The Way Business Is Moving published by
Issue Date: September 2008

Network, community or fortress?

September 2008
Douglas Weinrich of Johnson Controls

The office as we know it is going to be transformed over the next 20 years according to a new report published 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.
Three future scenarios
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 multinationals, 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.
Jazzy, Dantesque combinations
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.”
Preparing for the future
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.
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.”
In Professor John Ratcliffe’s opinion (joint author of the report, with colleague Ruth Saurin, and chairman of The Futures Academy), “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.”

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