Spaces 2012Crumbling plaster, neon tubes, tangled cables: this unusual yet thoroughly charming ambience played host on November 27 to “Spaces 2012” in Hamburg, an innovation convention on “New Ways of Working”. Experts from the office design, urban development and real estate industries responded to an invitation from the consulting company if5 and met in a PARCS landscape furnished by Bene. The range of topics was very broad, including discussions about global trends and their influence on the world of work, new spatial concepts, trends in urbanisation, as well as challenges for the real estate industry.
"New working environments" - in order to understand what this could mean we first have to venture a look into the future. Which major global trends will influence the future of work? Klaus Burmeister from Z_Punkt, an institute that conducts research on the future, focused on global developments that will shape and change work environments in the years to come. These developments include demographic change, the transition to a knowledge-based economy, increasing technologisation and individualisation. We will need concepts of work that correspond to these trends and, above all, provide them with the requisite space.
Dr Wilhelm Bauer from the Fraunhofer Institute for Labour Economics and Organisation then explained specifically what new forms of work may look like, describing the classic office configuration as a "relic of industrialisation". Future working environments will be more mobile and colourful. They will also be more diverse because they must meet both the demands of an older generation and yet still offer space for the "digital natives". "Work where you want, when you want, and with whom you want" is the motto, according to Fraunhofer. What they mean is that the space, location and structure of work will all undergo major changes in the future. Different structures will exist next to each other, such as the home office, co-working centre or shared office, offering more flexible, mobile and productive forms work for individuals.
Focus on work-life integration
Magdalena Kaminski from the Office for Occupational Safety went on to explain the new demands placed on employees as a result of the continual transformation of our professional worlds. They include above all more responsibility and a higher willingness to engage in life-long learning. A previously unpublished study of university students had some interesting results. The compatibility of family and work is a central topic for almost two-thirds of the future workforce. An attractive employer will enable its employees to maintain a balance between their career and private life. The study also found that a majority of future employees cannot imagine working solely from a home office at the beginning of their career. Many of the students considered direct exchange with colleagues to be an important method for learning and integrating themselves into a company’s culture.
The next presentation focussed on commercial office-sharing concepts. Bernd Fels from "if5 anders arbeiten" describes new office concepts as evolutionary instead of revolutionary, decentral instead of central, and colourful rather than monotonous. This presents challenges to the real estate branch: because the office will no longer be the only place where work is done, the core occupancy rate in companies will also go down. That will make the principle "use rather than own" a central motto: it is often more advantageous for a company to use an existing building than to invest in new office locations. Another aspect of changing activity profiles, according to Fels, is the increased need for temporary workstations, as well as zones for collaboration and exchange.
Julian Petrin from nexthamburg, a civic platform for ideas that are shaping the city of tomorrow, offered a somewhat different perspective. Urban development is done here in dialogue with citizens because "we can only create new places together". One of these new work locations is called "Smart Suburbia". In an age in which cities are undergoing a renaissance, populations are growing primarily in urban areas while suburbs are becoming less and less attractive. Petrin argues that we should counteract this trend, and let companies become more decentralised, offering their employees a new work location in the immediate proximity of where they live their lives.
In conclusion, Dr Andreas Pfnür (TU Darmstadt) spoke about the challenges that the real estate business faces from the perspective of owners, users and producers. He reported that changes in the working environment could give corporate real estate management the latitude to offer more flexible and differentiated real estate solutions. Nonetheless, new buildings such as satellite offices and "shared offices" remain special forms of real estate that may be interesting to innovative investors.
After the presentations, visitors were offered the option of sharing their own experiences or discussing already completed "new working" projects in workshops.
The conclusion of the innovation convention: changes in working environments are closely related to global trends as well as national developments. The central issue should be the development of new space and work concepts that meet these demands and make work easier for people. Or, as Dr Bauer said, "We need work-life integration, not work-life balance."
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