About GenslerOnWork

GenslerOnWork examines the modern workplace and how design can help us become more engaged and productive as we earn our livings.

Search GenslerOn
Work Topics
Connect with Us
« NVIDIA's New Headquarters: Stairscapes and Other Delightful Ways To Maximize Connectivity | Main | Bringing The Worker Back Home: Nokia's New London Headquarters »

Inspiring Connection to People, Community and Culture

Photo courtesy of Grind and Jaeger/Sloane Inc

Every time I hear someone question the growing power of social media, I’m tempted to jump in the conversation with a few salient points:

  • 96 percent of all people under 30 are active on social network, and over 50 percent of the world’s population is under 30
  • One out of every six couples married in the United States last year met via social media
  • 25 percent of search results for the world’s top 20 brands lead to user generated content, and much of that content lives on social networks.

We are clearly in the midst of a cultural moment in which people are choosing social media as the preferred mode for growing friendships, expressing themselves, and learning about the world at large. This represents profound change.

The growing impact of social media is not limited to lifestyle. This technology is changing not just the ways we work but the very definition of what a formal workplace is and why it’s still necessary.

Consider this: 69 percent of young employees don’t believe it’s necessary to be in the office on a regular basis. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is a generation that’s accustomed to listening to lectures online while bantering with friends via Gchat. The idea of being tethered to a single location is just as foreign to Gen Y workers, as spending the majority of the workday looking at a computer screen was once considered unorthodox by the Baby Boomer generation. And when a large component of the workforce prefers the flexibility of mobile work to the routine of sitting at the same desk every day, it becomes necessary to rethink how workplace strategy incorporates these growing and powerful online technologies.

I don’t have all the answers, but at this juncture several trends have caught my eye. Developers are creating Apps for their buildings that connect employees to services. Soon it will be common for employees to ‘check-in’ on an application such as Foursquare and Yammer to capture real-time feedback about their workplace. Such applications mean less of the work day has to be dedicated to face-to-face meetings, where workers traditionally received such feedback in “real-time.”

Young workers are also craving variety. With all of the wireless technology options out there employees have more choices on where they choose to work. Companies like Liquidspace and 42 Floors provide entrepreneurs, employees, small companies and even larger organizations to look for office space on demand. These workers aren’t looking to come to the same workspace every day; sometimes they just want a place they can pop into to get some work done. The consulting firm Accenture now has an arrangement with Liquidspace and is encouraging their employees to use the application find workspaces where and when they need them. Ultimately this benefits the employee and the company because the end result is a reduction in real estate costs as well as flexibility for the employee on when and where they do their work.

The complicating factor in all of this is that a vast majority of executives and partners at top companies still believe that having a central workplace that communicates company culture to their employees and clients is essential. A place where their employees can gather to interact and learn from each other is critical to their businesses. So this begs the question: In an era where young employees want mobile work to be the norm, how do you create a central workplace that makes every single worker want to come to it every day?

This is about more than just creating a nice space with pleasing aesthetics and easy access to amenities like free food and comfortable, quiet workspaces. If we want to design workplaces that entice the social media generation to frequent them, we need to rethink how workspaces truly support all the ways in which workflow now takes place. We have to respect the influence of social media and online technology and integrate these tools into new offices. Putting a monitor on a desk no longer cuts it. We need to go deeper.

If you’d like to hear more about this topic, please join me at Social Media Week NY for a panel discussion on “The Future of How We Work”-this Thursday February 21st beginning at 8am at Grind. This conversation is just starting, but it won’t conclude for quite some time.

Sonya Dufner
Sonya's background in interior design combined with her planning experience leads to an approach that synthesizes strategy and design. She works with national and global clients to rethink their use of technology, processes and standards through research to support culture, promote innovation and attract the best talent. Over the past few years Sonya has explored what is happening as more and more individuals choose to work in ‘third places.’ Corporate clients have been fascinated with the creative culture of coworking communities which have allowed entrepreneurs to explore innovative ideas and develop what they are passionate about. Sonya is the Director of Workplace Strategy in the New York office of Gensler. Contact her at sonya_dufner@gensler.com or follow her on Twitter @sonyadufner.

Reader Comments (1)

Interesting article about the future of the workplace!
02.20.2013 | Unregistered Commenter$authorHost

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.