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How offices have changed over the last 20 years

Sylwia Pędzińska, Director of Workplace Innovation department at Colliers International

More and more business managers in Poland notice the importance of modern office space arrangement. Artificial intelligence and new technologies are set to change methods of work and interior design of offices in the future, albeit human will continue to play key role there. Sylwia Pędzińska, Director of Workplace Innovation department at Colliers International, talks about how office space evolved over the last 2 decades. The advisory firm has been successfully advising clients on Poland’s commercial real estate market for 20 years.

Open space without hierarchy was rather a norm than exception by the mid-19th century. First “office” buildings, such as Royal Admiralty Building or East India House in Leadenhall Street in London, were based on common areas, in which supervisors shared one room with their subordinates.

In time, work environment has evolved towards more hierarchic arrangement of space with separate rooms for managers. Work in open office space gradually became widespread in Poland in mid-1990s, with the onset of first international corporations. Although today’s offices are becoming more innovative and original, there is still a number of work places reminiscing of offices from the past era.

Shift in office space arrangement is a relatively new phenomenon. A revolutionary approach to organizing the work stems from the dynamic development and wide spreading modern technological solutions. This also results from demographic factors, which have been changing the traditional model of work profoundly. Smartphones, laptops or Wi-Fi network are commonly used in almost every office. Owing to new technologies, one can work also away from the office, e.g. at home, cafe, park etc. It also means that the boundary between private and professional life is fading.

The youngest employees are entering the labour market, with different approach to work than their older peers. They value greater leeway and want to be evaluated by outcomes attained, rather than by the time spent behind the desk. The undergoing changes require managers to adopt an entirely different mindset about office space than a few years ago.

The quality of work environment has real impact on the effectiveness and satisfaction of employees, as well as on the attractiveness of the employer among prospective candidates. In effect, businesses begin to step away from standard office model and take-up individualized space that reflects values and peculiarity of the organisation. Never before have there been designed special spaces at such scale, conducive to individual work in silence or in groups, as well as spaces for relaxation and rest.

“Today’s office is a vital chain connecting employees with the organisation. It creates ties between people and builds unique identity of each company. The office is becoming an employer branding tool and could be the source of competitive edge. It is worth remembering, however, that office space could both enable and hinder the work. Therefore, it is worth to design the office effectively with the help of a trusted and experienced partner, having in mind current and future needs of employees from various generations. Such approach would allow for lowering potential costs of organizational changes in the future,” says Sylwia Pędzińska, Partner at Colliers International, Director of Workplace Innovation.

Colliers International already opened a specialized Workplace Innovation department last year. It advises clients on the creation of workplace environment strategies and change management. It stands out with modern approach to workspace that integrates the knowledge and experience of property advisors, architects, business psychologists, sociologists and specialists in the field of HR. The combination or various competences allows to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the current situation of a company, understand its needs and develop a multi-faceted strategy of further operations. 

In the years ahead, there will be more companies investing in artificial intelligence and automation of recurring processes in order to increase the competitiveness. Importantly, work predicated on interpersonal relations will still play a key role, though the model of work, in which an employee is assigned to one specific desk, is expected to change. Future work will require employees to take a more holistic look, analyse and draw conclusions, which will result in creative solutions. Project-based work in teams, composed of specialists from various fields and countries, will be widespread.

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