The history of the modern workplace is iteratively tied to the Industrial Revolution, which began in the early 18th century. The revolution saw the emergence of machines that could do the work of humans, producing goods faster and more efficiently. The rise of automation led to the creation of factories and mill towns, where people worked in shifts, working long hours in gruelling conditions. Today, the workplace has evolved significantly from the industrial age, and from traditional office setups with cubicles and standard work schedules, to more modern open-concept office spaces and flexible work arrangements. And now, with the rise of technology and the current global crisis, remote work has become a compelling option for many companies, leading to the emergence of the remote-first approach. In this blog, we will take a look at how the workplace has evolved to its current state and what the future of work might look like.
The traditional workplace was largely based on the 9-to-5 workday, where employees would come into the office, work at their desks or cubicles, and leave at the end of the day. Communication was primarily face-to-face or over the phone, and collaboration was limited to those in the same physical space. It was seen as a norm that people would go to work, stay there for the majority of the day, and then come back home in the evening. Additionally, it was a standard that any work-related activities, whether meetings or brainstorming sessions, would take place in the workplace itself.
However, the traditional workplace has always been criticized for being too rigid and constricting. The traditional setup created a hectic routine that revolted against employees’ work-life balance by not allowing them to achieve optimal productivity. The traditional workplace structure failed to become an employer of choice for top talents that in comparison, sought creative and enabling work environments.
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that open-concept workspaces began to gain popularity. The idea behind this design was to break down walls, both literally and figuratively, between employees to encourage collaboration and increase communication. Open offices signify minimal barriers between employees that enhance communication, management, and easy transfer of ideas.
Open-concept office spaces have been described as dynamic and democratic, giving junior-level employees and senior management a chance to work together, which creates a culture of unity within the workplace. The open concept also provides ample space for visual barriers, which can provide employees with personal offices with stable front-facing walls that are suitable for privacy and phone conversations. Such features have increased open offices’ popularity, as businesses try to incorporate all employees’ needs.
Moreover, open-office spaces were popular, and companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple used this design philosophy to promote collaboration, creativity, and innovation. One such example is the Google office in London, which combines a mix of traditional and open spaces designed to cater to different working styles. The idea is to create an environment where employees can choose how and where they work, giving them the freedom to be productive and creative.
Despite its success, the open office concept is not without criticism, with some claiming that it leads to increased noise levels and a lack of privacy. Also, open-concepts have failed to demarcate distinct office spaces, leading to confusion amongst coworkers. Some staff may assume they are free to roam around the larger work area, while in actual sense, some areas may require for those privacy spaces to be unoccupied.
Another trend that has emerged in modern workspaces is the rise of flexible work arrangements. The rise of technology and the internet has made it easier for people to work remotely, and in recent years, flexible work has become increasingly popular. Employees are given the freedom to choose when and where they work, whether it’s in the office or at home. Flexible work arrangements include part-time work, job sharing, flexible hours, and working from home.
Flexible work arrangements are particularly attractive to parents with young children, those who live far from the office, people with disabilities, or those with other personal or family commitments. Also, employees that prefer customized work hours that provide room for running other personal errands, boosting their job satisfaction rate. Companies with flexible work policies have reported a low turnover rate due to employees enjoying the flexibility and the long term retention of the talents.
Many companies have recognized the benefits of flexible work arrangements and have adopted them to attract and retain employees. Technology has also made remote work possible, whereby employees can work from any location in the world, provided they have a reliable internet connection.
Remote work has exploded in popularity over the last few months due to the global pandemic. As events have unfolded, businesses have been forced to adopt remote work arrangements to protect their employees and continue operations. Remote work was once seen as an option only for a select few jobs, but now it has become a necessity for many businesses. Its sudden emergence is evidence of how the pandemic was a wake-up call, highlighting the need to incorporate technology and sophistication in the workplace.
Benefits of Remote-Work
Improved Work-Life Balance
Remote work allows employees to improve their work-life balance by cutting down travel time and promoting easier transitions between work and personal life. With remote work, work hours can be customized to match personal preferences, leading to an easier adaptation to managing personal tasks and work tasks.
Boost in productivity
Remote work improves productivity by reducing distractions from gossip, and time spent socializing is bound to create an avenue for higher productivity. Remote work enables employees to work without distractions and interruptions, leading to increased productivity, and the ability to focus on tasks at hand.
Increased job satisfaction
Remote work allows for employees to work in environments that are personalized and customized, leading to an enriched work experience. Remote employees enjoy a high degree of freedom and independence on a project, enabling them to tailor the work environment to their individual specification, promoting job satisfaction.
As a result, companies have started adopting remote-first practices, where they entirely rely on a remote workforce, and all their resources are committed to this approach. Remote-first organizations deliver what they promise as they completely customize their work approaches towards the employees’ specific job satisfaction ratings of each employee. Being a remote-first company requires the re-evaluation of all practices inside the organization, the adoption of a comprehensive IT infrastructure and newer managerial methodologies, all of which aim at setting up an effective and efficient remote work environment.
