Port Elizabeth - Whether created through construction, renovation or adaptive reuse, future South African workplaces will be a notable departure from office developments of today, according to Nadir Jeeva, CEO of Afri-Corp International Properties.
He said right now, a melting-pot of change in workplace design and organisational cultures coupled to technological disruption will quite literally bring down the walls on work space and office design in South Africa. Changes in the generational make-up of the country’s workforce, technological developments such as Internet of Things (IoT), a strong commitment to employee wellness and workplace flexibility are forcing real estate developers and commercial property owners to rethink and reimagine real-estate spaces in order remain relevant and in touch with the needs of the market place.
The importance of well-thought-out working spaces can simply no longer be ignored. A growing body of academic research shows the relationship between effective workplace design, productivity and bottom-line performance. A case in point is a rather unsettling study where findings of a research programme by international architectural firm Gensler showed that poor workplace design in the US resulted in productivity losses of $330bn dollars. The design of work spaces also directly influences employee engagement and innovation.
Jeeva said across the Atlantic, four mega-trends are shaping workplace design in South Africa right now:
Workspaces have to be compatible with millennials
Millennials - those born between the 1980s and the mid-2000s - will become the largest segment of the South African working population in less than a decade. Developers will need to ensure that commercial office developments cater to employers recruiting younger workforces.
Millennials are inclined and gravitate to historic inner-city office spaces, and prefer loft-like working environments. Such work spaces are often laid-back, in high-finish and feature adaptable furniture systems. According to architecture firm LPA, hierarchy, tenure, and seniority should no longer be factored into design - walls will quite literally disappear.
The work space for millennials has to support creativity, above all, and it should be remembered that technology enables them to work anywhere at any time.
Humanisation of the workplace
The humanisation of the workplace focusses on people-centred programmes in support of occupational health and wellbeing, and through workplace design, workforces can be kept motivated and productive.
At its core, workplace humanisation broadly entails creating a sense of security, control and belonging, and really entails the psychological dimension of workplace design.
For this, developers will need to pay close attention to inclusion of good lighting, strategic colour schemes, natural features, and other design elements that induce positive and happy moods, improve concentration and reduce fatigue.
Connected to this are spaces allowing employees to create a work-life balance. That is why large developments and office parks in the future will feature more light lifestyle facilities, recreational amenities, wellness rooms, and day-care facilities, among others.