WORKTECH 11 – The Future of the Workplace

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What exactly do we know about the future of the workplace? We sit in lectures and presentations, paying close attention to what the speaker is saying, but really, we are only getting one person’s perspective.

Sabret Flocos and Bob Fox, principles at FOX Architects, recently attended Worktech 11 in New York City. There — alongside more than 200 professionals from real estate, facilities, technology, architecture, design, and management — they joined in a forum to discuss the future of work, the workplace, technology, and innovation.

And here’s what they learned.

The Millennial Influence

Steve Dahlberg, VP of Marketing at Future Workplace, spoke about the younger generational influence within the workplace.

“Typical organizational methods have taught us to place younger generations near older generation so they can benefit from the legacy of more senior-level employees,” he said.

But in today’s workplace, the older generations are now learning from the younger ones. Studying the millennials and how they are using their environment is driving much about our evolution of the workplace. Much of the millennial generation is disregarding the standard issue corporate technology and using its own to get the job done better.

Millenials today are teaching companies how to connect with their customers and employees through tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Flickr, and YouTube.

“Social media is here to stay and should be integrated into business practice,” Bob said.

Nicole Antil, a colleague at FOX Architects who joined in the WorkTech 11 discussion, added, “It is another way life and work combine.”

Designing for Any Future

Daniel Rasmus, an author and strategist, spoke about his book Management by Design and his theory about designing the experience. He said that a leader should always be thoughtful about what is being done and conscious as to why a meeting is taking place.

“Ask yourself, why am I having this meeting? What tools do I need to make this meeting and the environment successful?”

Sabret and Bob were particularly interested in his emphasis on the future work experience, and how we should “design for any future, not a future.”

Daniel went on to explain that the future is an unknown factor, and we should always be thinking about methodology, variety, emphasis, rhythm, movement, and policies. He said an environment should be viewed with flexibility, simplicity, equitability, and forgiveness, focusing on what will make that experience successful.

“Do not focus on what happened in the past and what you can not change,” he said.

Capitalizing on Social Knowledge

Laurence Prusak, a researcher and consultant, gave great insight on space and knowledge, emphasizing, “Space is knowledge and knowledge is space.” Both factors influence and impact each other.

A great number of people feel like they have to be physically present in a meeting (in that space) to successfully obtain the knowledge being transferred, but why? Laurence says that people remember feelings and emotions. The way you understand is socially derived. It matters where you are and what you know is where you sit. If you want to know something, go there.

He further explained by using travel to an unknown city as an example. To gain knowledge of that place, would you rather read five different guide books or talk to someone who has been there? People bring the knowledge and the stories.

“If you want to know something, go to where the knowledge is. Interaction means knowledge. Knowledge is not the attribute of an individual, it’s a social thing. Memory is the attribute of the individual.”

Embracing Coworking

Having a permanent place in an office has its benefits. But Jennifer Magnolfi, consultant for Herman Miller, talked about a different style of working called coworking.

We all have heard about this alternative way of being productive, but what does it really mean? Coworking involves a shared environment, with a similar feel to working in a cafà ©, where people from different organizations are working on independent tasks.

Jennifer stated that the office is a state of mind, and two-thirds of all knowledge work is done outside of the office. In order to more fully understand why coworking has become popular among professionals, Jennifer laid out what she said are the Five Pillars of coworking:

  1. Collaboration – Like minds talking about ideas
  2. Openness – The ability to feel comfortable and share ideas
  3. Community – Being around people helps you grow
  4. Accessibility – Being able to have a choice in how you work
  5. Sustainability – Taking advantage of existing infrastructures


It sounds to me like Worktech 11 was an extremely knowledge filled forum giving us a great glimpse into the future of the working environment. I can’t wait to hear about Worktech 12!

“Worktech 11 significantly highlighted the shift in how people view the work environment and the technology which supports it. Businesses are starting to put more thought into what the built work environment can be and how it allows people to interact and learn” – Sabret

“Worktech 11 was all about creating a great place to work. I thought the discussions were well balanced between people, issues, and good design!”- Bob

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