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The traditional 9-to-5 job came about during a time of vast industrial revolution. Farm workers moved into factories and offices, artificial light allowed offices to remain open longer, and public transportation options flourished. Altogether, it led to the funneling of hardworking people into urban high-rise buildings and suburban office parks for eight hours a day, five days a week.

Today, a similar shift is underway as technology once again impacts where and how Americans work. For the construction industry, which is facing its most drastic workforce shortage in decades, re-imagining the future workplace offers substantial benefits.

The movement to the so-called “office of the future” is about more than a physical place; it’s an ideal that combines a healthier, more productive and more flexible culture for a company and its people.

People are ready and willing to work more than 40 hours a week; they just want to do that work in the location and manner of their choosing and in a space that fits the task at hand. To cater to the demands of the future workforce, companies must create an environment worthy of spending time and building one’s career. For example, high-performance workstations (think tanks, huddle rooms, focus rooms or libraries) should be available.

To that end, organizations must embrace five elements of the office of the future.

1. Mobility and Technology
The Internet’s capabilities must be leveraged. Laptops are replacing desktops; therefore, offices should consider lounge-like areas and seating that doesn’t chain people to a desk. Cloud-based services allow people to access files and communication remotely so they may work from anywhere and at anytime. Allow mobility, but with clear guidelines on how these spaces can be used.

2. Health and Well-Being
Health and wellness directly impact performance. This doesn’t necessarily mean building a fitness center or adding a row of treadmills, but it’s important to promote exercise and nutrition. The office of the future should include ergonomic workstations, and if possible, window views. Consider how employees can go home at the end of the day healthier than when they arrived.

3. Culture and Quality
Extend the firm’s brand and culture to the halls of the office. Taking a cue from more creative industries, such as advertising or web design, which paint the walls bright colors or install ping-pong tables, a company’s history, mission statement, logo and values should be visible in high-traffic locations—seen by workers and visiting customers or prospects. Through design and branding, an office should feel like an extension of the company’s website, social media presence and other marketing materials.

4. Flexibility and Adaptation
Employees must have a choice in how they work. Some prefer silent space for concentration, while others thrive in a team. The workplace must accommodate all generations. There’s a lot of talk about millennials, but don’t forget seasoned veterans who may be accustomed to a more traditional office environment.

5. Knowledge and Engagement
The environment must foster collaboration. Encourage learning with a study area filled with educational resources, and provide training or “lunch and learns” that allow younger workers to hear from employees who have more experience (and vice versa). Drive performance with open spaces and hubs for creative conversation, as well as closed-off “war rooms” for hyper-focused concentration (e.g., when preparing proposals). The spaces must encourage innovation, thought leadership and speed.

Give people a reason to come to the office by fostering an environment that makes them feel at home, offers a work space with a clear purpose and provides individual choice on how to get things done. Remember, employees are a company’s single greatest asset, and providing the most engaging workplace will provide the highest return possible.

Mark Hourigan is president of Hourigan Construction, a construction management company with offices in Hampton Roads and Richmond, Va. For more information, email mjhourigan@houriganconstruction.com.

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