Today’s article is a guest post from legal blogger Matt Faustman.

While we still haven’t seen those flying cars that we were promised so many decades ago, the fact remains that many aspects of modern life continue to change in ways that seem downright futuristic. The same is true for the contemporary workplace, which looks much different from the same space even ten years ago. From telecommuting to ergonomics, the workplace of the future has new goals and new designs. Read on to learn more about how small business owners can keep pace with the developments of the workplace of the future.

Connectivity is Easy

One of the ways the workplace is changing the most is easy to identify: telecommuting. According to a study done by Global Workplace Analytics, from 2005 to 2012, the telecommuting workplace has increased more than 80% and there are no signs of a slow down. While not all businesses are comfortable or able to completely give up the idea of a physical office, these offices will need to take into consideration the needs of remote workers. Physical conference rooms are increasingly obsolete with teleconferencing from various places fast, easy, and affordable (or even free).

Flexibility Attracts Talent

Controversy remains about the flexibility of working from home. Just this year, Yahoo! CEO Melissa Mayer revoked her employee’s right to telecommute. But the reality is that flexibility in the workplace, particularly when it comes to telecommuting, is a great way to attract the top talent. It is not only younger generations, who see telecommuting as closer to the norm, but also workers who are nearing retirement, busy parents, and those who live in congested metropolitan areas where physical commuting can take a massive toll economically and emotionally. The more flexibility a workplace can offer, the larger the talent pool to choose from. Business owners that can accept this fact will be able to create better, happier teams that will stay longer and work harder.

Remote Workers and Office Engagement

Some business owners may hesitate to allow telecommuting on a large scale, citing lower worker productivity and communication, but this is really a misconception. In fact, one Harvard Business Review study showed that “team members who were not in the same location with their leaders were more engaged and committed” than those that were physically present in the office. Study after study has debunked the idea that telecommuting workers will slack off if they are not forced into a regular office chair day after day. Instead, remote workers are engaged, communicate well and frequently with co-workers, and tend to put in more hours than their office-bound counterparts.

Offline Offices Are Changing, Too

The progress in the modern workplace does not only mean taking workers out of the standard office setting, it also means flexibility and creativity in the design of the physical offices that remain. Tom Austin, vice president at technology research firm Gartner, predicts that office spaces “will come to evoke areas of the typical home–open floor plans with couches and soft rugs; cozy, kitchen-like spaces with waist-high countertops; and covered outdoor patios with chaise lounges.” Business owners need to consider the physical comfort and welcoming atmosphere of their spaces and move away from the depersonalized “cubical farms.”

Ergonomics Matter

Speaking of physical comfort, there is also the matter of ergonomics.  Per insurer Zurich, “ergonomics and its scientific approach to identifying the mismatches between the job demands and the workers capabilities is an effective program for addressing the concerns of the aging workforce. ” As the workforce ages (in 2002, 56% of the workforce was over 40), accommodations need to be made. This includes attention to ergonomic design, from standing desks to anti-glare monitors and supportive office chairs. The more physically comfortable a worker can be for long stretches, the more productive they can be and the happier they will be about it.

Not every business owner will be willing or able to make all the changes outlined here, but the important takeaway is that businesses must continue to evolve. Whereas 20 years ago, telecommuting was virtually unheard of, it is now commonplace and that will not be the end of the changes. The more nimble a business owner can be with evolving technologies, including office design and worker flexibility, the better equipped he or she will be to take their business into the 21st century.

Sources:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224977-4#
http://www.zurichna.com/NR/rdonlyres/AEFC0FF5-EE0B-4765-B5D4-F640D99E1412/0/Designingtheworkplacefortheagingworkforce.pdf
http://www.globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics
http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/08/are-you-taking-your-people-for/

About the Author: Matt Faustman is the co-founder of UpCounsel, where businesses can easily hire trusted lawyers. He writes about business legal issues, efficiency, and the future of labor. You can follow more of his business insights on twitter at @upcounsel. 

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