Offices, Networks and Coworking – New Trends in Working Life
The pandemic has reshaped the ways where and how we work. Mikko Lehtinen, CEO of Turun Teknologiakiinteistöt/Turku Technology Properties, throws light on the next normal of work as we are moving towards the post-pandemic era of workplaces.
Knowledge work has long been independent of time and location. We work at the office, at the client’s premises, remotely and, for example, in coffee shops. This has been greatly influenced by the exponential growth in working tools. One might ask, therefore, whether the future office will be at a single fixed location or a network of flexible premises?
There have always been office networks and they are not going anywhere. The starting point of the network is the customer and network proximity. The development of working tools and methods reduces the need for this physical network. But what do future networks require? Do they need employees to work or the employees’ time?
There have always been office networks and they are not going anywhere.
Coworking spaces around the world continue being successful. Since 2015, Turku Technology Properties has provided coworking spaces under the Werstas brand. When space and operations were being planned, outsiders had little faith in it and considered it a bad idea. Turku Technology Properties has, however, demonstrated that there is demand for flexible premises – the premises have been practically fully rented out from the beginning. Werstas has even expanded on a couple of occasions, and today there are premises at three different properties. The most basic Werstas membership offers shared workspaces and diverse services without a dedicated office or workstation. There is, thus, a low threshold to become a member of the network.
Looking at and comparing remote and office work as opposites is as fruitless as discussing the superiority of open offices versus dedicated rooms. Expert work consists of different moments and related needs. A knowledge worker may be in very different types of work situations during the day: in a meeting with clients, in need of a quiet space for planning, or in a lunch meeting with colleagues. Space solutions are being created and have already been pooled in different types of shared spaces. People often only talk about efficient square metres, but for Turku Technology Properties, they are also flexible square metres.
Looking at and comparing remote and office work as opposites is as fruitless as discussing the superiority of open offices versus dedicated rooms.
Many people have been working remotely from home for more than a year. What will happen after the summer holidays? Ideally, people will work where it suits them best. A base office will still be needed. Tacit knowledge may not necessarily be transferred via online meetings, or at least it is more difficult. Many also miss small talk in corridors and lunches with co-workers. One can also optimize the use of time and working from home means time is not spent on business trips.
In the future, office work will be done in many different places. The conversation about the “superiority” of remote or office work is at the same level as the conversation about open offices and dedicated rooms. An effective way of working is a much more complex matter. This multi-locality raises the question of whether even individual companies will have a network of premises?
In the future, office work will be done in many different places.
And who will pay for remote work costs? The premises constitute the biggest expense. Will compensation be paid for remote work and what will it be based on, as you are already at home? Apartments are generally more expensive than offices.
I think the physical change in future work environments and the “new normal” will be surprisingly small. Current activity-based spaces are often considered best and will also be used in the future. The mental change will clearly be much greater, as it is no longer important to come to work at 8 a.m. and clock yourself in. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many considered it very important to measure the efficacy of square metres. Now, even the most ardent number crunchers have realized that this is a completely wrong indicator. Work environment quality is not only a technical condition but also improves mental well-being. If you are happy about and proud of the environment you operate and work in, you are also at your best.
Work environment quality is not only a technical condition but also improves mental well-being.
Recently, the length of the working week and workdays has also been discussed, which has elicited a variety of emotions. I am not sure whether the conversation starter was provocation or something else, but I can only momentarily do more than 40 hours’ work a week, and I need five weeks’ vacation a year to be at my best in the autumn. At the end of August, the SHIFT Business Festival awaits in Hotel Kakola, where we will most likely get to meet each other for real. See you there!
SHIFT Business Festival
25-26 August 2021