You might think that with an increase in flexible working, home working and office mobility solutions, the office as we know it may cease to exist. Why would we need big offices if most people are working elsewhere most of the time? Surely with unified communications solutions, video conferencing and one-number contactability—coming into the office will soon be a thing of the past.
A few years ago, researchers at iconic furniture maker, Herman Miller, began a deep-dive into the future of the global workplace driven by the desire to answer questions like these. Technology already made it possible for many people to work away from conventional offices. The question was, whether that is ultimately the best thing for workers, and the companies that employ them.
As part of the study, a team reviewed academic literature on psychology, anthropology, sociology and behavioural sciences - looking as far back as B.C., when human beings first began documenting ideas about work.
Interestingly, what emerged from their study was an understanding that across all cultures, genders, generations and organisations, people have basic needs that must be met at work in order for them to thrive and be optimally productive. While an organisation’s leadership practices and culture play essential roles in determining whether these needs are supported, where and how people work is also a fundamental contributor.
The 6 human needs sought through work:
Sense of achievement: We strive for excellence and we want to feel a sense of mastery at what we do—i.e. accomplished.
Autonomy: We seek freedom in our actions and decisions… and desire to NOT work in one place eight hours a day.
Belonging: We are tribal, social beings who require meaningful connection with other people. Given the importance of work in our lives, we seek strong bonds with colleagues.
Sense of purpose: We want to make a meaningful difference and to know our work matters.
Sense of security: We desire health and physical safety, but also “social security,” the need to feel connected to a team.
Status: We seek to be respected and appreciated for our work, and to have a working environment that inherently recognises us.
Because these needs are so deep and universal in people - and so essential to human productivity - Herman Miller now believes supporting them must become the cornerstone of all future workplace design.
So the conclusion is, the office as we know it is not dead, but in fact an important part of our ability to be happy in our work. More and more people will continue to work out of the office some of the time, but just not all of the time. And the office as we know it will be revamped and redesigned to help us achieve these 6 needs.
This is progress.
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