REIMAGINING FUTURE WORKSPACES
As the modern economy becomes more technologically interconnected, a new phenomenon has emerged: the growing number of people who feel isolated and disconnected. Workplaces, and future workspaces, present an opportunity to reverse the divergence between connectivity and connectedness.
Human beings are social by nature. In our history, and our evolutionary biology, we have always had an innate need to connect, create social rapport, and cooperate with others to thrive. And this is supported by medical science: human connection and empathy is critical for our health, wellbeing and longevity.
Through modern technology and digital ways of working we are now more connected than ever before, yet there is a growing awareness that the quality of human connection in society and in the workplace is declining, and loneliness and isolation are on the rise. In its Global Risks Report 2019, the World Economic Forum cited technology as a major cause of loneliness, social isolation and diminishing empathy with wide ranging implications for society.
In the context of work: business needs are changing, demanding greater agility and flexible ways of working. Diverse teams need to form rapidly, perform effectively, and dissolve periodically. Physical and virtual working need to combine seamlessly. E-mail, instant messaging and global video connectivity have enhanced productivity, but they have also created an ‘always-on’ culture and diminished in-person interaction.
Meanwhile, the way that businesses use physical space is changing. The rise of e-commerce, social media, online working and automation have created economic opportunity, but also diminished the opportunities for physical commerce and social interaction upon which our communities are built.
Recognising this divergence between connectivity and connectedness, there is potential to change this dynamic by developing inclusive, human-shaped workspaces and experiences that re-connect people. Holistic thinking about activating community spaces, new models of ownership and use, applications of technology, and unified by a greater common purpose could yield new concepts of the future workspace.
The challenge: How might we imagine new workspaces that connect people, engage diverse teams, motivate collaboration and activate communities?