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Network, community or fortress?

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The office as we know it is going to be transformed over the next 20 years
according to a new report published today by Johnson Controls Global
WorkPlace Solutions. The Workplace Futures report examines how and why the
global workplace is to change by 2030, helping industry gain a clear
understanding of the forces driving workplace change.

The report finds that working environments will continually adapt,
leveraging technological advances and using renewable energy sources, as
well as allowing for more remote working. The research explores the driving
forces of change on the global workplace within key areas such as
demography, economy, governance, environment, society and technology.
One of the most likely outcomes is that the employee of 2030 will be
increasingly restricted by time constraints in a workplace that incorporates
space for social interaction, is a place of equality and offers employees a
greater choice of when, where and how to work. However, the outlook is not
entirely positive and business could be facing some tough, worldwide
challenges.
The report, produced in collaboration with Professor John Ratcliffe,
Chairman of The Futures Academy at the Dublin Institute of Technology,
Ireland, explores three feasible scenarios for the workplace of 2030. These
scenarios were created using the Futures Methodology, which has been used
extensively to understand tomorrow's business mind by considering issues,
trends and challenges.
The first scenario, 'Jazz', describes a competitive global village where the
workplace is a network; 'Wise Counsels' depicts a secure, responsible
workplace with a focus on work/life balance and the workplace as a
community; and the third scenario 'Dantesque' is a fragmented world that
values profit over employees and views the workplace as a fortress.
Both Jazz and Dantesque predict that global conditions will mean a turbulent
time for businesses and their employees, with a dominating focus on profits
rather than people and an increasingly complex marketplace that is
vulnerable to illicit activities. In these scenarios the world will see
increased poverty, isolation, the need for heightened workplace security,
environmental problems and mass economic instability.
Entrepreneurs and contingent workers replace multi-nationals, who fall out
of favour due to their business approach, which results in environmental
degradation and social neglect. The most probable future, of course, is
likely to be a combination of events and conditions from all three
scenarios.
Douglas Weinrich, South African regional executive at Johnson Controls
Global WorkPlace Solutions agrees. "South Africa is 'plugged' into the
global economy which makes this research relevant to the local market.
"However, as South Africa generally follows international trends rather than
leading them, there is a time lapse in which these trends 'filter' down to
our market. This combination of scenarios is definitely a possibility for
the South African market with perhaps an emphasis on the Jazz and Dantesque
combinations.
"The fact that South Africa has a significant proportion of unskilled labour
and a high demand for cheap labour – drivers in industries such as mining
and farming – positions the 'Dantesque' framework as a high probability for
South Africa's future. However, we also form part of a global competitive
village with social networking gaining rapid popularity, making the 'Jazz'
scenario a likely future too.
"Our economy is experiencing a dire lack of skills which makes the 'Wise
Counsels' framework a challenge. Yet it is a scenario that we should aspire
to – one we could make a reality through greater application of effort with
regards to skills development in corporate and Government sectors."
By understanding these three scenarios, those responsible for providing
working environments can prepare for the challenges that the future could
hold. Among others they will need to take into consideration employee
response to change, supporting globally fragmented clients, adaptation of
internal communications and aligning migration patterns with the changing
market and the workplace.
The report's findings are based on in-depth research, strategic
conversations, survey questionnaires and a 'futures workshop', where
academics and industry professionals discussed and analysed the emerging
concepts, challenges and uncertainties surrounding the workplace change
debate.
Dr Marie Puybaraud, director of Global WorkPlace Innovation at Johnson
Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions, comments: "Workplace change and
innovation are critical to the future of organisations in a dynamic,
economy-driven and knowledge-based society. Managing change is a vital
dimension underpinning the successful transition to new work styles,
patterns and locations."
Joint author of the report, with colleague Ruth Saurin, and chairman of The
Futures Academy, Professor John Ratcliffe, adds: "In the uncertain world of
today and tomorrow, one major risk to business is being caught out by
inevitable surprises. To avoid this, a new mindset reinforced by fresh ways
of thinking about the future is needed by all those involved in
constructing, occupying and managing the workplace. This report will enable
the industry to face the challenges and grasp the opportunities that lie
ahead over the next few decades. Businesses that can embrace these
foreseeable changes will have a competitive advantage."
This report is the first in a series of three to be published by Johnson
Controls in collaboration with The Futures Academy of the Dublin Institute
of Technology. The second will focus on tomorrow's sustainable workplace and
the third on the future of technology.
This work complements the new vision recently launched by Johnson Controls –
'Ingenuity Welcome' – which recognises that people welcome innovation.
Through WorkPlace Futures, Johnson Controls is identifying and understanding
future trends for business and, as a result, the company will be able to
provide ingenious solutions for its customers to meet the challenges of
changing business environments.