for sport or reading. Ideally, there should also be an outdoor area. Not just in the hope of boosting efficiency, but also because companies are competing. The globalisation of the working world means employees have more chances to choose, which they do based not only on potential earnings, but also on quality of life,” adds Wilhelm Schünemann, project manager, Zenon Concept GmbH.
The logical next step; workspaces that promote individuality, flexibility and organisation. Together with renowned product designer Thomas Feichtner, Bene developed STUDIO – the modular workplace system, which adapts to personal lifestyles and workstyles.