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A changing workplace

The new age workplace is evolving towards being borderless, multicultural and adaptive, even as it remains demanding, writes Amit Bapna.
Hindustan Times | By Amit Bapna
UPDATED ON APR 02, 2008 10:23 PM IST

In an annual Best Workplaces award by The Financial Times, organised with the Great Place to Work Institute, Happy (domain: IT training), was rated as the second best place to work in the entire UK economy. Financial Times noted Happy is “passionate belief in giving staff responsibility, giving them freedom to adapt their own way of working to suit their lives and letting them participate in business and financial decisions,” which won them this position. This was the third time the company was acknowledged among the top 100 workplaces in Europe.

The above example, in a way, brings to the fore an interesting paradigm shift that is happening all across, in the global workplace. This evolutionary phenomenon of the workplace is not just restricted to its physical attributes or the look and feel; it’s also about the soul of the workplace, which is undergoing a vast shift. The new-age workplace is becoming younger, it is becoming smarter, it is getting flexible, and it is becoming demanding.

Not all of this change may be good, but change it is for sure and organisations have to learn fast to recognise and cope with it. Sandeep Deshpande, GM, Johnson Controls Global Workplace Solutions, India, says: “For the first time ever, four generations are working side by side. As the baby boomers of the 1950’s start to retire, global businesses are facing a fundamental shortfall in talent. Providing a stimulating working environment is going to be a key factor in the war for future talent.”

According to R Venkattesh, head, human capital, Development Credit Bank Limited: “In appearance, the workplace will have fewer walls, less closed cubicles and more open spaces, more movement and more ease. Technology will pave the way for paperless offices, and employees will quickly take on the added role of brand custodians. The virtual office will become a reality, employees will have the flexibility to work from home, and actual hours spent in office will reduce considerably. This will ensure a better work-life balance, and a system that puts employee interests first.” Today’s workplaces are clearly futuristic and focused on creating work environments that are conducive to having fun. According to Sridhar KR, director, human resources, Grand Hyatt Mumbai: “Technology has started and is playing a vital role in this paradigm shift. New age innovations in communication—‘pod’casting delivers greater opportunities to learn as well as create maximum impact.”

This could be just one of the many enablers that technology would help perform. Employers need to remember that there are several instances where people spend more time at work than at home, so work and workplaces can also be about having a life and fun. Also, with an ever-increasing emphasis on performance and delivery of results, “the employee of the future is likely to be under tremendous stress,” points out Sridhar, and “stress-relieving mechanisms would therefore be critical.”

Modern workplaces are thus known to introduce cross-functional and creative interest work groups within an organisation, as one example. Stronger bonds within the workplace would be direct offshoots of this. It has even led younger people to start and create workplaces of their own, with their definitions of what is cool and right. This could also spawn an era of entrepreneurship, often borne out of a need to have a workplace that understands and respects individual creativity and freedom. As Raj Kurup, chief creative officer, Creative Land Asia, shares: “I have worked for eight-odd companies; I never felt I belonged to any of them. So, with this company, I wanted to start a country, and not a company. It is not a workplace but a land of creative people. It’s a land where people come to experience, nurture, build, invest, learn, play and work. While we have an address, the office is in our heart and mind.”

Such is the changing nature of the workplace that to understand it better, Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions has launched its research project called OXYGENZ, a global survey of 18-25 year-olds to understand their preferences for their future workplace, wherein globally, students would participate in the first ever online survey of its kind. This project, developed in partnership with Haworth, will essentially investigate how, where and when young people wish to work, which in turn would help businesses understand the workplace attributes essential in the recruitment and retention of young people. In the workplace of the future, innovation embraces what happens within the workplaces, where it can be made more open to change, more focused on customer needs and more knowledge intensive.

Agrees Puneet Johar, MD, Tangerine Digital Entertainment: “The new age workplace is an enabler of people’s aspirations. It’s a tough shift in mindset for all concerned as we have been used to a top-down management style. As with any other paradigm shift, the success of an enabling workplace is dependent on how well people adapt to this change.”

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