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Commentary: Why bosses need to start thinking beyond physical spaces in creating future workplaces for younger workers

A recent research study by Accenture found that only one in six people feel highly connected to their organisations, while just one in five feel comfortable sharing problems or raising conflicts with colleagues. 

A recent report found that some employees in Singapore would rather work from the office for three reasons: Easy access to tech systems, easy collaboration with colleagues and a conducive workplace environment. 
A recent report found that some employees in Singapore would rather work from the office for three reasons: Easy access to tech systems, easy collaboration with colleagues and a conducive workplace environment. 
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A recent research study by Accenture found that only one in six people feel highly connected to their organisations, while just one in five feel comfortable sharing problems or raising conflicts with colleagues. 

Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that those who work onsite report feeling less connected than hybrid or fully remote workers. 

These figures are a strong indicator that despite having moved through the pandemic and the resulting shift to remote working, working policies have not solved issues around workplace connectedness. 

For workplace leaders reading this, what this means is that it is highly possible that only a small fraction of your teams may feel like they are getting what they need or are truly connecting on a human level at the workplace. 

This is especially so with this younger generation of workers who value personal connection more than previous generations, and who grow up in an environment where it is possible to personalise every experience — from ordering food through an app to buying tickets for their next holiday. 

The reality is that many conversations on the future of work have yet to capture the entire picture. This future is marked by people’s evolving needs, and companies need to embrace a life-centric approach to meet these ever-changing circumstances and priorities.  

To pierce the illusion, we need to take the discussion beyond spaces and places. 

Instead, we need to elevate the importance of human connections, double down on human talent and leadership, and leverage digital technologies and existing infrastructures in the advent of smarter work. 

SHAPING THE OMNI-CONNECTED FUTURE 

A recent report found that some employees in Singapore would rather work from the office for three reasons: Easy access to tech systems, easy collaboration with colleagues and a conducive workplace environment. 

They look forward to returning not simply for the amenities, but the energy, connections, and conversations they have with their colleagues.

The future of work is all about meaningful connection — but this does not have to mean being connected to work 24/7. 

It is about creating omni-connected experiences through key areas of activity which involve an emphasis on leadership, inclusive and empathetic behaviour, working smart regardless of location and more. 

This includes creating an inclusive and diverse environment with a focus on engaging in empathetic listening so that employees can feel safe and share their ideas and perspectives. 

Today's employees have a heightened sense of social awareness and often aspire for more in their work. 

These workers also have greater ambition to seek out opportunities that can help them feel more fulfilled and satisfied in their roles, so they can feel more connected to the larger purpose of the organisation. 

Purpose can also be used as a tool to make employees feel omni-connected as well — imparting a sense of dignity where all employees believe they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. 

Leaders can embed purpose into the fabric of the culture by communicating it through various interactions, such as during recruitment or career development, and ensuring all people and teams feel a sense of responsibility for driving purposeful impact. 

When done right, these experiences create a culture that champions purpose, authenticity, and psychological safety. 

An example of purpose-driven work is how participants at our annual University Innovation Challenge receive mentorship from our experts and learn to apply innovative solutions in solving real-world challenges. 

This year’s problem statement seeks to uncover opportunities that advancements in areas such as sustainable tourism can bring to build cities of the future. 

EMBRACE TECH OR RISK A TALENT DRAIN  

Being omni-connected also means something other than the disappearance of physical workplaces. 

We believe that leaders and employers must focus on creating intelligent workplaces where organisations use technology and office space to support new working models. 

Intelligent workspaces that include tools such as video conferencing technology and optimised workforce experiences to enable employees make memorable connections. 

However, it is surprising how many organisations are lagging behind in making the most of the latest technologies and digital tools to enable rich employee experiences. 

An evolving and expanding continuum of technologies including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can help create better interfaces for new ways of collaboration between hybrid teams and increase workforce productivity. 

Accenture’s enterprise metaverse known as the Nth Floor, refers to the virtual environments we have created to bring our geographically distributed workforce together. 

The metaverse gives people a sense of being together as compared to traditional video calls. It is a nice way to demonstrate to employees, especially new joiners, on our commitment to a culture of innovation. 

LEVERAGE OUR ENVIRONMENT TO ENABLE SMARTER WORK 

In a way, workplaces are a microcosm of today’s cities; cities are no longer mere drivers of growth, but cultural hubs that bring people together. 

According to Accenture’s Life Trends report released in December, the office environment usually exists within the wider context of a city or town, and what cities offer and how they offer it will be an implicit part of the work package for employees. 

For example, smart cities like Singapore act as regional headquarters to many multinational companies. 

With Singapore’s robust digital infrastructure, organisations can leverage digital technologies to access, connect and manage their workforces, wherever they may be. 

In fact, their advantage in digitalisation has empowered the island state to overcome the traditional constraints of space and place and entrench its position as a globally connected digital city. 

This will be especially important for the younger generation, who are re-thinking their relationship with work and prioritising organisations that provide them with access to resources that support their fundamental human needs, regardless of location or space. 

When companies enable their omni-connected global workforces and help them unleash the power of human potential, the future of work promises to usher in a new era of productivity and connected communities — regardless of where they are. 

That is a vision we can all get behind. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ng Wee Wei is country managing director for Singapore at Accenture, a leading global professional services company with 738,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries.

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