Why are employers doubling down on the workplace?

Companies of all sizes and types are rethinking not only how their employees work, but also where that work happens

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Tech companies such as Google and Facebook are known for their informal, non-traditional work environments. But these days, even older, more staid firms are creating headlines in this space, rethinking not only how their employees work, but also where that work happens.

Over the past few years, while I’ve been traveling to meet with business executives, I’ve seen office buildings that feature everything from standing desks and roof-top gardens to upholstered co-working rooms complete with craft beer on tap.

What’s behind this evolution? At a time when workers are clamoring for more mobility, why are employers investing so much in the workplace?

  • Office space is at a premium. In many cities, real estate costs (whether you’re buying or renting) have been surging. Case in point: In 2016, the average rent in New York City was $65.44 per square foot, up $5.86 from 2015. It’s no wonder employers want to maximize the space they have.
  • Corporate culture is more relevant than ever. As I discussed in my last post, the way people work is changing, driven mostly by advances in technology, combined with the needs for flexibility and mobility. On top of that, the way companies present themselves is changing. Today’s companies are “brands” that continually jockey for relevance, market share and distinction. As a result, office buildings are being used to make statements, and what was once ordinary office space is being transformed into inspiring work “environments” meant to attract not only employees, but also clients—and buzz!
  • New office tech enhances collaboration and improves performance and productivity. Today’s companies have no choice but to embrace digital transformation and enterprise agility. Why? Because efficient collaboration is now mission critical for enterprise teams, and for them to be successful, they need the right tools at their fingertips.

As Gartner recently pointed out in its report "Predictions 2017: Boosting Business Results Through Personal Choice in the Digital Workplace," this kind of transformation of the workplace will require contributions across many different levels. It wrote in the report:

“Digital workplace leaders have to go further—and not just in terms of adding apps, wearables, things and the physical office space to the equation. Digital workplace leaders have to institute policies, develop skills and disciplines, and establish technical architecture—not just to offer employees options, but to delight employees the way consumer products organizations seek to delight consumers. They'll have to develop the organizational skills and technologies to learn and continually respond to the demands of the workforce.”

And the stakes are high. Gartner also warned that “organizations that fail to accommodate a great variety of workstyles will suffer from employee churn and an inability to attract high-impact talent.”

So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking office space is becoming obsolete. Collaborative work environments are more important than ever—provided they have the digital capabilities for workers to effectively communicate with their colleagues, whether those colleagues are in the next room or across the world.

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