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The Trend Toward Flexible Workplaces - How Will it Affect Your Office Space?

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Trends toward flexible workplaces has replaced the “doing business as usual”. In fact, the term “doing business as usual” has almost no meaning today if we want to complete in today’s economy and the changing marketplace. We have three, and in some cases, even four generations colliding in the workforce today and each has its own values, life styles and work styles. These all have to be accommodated in order to turn a profit.

The flexible workplace trend -- that of providing each generation of worker the environment in which they can be most productive -- has been driven by pure dollars and cents (read “sense” here). Even within each generation in the workplace, there are those employees that simply by their very natures work best and are more productive in differing environments.

A truly flexible workplace provides an office space where some workers, especially the most traditional employees such as the veteran and baby boomer generations, report to a desk and perform their tasks from there daily. This category of employee needs the direction of a schedule of 9-5 or similar, reporting five days per week on a more or less fixed schedule. These can be key players in the business and shouldn’t be shunned just because of their old fashioned work style. They need the networking, idea generating, and stability of getting away from home to work. They may have small children that make working from home less than productive, or they have the need for IT support for computer issues. Don’t discount this talent in any way. Their ideas will make money, just as in past decades, but if you only have this type of employee, you will miss out on a world of talent. We all know: talent is everything in staying on the edge of the market today. In order to keep good talent, provide for their needs.

Another wealth of talent is available through the virtual world. From simple, mundane tasks such as data base input to highly creative tasks such as design and graphic arts, people often work best from home. Moms that might not be on the job market due to child care issues can be highly productive while the children are in school and after the kid’s bedtime. People who have the talent but don’t live in your city are also key players in this group of the flexible workplace. There is no good reason why some tasks must be performed between 9 and 5, five days per week. As long as the job is done within budget and schedule, the hours in which it is performed should not be an issue with the virtual employee, rather productivity should be the primary measure. This is one form of outsource, but outsourcing to the highly skilled talent that prefer to skip the commute and use that time to log in, do the job, and log out. It’s a huge trend today with more and more work being doing from home and the employee only appearing for face-to-face meetings or networking when necessary – or never. The employee may be across the country or even across the world from the home office and still produce valuable input. With online meeting tools, you may choose to hold meetings including this type of employee or simply work through assignment, price quote, product delivery, payment. It’s working well today for many businesses.

Depending on your market and what you market, you may need employees that visit clients and customers frequently. This portion of the flexible workplace will provide computer time in the office as needed but  some, or even most, of the job may be performed “on the run”, using personal data devices such as iPhones and laptops and third spaces to get the job done in between client visits. Why have someone drive across town to use a computer with secure networking from just about anywhere. A Starbucks or other Coworking space may be the best workspace to update contacts, send email, update the boss, get the latest info from the office, and pick up the office news via email. This type of employee wants the flexible workspace of choosing a parked auto, a café, their home, or the office to get their jobs done.

If you want to keep happy talent and cut costs, encourage flexible workspaces to stay on the leading  edge and attract the most talented employees. With technology moving forward, and the more traditional type of employee retiring or becoming much scarcer, you may find yourself working from home to operate the entire business in years to come. 

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