Forward-thinking facilities managers could expect to see more flexible and remote working, and more cross- functional teams with less hierarchy as Generation Z - born between the mid-1990s and 2000s - enters the workforce.

Peter Otto, Product Strategy and Design Director at Condeco, said: “Flexibility and remote working are increasingly important to today's workers. The companies that are prepared for those workers will be able to attract the most talented candidates, both from the country they are based in, and internationally.”

Getting the office environment right contributes hugely to staff retention, according to those who contributed to the Condeco report on the workplace.

One senior manager at a major UK bank said: “We’ve seen studies that millennials are more demanding, this trend will continue and it means we have to offer more flexibility and personalisation. People have this idea that the environment is better elsewhere, they hear about what’s on offer at Google and this ramps up expectations.”

In certain sectors - design, media, technology and leisure for instance - it is especially important to provide cool surroundings that reflect the company’s values and project the right vibe.

However, the desire to attract and retain younger staff can also irritate older staff. An older French banking executive found his new working environment unacceptably distracting and noisy.

Balancing the need for a vibrant atmosphere with other people’s desire for quiet is crucial. The choice of furnishings, materials and layout can all be altered to make quieter areas in workplaces where there may be this conflict.

Meetings may seem quite traditional in such an environment but the report identifies that more, not fewer meetings, are now held, as managers need to coordinate widespread teams.

Two-fifths of business leaders worldwide report an increase in video conference meetings, as teams coordinate over long distances. Of respondents in Singapore, 54% said they had seen an increase in video

conferences - almost double the figure for Australia (28%). In the US the figure was 47%.

Making sure that employees have suitable access to meeting rooms is a challenge around the world and something that facilities managers need to be responsive to. The situation, according to the report, is worst in the UK (14%) and France (12%) and best in Germany (7%) and Singapore (9%).

"Meetings have a bad reputation as time-wasters. To remain effective, modern companies must ensure that they commit to providing a variety of spaces to help their teams communicate and collaborate, along with a fast and efficient way to find and reserve space, at any time, on any device,” Peter said.

Another challenge for facilities managers is finding a solution to the right space needs at the right time. Formal meetings, like a job interview or performance appraisal, require a closed space, while informal team meetings can be conducted in a break-out space.

One executive from a US retailer said: “Our workplace now reflects that we want to give them choice and not box them in.”

Another area where the workplace is changing is in adopting the internet of things. According to the Condeco report, this still has some way to go, but sensors can tell facilities managers how desks are being used, while automation of lighting and heating can also help to cut down energy bills.

Many factors have come together to change the modern workplace. Now a generation that has only ever known open-plan offices and has an expectation of flexibility is starting to step into leadership positions. This isn’t just a UK trend either, as this report, which questioned 500 companies around the world makes clear.

If anything, change at this point is likely to accelerate. TOMORROW’S FM | 19

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