Personalization of the workplace

October 9, 2018 / By  

JLL recently ran a survey of nearly 600 corporate real estate leaders worldwide.  Among many other topics, we asked their views about innovations that would have the biggest impact on them in the next couple of years.  A couple of the responses stood out clearly to me:

Personalization of the workplace”

“Flexible workspaces which allow personalization of workspaces even when used by multiple employees“

This echoes what I have heard from some clients directly – the idea that we have come full circle – from an emphasis on private offices, through activity based working and hot-desking, and back to personalized spaces (if not private offices). Some of the approaches that are common in today’s workplace, such as agile, facilitate personalization of the space as teams work closely and intensely together on projects.

The interest in personalization reflects the intersection of two major trends. On one hand, there is the need and desire for a more human and authentic experience in the office as our work and personal lives become digital. At the same time, real estate is becoming less fixed and more flexible, in terms of how we design, build, and lease it. How do we reconcile the two?

Personalization could play out in a few different ways – although by its nature, we cannot be too prescriptive. The first way is through gathering employee input on the design and fit out of any new workplace. This will allow for the expression of the unique workplace culture of the organization, and foster individual ownership and connection to the space.

The second way is  through the types of spaces provided. Personalization could mean spaces that allow users to facilitate conversations and interactions, to spaces that host social activities or activities that facilitate personal growth, learning and wellness.  After all, JLL’s Human Experience research found that 58% of employees worldwide were more engaged and productive if they had access to community space.  Modular and flexible furniture and fit-outs will also help to tailor the experience.

There’s also a role for skills. ‘Work’ is not defined by the physical space anymore, and those that design and operate workspaces need to possess the soft skills that will support a more authentic and human experience at work for employees.  Events planning, concierge roles and even wellness coaches will become more in demand.

Finally – technology has a big role to play. JLL’s perspective on the Future of Work notes that ‘hyper personalization’ is part of driving the optimal workplace experience, and much of this could be driven by tech solutions. Our global Future of Work survey (forthcoming) has found that the top priority for tech investment are experience apps. Smart buildings could automatically tailor the ambient environment at each employee’s workstation to their preferences. Interactive walls or screens around workstations with art and images that make them feel at home.  With advancements in technology comes even more potential for personalization, even within a more flexible working environment.

But it’s clear that how we drive personalization will be as much about the space as the experiences we create within them, and as unique as the people who inhabit them.

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