Creating an interconnected workplace for an interconnected world

by FM Media
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JASON HEREDIA, vice president of marketing for Steelcase Asia Pacific, encourages the implementation of interconnected workplaces.

With the advances in technology and emergence of developing economies, organisations and people are increasingly interconnected and interdependent in every aspect of life – social, economic and political. Looking beyond activity-based planning to the workplace of the future, we see the growth of globally integrated enterprises (GIEs). This concept involves nodes, which could be in the same city, country or anywhere around the world, that work together in a giant virtual network. With GIEs huge networks form a global communications and information grid that enables large-scale interactions in an instant.
We believe the next evolution of community-based planning will focus on how to get the nodes to work together, whether virtual or physical. As teams are increasingly distributed around the globe, and new technology un-tethers employees from the physical work environment, the workplace needs to evolve to support people and the flow of information, and to help businesses solve tough problems, build market share and stay competitive. In other words, businesses need an interconnected workplace for an interconnected world that will work harder and smarter than ever before.

The demands on interconnected workplaces in this increasingly mobile world of workers is focused on providing three core needs that working at home, in a hotel or in the park do not provide:

  • collaboration
  • social and cultural connection, and
  • resources.

Looking at each of these, our research reveals there are three distinct types of collaboration:

  • informative: working with other people to share information
  • evaluative: reviewing information and making decisions, and
  • generative: co-creating new ideas and solutions.

Social and cultural connection comes from the human desire to be part of something bigger than just ourselves, while resources refers to access to new technologies that individuals can’t afford on their own. Today, it is the giant tele-presence unit. Tomorrow, it will be another new technology.
To enhance collaboration, there are three key considerations that need to come together:

  • people: designing space to promote eye-to-eye contact
  • place: creating enough room so people feel comfortable to get up, move and participate, and
  • information: providing everyone with equal access to information, so participants can contribute digital or analogue content.

Creating spaces to support collaboration focuses on allowing the easy sharing of information and the ability for a few or many to quickly and easily join in the conversation, whether they are in the same workplace, different cities or even different countries.
Workplaces designed for an interconnected world offer the right blend of spaces and solutions to support the ways in which people work. They have to include the right amount of space for individual ‘I’ work, as well as group ‘we’ work. And there needs to be a combination of spaces that are shared or owned. The interconnected workplace offers flexibility and can accommodate change; however, there is no ‘cookie cutter’ solution – each organisation is different and each one needs a different blend of spaces.
The interconnected workplace supports the agility and collaboration required by today’s highly connected, mobile knowledge workers, who are doing business in a global and mobile business environment. It provides:

  • a palette of place – a diverse range of settings organised into interrelated zones
  • a palette of posture – a variety of options for people to sit, stand or move throughout their day, and
  • choice and control over how and where to work.

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