The Modern Workplace – Fad or Future?

Adventure playgrounds, mini-golf and sleep zones. The likes of Google and YouTube are pioneers here but do quirky office designs actually benefit the workforce or is it merely a thinly-veiled attempt to show the world how ‘cool’ they are?

“A poor aesthetic working environment can have a negative effect on employees psychologically, because it conveys to the individual that the organisation doesn’t care about them. It says that they are just ‘worker bees’ or disposable assets,” Sir Cary Cooper, Professor at Alliance Manchester Business School, says. It is no wonder, therefore, that more and more businesses are looking at investing in their office spaces to improve the wellbeing of their staff.

Whilst sleep pods may not be appropriate for a County Council office, Google’s new ‘groundscraper’ project near King’s Cross Station will have them and many other innovative wellness features such as green spaces, swimming pools and gyms. More creative-based companies have been mirroring the approach of Silicon Valley’s biggest and best creating collaborative workspaces blurring the line between personal and work life. Their workers need somewhere they can be productive, take a break and be online 24/7. A traditional office design does not offer that.

So, why are these companies behaving in this way? The majority of their employees are millennials. According to the Building, Design and Construction Network, as millennials replace their baby boomer colleagues, we are seeing a shift towards a more ‘business casual’ culture reflective of this change in design. Millennials, less concerned with privacy, hierarchy and formality are generally keener on technology, collaboration and creativity – and want workspaces that reflect that mindset.

With research showing that employees will spend around 80,000 hours seated in their lifetime, providing work environments, that inspire movement will only cause those employees to be more active and energised in the workplace. This blog has already covered the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle caused by a lack of movement at work, a very real risk to everyone in the workplace as highlighted in a recent US study with many labelling sitting as the new smoking.

Innovative design, therefore, is not only the future of the workspace as millennials replace their older colleagues, but a necessity to ensure that we remain active in the workplace.


Chris Sanders is a Data and Management Analyst based in the South East of England. He has previously worked in the telecoms industry, big pharma and currently analyses data for a leading UK University. He blogs about data analysis, management practices, and the modern workplace.

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