Technologies and new methods of work influence offices architectural design and facilities management in two apparently contradictory aspects: the increasing technological requirement of the space and the potential physical reduction of it: work is becoming more technology and less labour. The consequences appear in different levels; offices need to improve their ability to accommodate technology whilst reducing its size or capacity in terms of number of employees. Smaller sites and better location can be chosen, with the correspondent impact in the urban living: by corporate and personal relocation within the urban fabric. This is already changing the balance between city centre and peripheral areas and, within the cities, between historical areas and new development areas. Housing is returning to the city centre, corporate is moving to the peripheries and this means that eventually labour and capital are geographically converging in a sustainable way. The rearranging of what may be called the traditional housing and corporate location has a strong impact in the real estate market and on the labour market, by changes on the supply and demand of both spaces and labour. These consequences make no difference between traditional and non traditional companies, so the latter will have to adapt.
As to de workplace itself, quality and flexibility are the keywords. Labour is changing. Technology requires improved skills and improved skills are accompanied by higher qualifications and quality of life expectations. This means that space itself must fulfil the requirements of an increasingly demanding workforce and that implies that the facilities present a more careful attitude with the individual areas, team areas and social areas. The latter as of the utmost importance if virtual teams are in place or, even more important, if the option is the virtual company, as several studies have demonstrated that isolation can be a severe constraint to productivity. Planning the work environment must include all these considerations plus the life cycle approach. This means that architecture, design, sociology, and psychology must all contribute.
Space is a critical issue that influences the physical and psychological behaviour of the users. The new workplace may have no personal places or workstations, nor even areas with an exclusive function: flexibility is the rule, so space should be conceived in order to be easily updated to a new corporate image, function, equipment or users. Kinaesthesia and proxemics concepts also fundamental issues to be taken into account, as a significant parte of the comfort standard.
The new economy understands the need of innovation, and the capacity to implement and carry the new models of work. This fact leads to an increase of self-employees, free lancers and partners but also in the stimulation of the workers in the loyalty to the employer.
Although the yearning of an effective and competitive performance leads to the support of remote forms of work, where outside the facility the individual can achieve its expectancies and satisfy its needs. This reality has significant impact in a large scale, like the region, community, housing but also at the workplace. The present workplace should be prepared to support different timetables, desert as high-density periods of work and mainly should be able to support and increase the communication between individuals towards the best relationship between employees, customers and community in general.
Cristina Caramelo Gomes, PhD