Top workplace trends in 2018: Experts share their predictions

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It's been about 12 months since I asked several workplace experts in my LinkedIn network what they thought were going to be the major workplace trends for 2017

Their predictions were as original and varied as their backgrounds. Some common threads still existed: getting rid of constraints in the workplace, workplace created for humans, the rise of autonomy of workers... Overall, doing away with "sacred cows" of times past in the workplace and making room for new paradigms.

Now, a year later, I reached out to them again to see where they think the workplace is going in 2018 (click to tweet).

Here's what they told me: 

Trend 1: Space as a Service

kay-sargent"This is the year we fully embrace that ‘the office’ is not a place you need to go to anymore, we have options and choices. Hence the emergence of Space as a Service, SaaS. As more and more people are asking what the secret sauce is for the rapid rise of co-working we need to flip the question around and ask “why has corporate space lost its mojo, and how do we get it back?” Places for teams to gather aren’t going away, but we need to design them to foster community, provide the services needed, and delight the users. B

e it via embracing the notice that high tech = high touch; channeling a maker environment; leveraging space fusion; or employing multi-sensory design elements. We need to acknowledge that we need to go beyond brick and mortar. After all, we are no longer simply creating environments — we are designing the experience."

Kay Sargent, Senior Principal - Director of WorkPlace, HOK 

Trend 2: Demystification of workplace

neil-usher"We have reached an overload of needless complexity within Workplace. 2017 was probably the peak year so far for overly garbled corporate gibberish, designed to impress but ultimately vacuous. While its been fun bursting a few of these balloons, we are going to see a trend towards plain speaking and reducing what we do to understandable ideas, to make it possible to create a fantastic workplace for as many people as possible.

My book The Elemental Workplace to be published on 1 March advocates a simple framework for action. We have a collective responsibility to demystify. So, in 2018, we all need to commit to it. And do it."

Neil Usher, Executive Consultant at Unispace and Workessence

Trend 3: IT as a critical enabler

thomas_mitchell"On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the integration of information technology (IT), as a critical enabler of efficient, economic, and effective facility operations, continues to be a common trend driving change across the industry. Whether it’s through the use of “Internet of Things” (IoT) networking, smart Wi-Fi, artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, flexible displays, or virtual reality projections, are all impacting stakeholder perceptions of the facility management (FM) value proposition.

Consequently, FM organizations have a need for leaders who can advance new acquisition and adaptation strategies that will continue to improve the end user’s experience within the built space."

Thomas L. Mitchell, Jr., Organizational Leadership | Facilities Management | Strategic Planning | Workforce Development at FM3IS Associates, L.L.C. 

Trend 4: The breakthrough of the COW, HOW and CXO!

kati-barklund"The COW (Chief of Work), The HOW (Head of Workplace) and the CXO (Chief Experience Officer) are all different names of a new necessary function or responsibility area in organizations, uniting or at least bridging the Workplace Disciplines – HR, IT and RE/FM. Taking this holistic and strategic grip of the Workplace will enable organizations to really transform the Workplace Experience and the Way of Working, and by this Engaging and Empowering the employees in their work.

For me, this is the most important trend for 2018, and it is one of the main keys to unlock the full potential in our people and teams and create success in our organizations. We of course must see that the Workplace is not just about the Workplace Holistics (Leadership/Culture/Way of working, and Digital and Physical Workplace), but also just as importantly about Workplace Continuity (Continuous Monitoring, Adjustment and Development) and above all People-Centricity as the starting point."

Kati Barklund, Sr. Solution Specialist, Modern Workplace at Microsoft Sweden

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Trend 5: Trans-disciplinary work

chris-hood"The inexorable rise of WeWork is testament to the rise of the number of self-employed workers and their proportionally larger presence in the workforce. This will continue to emerge as a growing reality. For 2018 though, let us turn our attention to a new level of focus on improving and tuning business performance.

This will precipitate the new skill of Trans-disciplinary work...where the drivers of improvement will need to incorporate a much broader array of contributing solution sets: cognitive science, anthropology, hospitality, data analytics and human factors engineering for example in their search for a competitive edge. We will begin to see Universities thinking about how to teach people to thrive in this world where 2 + 2 will equal yellow."

Chris HoodDirector at Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA)

Trend 6: Workplace as a service

Maciej-Markowski"2018 is the year when co-working/serviced office becomes an obvious choice for corporates. We will see workplace as a service becoming more & more prevalent. Companies will invest more in well-being & experience of their employees - through work perks, office features, but also using great smartphone applications. Your phone is bound to become a remote control for workplace & your personal health advisor. 