Challenges of Remote-Work
However, remote work is not without its challenges as it requires specialized knowledge and resources that most companies do not possess, including a well-developed IT infrastructure designed to accommodate remote work. Remote work has been criticized for being commonly unproductive, lacking emphasis on organizational values and culture. It can create feelings of isolation, and employees may miss out on the social interaction and networking opportunities that occur in a traditional office environment. Additionally, it can lead to burnout due to the inability to separate work and personal life leading to a decline in productivity.
FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS
While remote work has gained popularity, flexible work arrangements are still a viable option. Scheduling part-time work or job sharing continues to gain popularity because of the benefits that employees obtain: work schedule flexibility to fulfill personal obligations and improved work-life balance is one of them. Job sharing allows employees two people to share the same workload; taking turns between workdays and hours of input leading to productive work environments, employee engagement, and cost reduction for the organizations. Health signals have shown that people need more leisure time to encompass personal commitments and rest, resulting in more motivation and productivity when they return to work.
Technology is significant to the workplace – it has changed the way we work, where we work and when we work. With the rise of the internet and the adoption of digital technologies such as SaaS and cloud computing, employees can work remotely from anywhere in the world, increasing flexibility and job satisfaction. Moreover, modern workplaces have adopted IT infrastructure that embeds the use of emails, video conferencing, cloud-based data storage, customer relationship management software (CRMs) leading to more centralization of data sets and ease of access leading to efficient and accurate data analysis for organizations that boast increased market share and growth.
The next developments in technologies that we foresee will revolve around Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Many employees across various industries, including finance and healthcare, are already using RPA technology, which decreases operational errors and employee workload. In the next decade, technology will be advancing at an astronomical pace, presenting itself as the best enabler of workplace efficiency and competitiveness.
Renovating Physical Workplaces
Despite the ever-growing culture of remote work, physical workspaces will always be relevant. Every day, employees enter workplace environments with the hopes of fulfilling certain expectations, whether it’s meeting clients, brainstorming in team huddles or taking important calls. Workspaces must meet those expectations; creating innovative and encouraging atmospheres for staff as well as customers visiting the premises.
Employees working in physical locations often look around, judging their work environment and the impact it has on their approach to work. Furthermore, such environments instill a sense of commitment and responsibility to organizational values while evoking pride and higher productivity rates. This need for space and functions in the workplace is connected to the company culture that embodies the brand’s value proposition, leading to a more engaged workforce, performance, and growth.
Workplace psychology involves examining how the workplace environment influences employees’ well-being and productivity. Organizational psychologists have been studying the relationship between workspaces and employee satisfaction, motivation, and productivity.
Research conducted in the field suggests that several factors contribute to workplace productivity and job satisfaction. These factors include access to natural light, plants and greenery, comfortable furniture and office equipment, and an awe-inspiring office design.
Organizational psychology has transformed the way organizations approach hiring, employee development, productivity, efficiency, and how they approach the working environment as a whole. Focusing on positivity, satisfied employees, and employee well-being will lead to a comprehensive approach to job satisfaction, leading to decreased burnout, stress. And ultimately, higher job performance.
The Future of Work
It’s clear that the workplace is continuing to evolve, and it’s difficult to predict where it will go from here. With advances in technology, we can expect that the workplace will become even more flexible, with remote work becoming the norm rather than the exception. With the pandemic, remote work has been seen as an effective remedy to unexpected crisis, and work environments will need to be aligned with this trend.
A greater emphasis will be placed on work-life balance, with employees flexing their work options to incorporate other areas like familial, personal, and lifelong learning. We could see some companies adopting self-scheduling for employees, allowing them to choose when and where they work based on individual preferences and productivity levels. This includes the concept of the four-day workweek, where employees work longer hours but enjoy an extra day off.
Additionally, employee well-being and mental health will become a top priority for companies, with organizations focusing on building a positive work culture that promotes mental health and fosters employee engagement.
As technology continues to advance, we could also see the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, taking over tasks previously handled by humans. This could lead to a shift in job roles and requirements, with individuals needing to reskill and upskill to remain relevant in the job market.
The workplace has evolved significantly over time, from the traditional 9-to-5 office setup to the open-concept office space and flexible work arrangements. The rise of technology and the current global crisis has led to a sudden emergence of remote work, with some companies adopting remote-first approaches. The future of work is likely to see an even greater emphasis on flexibility, work-life balance, employee well-being, and mental health. Technology will continue to play a significant role in shaping the workplace, with a focus on automation and artificial intelligence. Overall, the evolution of the workplace is a continuous process, shaped by societal, economic and technological changes, and it will be interesting to see how it continues to unfold in the years to come.