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Work and the workplace in 2025

6 march 2017

Work and the workplace in 2025

Together with 12 major Dutch office-based organisations Center for People and Buildings and Hospitality Group have researched the future of work 2025. The objective of the Futures Forum, the name of the consortium, was to identify relevant trends and developments regarding work, workplace, and how to facilitate the future end-user of office-based organisations.

The gist of the research is a holistic approach of this future (end) user. One interviewee said: ’The search for better ways of work did not stop when new ways of work was introduced". Wim Pullen, one of the initiators of the Futures Forum states: ‘’We do not only want to gain insight in new ways of work, we are also interested in changing demands and in how employees in the future expect to be facilitated. We foresee that this facilitation will require a close cooperation between Human Resources, IT, Facility Management and Real Estate Management.’’

Evidence-based development of an integral strategic agenda

All organisations that participated in the project also served as object of research. This provided the team of researchers an excellent point if entry to a varied group of end-users and experts within the public and private sector. People from several disciplines (Human Resources, IT, Facility Management and Real Estate Management) set up a joint strategic agenda to investigate (future) supporting services. This resulted in eight emergent themes: the changing nature of work, the shift towards virtual work,  increased adaptive power, release from restricting (organisational) structures, cohesion and engagement,  the importance of self-employment and self-marketing, employees' changing needs, and the role of the office in a time of  working anywhere anytime.

Important outcomes of the project

Technological developments significantly influence the entrepreneurship of organisations, and thereby the nature of work.  Administrative and operational tasks are on the decrease whereas knowledge and services are becoming more and more important. Due to these developments, society in the short term needs to deal with a loss of administrative jobs, and changes in required knowledge and skills. On the other hand, the group of experts expects a sizeable growth in employment opportunities in the field of informatics, data-analysis and handling intelligent systems.

Our ways of work and the way we cooperate are also changing. Work is becoming more complex and specialized, with an increasing focus on innovation and creativity. Fields of expertise will be more connected, the number of stakeholders in a chain will be on the increase and boundaries between organisations will fade. Traditional organisational structures will shift towards matrix- and network organisations, with a limited permanent core of employees that enables a quick response to changes. This organic way of working, without rigid structures, requires an adaptive and accessible work environment that connects employees. Please note that the increased cooperation between people creates an increasing demand for social and communicative skills.

Despite the significant rise in digital cooperation, the experts involved do not expect that face-to-face cooperation will be obliterated by digitalisation. In the future the right ICT facilities will allow us to work even more anytime, anywhere and anyplace than now. Stakeholders will increasingly use a growing number of platforms to communicate with one another, such as virtual- presence-solutions and cloud computing. However, it is essential that systems and infrastructures that guarantee productivity and effective cooperation are compatible.

Furthermore, the experts expect that we will have far less managers, especially in middle management and line management. This decrease will be caused by automation of management activities as well as increased autonomy of teams and individuals. In the future, managers will bond, coach, and facilitate teams; they will also be involved with their teams on strategic level. Management will be focussed on bringing demand and supply together, and on matchmaking: finding the right people for teams and collaborative projects. Peer-review, acknowledgement by colleagues, team members and clients will add extra value.  

The project did not only forecast that teams will be optimized, but also a clear trend towards people management, aimed at coaching and helping employees in developing their career. This conclusion is in line with the increased level of autonomy of employees regarding their work, and the loosening ties between employee and organisation. The trend in flexible employment relationships continues; employees change jobs more often, and labour relations and working conditions more and more need to be aimed at fulfilling the needs of the individual employee. The loyalty of employees towards one single employer is decreasing.  Attracting the ‘most-wanted’, the so-called 'war for talent', is becoming even more difficult, and requires an innovative approach. The future employee highly values organisations that respond to individual needs and wants, facilitate autonomy, have an attractive company culture, and stimulate personal development  

An important common theme is how to realise a working environment that supports a sound balance between working in the office and digital/virtual work. According to the experts involved in the project the future office will serve as a catalyst; it will enable encounters between employees, colleagues and other stakeholders, and thereby create a sense of belonging, a sense of 'home'. This is an essential element in an era characterised by working anywhere anytime. Without this sense of belonging it is hard to engage people and their talents, but also to ensure productivity and effective cooperation between people.  Facilitating a good working environment, be it at the office, home or third workplaces, is the number one target.
Important themes are:

  • creating a sense of belonging and social cohesion in both the bricks-and-mortar office and the virtual office.
  • facilitating an effective cooperation, and sharing of knowledge and information,
  • watching over the physical and mental health of employees.

Organizations that participated in the project

Employee Insurances Implementing Agency (UWV), Dutch probation office, SNS Bank, Royal Flora Holland, Cadastre, ABN AMRO, SSC ICT Haaglanden, Tax Authorities, ING Bank, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Rijksvastgoedbedrijf, social insurance bank (SVB).