Last year I predicted increased flexibility & openness in offices, boom in office IoT - that happened. Predictive analytics revolutionising FM? Not yet, but I'm rescheduling it for my 2018 prediction!"

Maciej Markowski, CEO & Co-Founder at spaceOS

Trend 7: Data as the digital DNA

david-sharp"The shift from analogue to digital is inexorable. In 2018 I think more people will begin to comprehend the implications of data as a form of ‘digital DNA’ – something that leaves an identifiable trace of everything they do, and not just online.

Awareness of and individual's rights to exert control over their data will be driven by legislation (GDPR), case law, and the news agenda. It’s a moral maze and potential minefield for organisations: whoever manages best to use, control and protect data, while respecting the rights of data subjects, will thrive. Others will struggle."

David Sharp, Managing Director at International Workplace

Trend 8: Fragmentation of the workplace

james-ware"Looking back on my predictions of a year ago, I now see them as more wishful thinking than reasonable predictions. I want to see more workplace flexibility, more focus on managing for outcomes, and less “one size fits all.” In reality, I do not believe we are moving in those directions anywhere near rapidly enough. Now, in 2018, I am much more focused on what we are now calling “the ambient workplace” or the “smart office” - a technology-enabled work environment that is aware, responsive, and able to tailor itself to individual needs (temperature, lighting, sound, etc.).

To be even more provocative, I expect 2018 to be the year that artificial intelligence and machine learning become common components of our work experience. We must learn how to “partner” with computers for data capture, analysis, and interpretation. Finally, we are living through a tornado of economic transformation; Jeremy Rifkin’s “Third Industrial Revolution” is becoming real and will change literally everything about how we generate power, communicate, and move around this small planet we live on." 

James Ware, Executive Director of The Future of Work…unlimited 

Trend 9: Workplace as a hub for services

marie-schneegans"Companies will keep offering more and more services to make the life of their employees easier. From laundry to concierge and yoga classes, services will make workplaces more attractive to employees, saving them time and making their time in the office more pleasurable.

Most growth-stage startups have proven that such services are especially convincing for millennials, and it's now the turn for large corporations to roll out more of those."

Marie Schneegans,  CEO & Founder at Workwell

Trend 10: Thinking outside of...the desk

eric-marvin"The continued migration away from desk-based work is the trend I foresee exploding in the coming year. Technology and workers have adapted to a variety of workplace environments, both in and out of the office, that do not require an assigned desk. However, many organizations continue to devote space and resources to desking systems that for the most part go unused or at best under-utilized.

I look forward to the day when an office is not a building to hold desks and meeting rooms, but a space comprised of a variety of vignettes, designed to support the numerous ways people work today. And of course there will be no desks."

Eric Marvin,  Head of Workplace, AMR at Logitech

Trend 11: Core + flex portfolio strategy

mark-gilbreath"Two interrelated trends will reign supreme in 2018:

1) We will see the mainstreaming of Core + Flex Portfolio Strategy as occupiers drive more of their workplace footprint to flexible office options.

2) We will see the emergence of traditional landlords as direct participants in the flexible office market - providing flexible terms, engaging spaces and hospitality services that were previously only available from serviced offices and coworking spaces." 

Mark Gilbreath,  CEO/Founder at LiquidSpace

Finally, here is my own view on what to expect in 2018 in terms of workplace developments: 

Trend 12: PropTech, remote working and data privacy

imageedit_11_5055254805“First, due to the rise of the smart building we will see a growth in 'PropTech' integrations, intelligently connecting building management systems, access control, visitor management, meeting rooms or wifi access. Next, remote working will become a norm globally with more and more initiatives such as our very own annual remote working trip. Third, data privacy will be all over the news with the coming into force of GDPR in May 2018.”

Gregory Blondeau, Managing Director & Founder of Proxyclick



Did the last year's predictions come true? It's difficult to give a definite yes or no; the truth is probably somewhere in between.  In any case, the trend of humanizing the workplace and even customizing it to individual needs and preferences is more than noticeable. It's safe to say, we will see that develop further.

All in all, it was really great to again receive these, quite different, but valuable insights, and also notice some common themes for 2018, such as work-as-a-service or workplace as an experience (continued from last year), for example.

A big thank you to everyone who gave their answer. Special thanks to Kati Barklund, Maciej Markowski, Kay Sargent, James Ware, Mark Gilbreath and Chris Hood who answered my call for the second year in a row.

What about you? What do you think will be the prevalent workplace trends of 2018?

(Sneak ahead to our 2019 edition)


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