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Is Your Office Going the Way of the Blackberry?

Ten years ago, we were all using a Blackberry to answer work emails.

It made sense – it was company-prescribed and seemed to do the job. Today, there’s a good chance you’re using anything but a Blackberry.

What changed?

Companies loved the Blackberry – it was secure and had low data fees. However, employees wanted workplace experiences that helped them to be more productive, so switched to devices that suited them.

By 2012, more business people were using iPhone’s than all of Blackberry’s mobile devices combined.

This is an example of the consumerisation of the workplace.

Decisions regarding workplace tools are increasingly in the hands of the employee – the impacts are everywhere, from where we store data to how we find meeting rooms.

The range of user-centric SAAS tools like DropBox and Salesforce are testament to the changing marketplace.

Not only are workplaces decisions in the hands of users, they are also volatile and uncertain. Individual preferences change faster than we think.

Researchers at Harvard have found we consistently underestimate how much our preferences will change over the coming years.

This volatility challenges the entire workplace industry, which has depended on the stability of 10 year leases.

How do we prepare offices to be more user-centric and flexible for changing requirements?

We can begin with observing what innovative users are already doing.

Individuals don’t want to commute long distances to soulless offices where management teams value presenteeism over productivity. This has been an existing standard for workspaces, but a shift is on the way with the introduction of coworking.

Individuals want workplaces in convenient locations that provide great amenities as well as meaningful connections and stimulation.

When people calculate the cost of commuting (Up to $7,500 per year if commuting from Western Sydney to the CBD), their health and their relationships, commuting is no longer a viable option.

The coworking industry – shared workplaces used by contractors, professionals and small businesses with monthly membership fees – is growing rapidly.

We find professionals in these spaces embrace Liberated Work – working where (distributed), when and how (flexible), and with whom (collaborative) they want.

Hub Australia – a national network of coworking spaces with a membership of over 2000 innovators, small businesses, and entrepreneurs – quantified the benefits of using collaborative workspaces and found it improved the working lives and businesses of those involved.

78% of Hub’s members consider Hub to be important in their overall commercial success.

While most coworking members already have access to a desk and wifi facilities at home, they join a space for the social connectivity, environment, and experience. The majority cited an improvement in their professional network (77%) and improved efficiency (82%).

Individuals are in the best position to select an optimal work environment for their activities and disposition. Professionals are already using coworking spaces as a way to ‘leave work to get work done’.

Real estate companies have the opportunity to rethink the traditional office and instead focus on workplace experiences individuals will pay for.

The property groups that embrace the change to liberated work, by providing distributed and flexible workspaces that encourage collaboration, will be in the best position to capitalise on this opportunity.

Australian property groups have spearheaded this opportunity. For them, it provides a meaningful way to attract and retain tenants, as well as diversifying their property portfolio.

Is your property manager offering workplace experiences you want to pay for? If not, it might be time to liberate yourself.

Caroline McClaren

Caroline is the former Head of Expansion at Hub Australia