Rapid review: By S Edwards
What is the future of Work Environments? Read below for an academic review from Rapid Context on global trends and the benefits of workplace environment innovation.
Re-inventing the work space
Innovative workspaces are born out of several generations of business stimulation efforts , with
literature stretching back to the 1940’s indicating that businesses have always been searching for
ways to create the optimum work environment that produces and retains highly productive
employees . Companies such as Google, Microsoft and Westpac continue to incorporate these
approaches as a way to stay relevant and attractive in an age of redefined workspaces [2, 3].
Office space is not just an asset, but needs to be viewed as a strategic tool for growth .
Literature has shown that work environments that are uncomfortable and induce stress directly impact on
employee’s sense of well-being, productivity and quality of work [6,7]. Research by Empirica and
Hassell found that workplace design is a significant factor in attraction and retention. It impacts on
the extent to which employees connect and identify with their colleagues and the greater
organisation. It suggests that investing in workplace design and organisational culture is a more cost
effective strategy for talent acquisition than offering higher salaries.
Global trends in the development of innovative environments are varied, with approaches differing
for urban versus regional, and large organisations versus small . As the term “innovation” implies,
there is no one answer to the perfect work place and thus it is important that companies take the
time to understand what they are trying to achieve by changing the space [3, 8, 9]. Hills and Levy
suggest criteria for reflection include workability, comfort, occupational density, the need for
privacy, control over the environment, adjacency to colleagues and functionality . With further
literature suggesting all optimum work environments need a balance of spaces specifically designed
for collaboration, modifiability, intellectual work and solitude [10-12].
Research has shown that flexible work arrangements and the work-life balance they produce are
inextricably linked to employee attraction and retention [9, 10, 13, 14]. The use of flexible work
options within an organisation means an increase in the need for appropriate technology, with the
ability to be able to collaborate and communicate with colleagues regardless of location a key
element to a FWA’s success [15-17].
Projecting the needs of future employees can be daunting. An International survey conducted by the
Society for human Resource Management (SHRM) found that the majority of over 480 executives
believed the top challenges for the year 2022 would be attracting, retaining and rewarding the best
workers . By the year 2025 it is anticipated that the contingent of workers known as ‘Millenials’
and born between 1980 and 2000 will make up 75% of the workforce . Their career aspirations,
attitudes about work and knowledge of new technologies are vastly different than those who are on
the verge of leaving the workforce [20, 21]. Employers need to be alert and agile and respond to the
changes or face being left behind by their competitors .
- Complete survey to ascertain what employees value most in their workplace, regardless of
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1 Foertsch, A.P. (2014). Workplace Innovation Today. http://www.naiop.org/en/Research/Our-
2 Brookes, M. J., & Kaplan, A. (1972). The office environment: Space planning and affective
behavior. Human factors, 14(5), 373-391.
3 Oksanen, K., & Ståhle, P. (2013). Physical environment as a source for innovation: investigating the
attributes of innovative space. Journal of knowledge management, 17(6), 815-827.
4 Cummins, C. Westpac raises the bar at new Barangaroo digs. January 29 2016 The Sydney Morning
5 Waber, B., Magnolfi, J., & Lindsay, G. (2014). Workspaces that move people. Harvard Business
Review, October 2014. https://hbr.org/2014/10/workspaces-that-move-people
6 Vischer, J. C., & Wifi, M. (2017). The Effect of Workplace Design on Quality of Life at Work.
In Handbook of Environmental Psychology and Quality of Life Research (pp. 387-400). Springer
7 Hassell & Empirica, 2014. Research findings: Does workplace design affect employee attraction?
8 Hills, R., & Levy, D. (2014). Workspace design and fit-out: what knowledge workers value. Property
Management, 32(5), 415-432.
9 Kossek, E. E., & Thompson, R. J. (2016). Workplace Flexibility: Integrating Employer and Employee
Perspectives to Close the Research–Practice Implementation Gap. The Oxford Handbook of Work
and Family, 255.
10 Perlow, L. A., & Kelly, E. L. (2014). Toward a model of work redesign for better work and better
life. Work and Occupations, 41(1), 111-134.
11 Joseph, J. (2016). Do Open/Collaborative Work Environments Increase, Decrease or Tend To Keep
Employee Satisfaction Neutral?
12 Congdon, C., Flynn, D., Redman, M. (2014). Balancing “We” and “Me”: The best collaborative
spaces also support solitude. Harvard Business Review October 2014.
13 Ernst and Young 2015. Work-Life Challenges across generations.
14 Timms, C., Brough, P., O'Driscoll, M., Kalliath, T., Siu, O. L., Sit, C., & Lo, D. (2015). Flexible work
arrangements, work engagement, turnover intentions and psychological health. Asia Pacific Journal of Human
Resources, 53(1), 83-103.
15 Blok, M., Groenesteijn, L., Formanoy, M., De Korte, E., & Vink, P. (2010). Innovative ways of
working: A comparison of a traditional and a flexible office environment on office space use,
performance, privacy and satisfaction. na.
16 McNall, L. A., Masuda, A. D., & Nicklin, J. M. (2009). Flexible work arrangements, job satisfaction, and
turnover intentions: The mediating role of work-to-family enrichment. The Journal of psychology, 144(1), 61-81.
17 Johns, T., & Gratton, L. (2013). The third wave of virtual work. Harvard Business Review, 91(1), 66-73.
18 Leonard, B., SHRM Poll: HR’s Top Challenges in 10 Years Have a Familiar Ring, in Society for
Human Resource Management. . 2012.
19 Donston-Miller, D. (2016). Workforce 2020: What you need to know Now.
20 Kosoff, M. (2015). Millennials have a clear favourite when asked which tech company is their
‘ideal employer’. Business Insider, May 24, 2015. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/millennials-
21 PWC, A. (2011). Millennials at work. Reshaping the workplace.
22 Canon (2015). Work in Evolution: A Canon Research Report
Additional suggested Resources:
The 4th Annual Next Generation Workplace Summit 2017 https://next-generation-