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Finally, a workplace that is all about you

A really smart office is all about putting your needs at the core of workplace design, environment and operations.

Healthier work places provide good air quality, natural light and abundant greenery. A study has found that work performance increased by 10 per cent when there were more plants in the office. Seen here is an office in the Changi Airport Group, which took its office redesign inspiration from the airport's passenger terminals.

WALK around many offices and workplaces, and you would have to assume such spaces were not designed for people to do serious work or business. Workplaces these days are typically crowded, resulting in employees' inability to fully concentrate, or frustration in finding space for collaborative work among colleagues. Being the boss may not even be enough to get you an office.

Meanwhile, smartphones and intuitive mobile apps are bringing the world to our fingertips with a click or a tap. So why can't our workplaces be as delightful and easy to use as our smartphones?

You could certainly wonder why many workplaces today lack relevant features that can aid in boosting work productivity, while also taking care of our mental health and overall wellbeing. After all, the workplace is where we spend the vast majority of our waking hours.

The good news is that evolution at the workplace is happening. Here are four areas in which the workplace is going to be all about us.

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More choice

Technology enables us to work from more than one place, freeing us from a rigid routine of desks and cubicles. As remote work gains wider acceptance in company culture, it opens up the possibility of looking beyond uninspired, one-size-fits-all offices.

The best workplaces today are tailored to employees' individual needs, offering a wide diversity of team, collaborative and quiet places to work. Whether you want to use a standing desk, work in a private room or choose with whom to sit - these options should be made easily available so you can maximise productivity.

In Singapore, high-performance workplaces that empower employees to choose how and where they work have been around for more than 10 years, and are well on their way to becoming the new "standard workplace". These workplaces are particularly prevalent in the technology, banking, fast-moving consumer goods and pharmaceutical sectors, but are increasingly on the radar of any company that is interested in helping their people perform better.

Healthier buildings

The link between employee wellness and productivity has never been clearer. In fact, it has been reported that companies in Singapore could suffer a loss in productivity worth S$3.3 billion a year by 2030 due to staff on sick leave.

Companies are now increasingly aware of the importance of a happy, healthy and productive workforce - and the International WELL Building Standard is the blueprint for a holistic approach to creating healthier places to work. WELL buildings are designed to optimise the health of their residents, by providing good air quality, natural light, and abundant greenery.

Wellness is also a key tenet of these buildings, the idea being that they should promote physical activity, healthy food and a sense of community and social belonging. Today's most forward-thinking workplaces help you look after yourself; enabling you to manage stress, sleep better and build healthy working relationships with colleagues.

The benefits of a healthy work environment cannot be understated. According to a CBRE study in conjunction with the University of Twente in the Netherlands, wellness strategies significantly increase productivity and focus. For instance, work performance reportedly improved by 45 per cent when employees were provided with healthy alternatives to sugar and caffeine, and by 10 per cent when there were more plants in the office.

Healthy buildings are high on the agenda for Singapore corporations as well as the government, and many WELL-certified buildings are on the drawing board. For instance, Paya Lebar Quarter, a new mixed-use development, is the first in Singapore to register for the International WELL Building Institute's (IWBI) WELL Core and Shell Certification.

Predictive technology

What if the workplace could read your work habits, anticipate individual needs and likes, and provide your preferred options, without you even having to ask? Workplace experience is all about putting your needs at the core of workplace design, built environment and operations.

Smart technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the Internet of Things are enabling buildings to learn users' habits and preferences so that they can respond in real time to support employee's needs. There are also mobile applications that put control of the workplace at your fingertips, even when you are on the go - from finding a meeting room and modifying indoor temperature, to having your morning coffee ready when you step into the office.

This shift towards anticipating and augmenting employees' workplace experiences will eventually result in a greater focus on personalisation, with experience apps tagging users according to their preferences and automatically suggesting preferred options.

In fact, workplace experience technologies are increasingly popular in Singapore with corporates and landlords, who are looking to leverage such tools to actively engage employees and tenants, while enhancing their experience and increasing productivity.

For instance, CBRE's employee workplace experience platform, Host, is AI-powered and applies predictive analytics and machine learning in interpreting past behaviours to envision an individual's future actions and habits. Such applications harmonise people, training and technology, bringing these three components in synergy to create an ultimate employee-centric workplace experience.

Curated experiences

Delivering delightful workplace experiences is about more than just technology. Experience is fundamentally about people; hence, the emergence of workplace curators - a person or group of people tasked with strategising on improving employees' overall workplace experience.

In addition to fine-tuning the tech platform and ensuring the building understands your needs, workplace curators create and deliver a broad spectrum of social, learning and fitness activities to make sure that each day at work is enjoyable. Indeed, curated workplace events such as fitness classes and networking sessions are already prevalent in Singapore's co-working sector, with major corporations also actively recruiting both workplace concierges and workplace experience curators to creating a holistic experience.

Delivering an optimal workplace experience is the key to attracting, retaining, and motivating talent. With 43 per cent of millennials and 61 per cent of Generation Z employees contemplating leaving their jobs within two years, according to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, there is a real opportunity for employers to differentiate themselves.

Too often, companies tend to neglect the bigger picture, focusing on either technology or design - to the detriment of their employees. Luckily, this silo mindset is shifting, as employers realise the importance of aligning people, design and technology to create a truly seamless workplace experience.

Welcome to the future of work - it's all about you!

  • Peter Andrew is the senior director in workplace strategies, part of Advisory and Transaction Services at CBRE. Shobhit Choubey is the APAC lead for Host by CBRE.