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Third spaces and distributed work define the office of the future (and present)

Posted on July 4, 2016 by Fresh Workspace

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IMG_4471We’ve long argued not only that the office of the future will be defined by the use of third spaces such as cafes, breakout spaces, quiet rooms and shared workstations, but the idea is already widespread in the office of the present. That idea is confirmed by a new report from  the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) called Distributed Work Revisited: Research Report #37, which is a follow-up to its 2009 Distributed Work report. Architects HOK helped IFMA develop and analyse the survey, collect the case studies and compile the report which is based on IFMA members from 538 different organisations worldwide. The firms who responded completed an online questionnaire about their on- and off-site workplace accommodations, operational needs, technologies, specific facilities, change management processes and measurements for success. The area occupied by participating organisations ranges from 50,000 to more than 1 million square feet. Distributed Work Revisited summarises the complete survey results and provides a detailed analysis of the findings.

The report features detailed case studies describing innovative distributed work programs across different stages of maturity in eight organisations: Microsoft, GSK, eBay, Credit Suisse, the US General Services Administration and Accenture. Results of the study reveal some interesting details about today’s workplace. Highlights include:

  • Distributed work is still a relatively new concept. Sixty-one percent of facility professionals responding to this survey reported using unassigned workspaces in their facilities. Only 18 percent of survey participants have had a distributed work program in place for more than 10 years and 37 percent for more than five years.
  • One hundred percent of survey respondents who reported implementing unassigned on-site distributed work options cited work-life balance as being a “very important” reason for doing so. Other factors listed as “very important” were to accommodate changes in the organisation’s size (64 percent), leverage new technology (62 percent), increased productivity (60 percent), align with organisational goals (59 percent), cost savings (57 percent), improved flexibility (56 percent) and benefits for employees (55 percent). While important, cost reductions are not the primary driver of distributed work.
  • Employee benefits are the major drivers for off-premise solutions, enabling organisations to improve flexibility and support work-life balance. Of the organisations surveyed, however, less than two percent of the total number of employees sit off site.
  • Respondents reported that distributed work strategies appeal most to Generation X (aged 35-48) employees, possibly because they work more independently than other groups and are more likely to have family commitments that require flexibility in how and where they work.
  • The most popular on-site distributed work settings among respondents are spaces that promote collaboration and innovation, including war/project rooms (72 percent), huddle rooms (70 percent) and open lounge/soft seating areas (67 percent).
  • More organisations are providing incentives to employees adopting distributed work. Thirty-three percent of respondents reported that when they adopted a distributed work policy, they provided an incentive—typically technology such as a laptop or mobile device—to employees. This is up from 18 percent in 2009.
  • More organisations are measuring the results of their distributed work programs. Almost one-third of the organisations engage their workforces in testing and carrying out distributed work settings. This is up from 19 percent in 2009.
  • Despite the expressed importance of employee engagement and satisfaction in achieving successful distributed work programs stated in the interviews, only 45 percent of the respondents mentioned use of change management processes.

The complete version of Distributed Work Revisited: Research Report #37 is available for sale on IFMA’s website. An executive summary of the report is available on the website at no cost.