In the age of hybrid work that's upon us, companies need to dramatically rethink how they approach their office space. As ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott told a group of analysts and reporters during the company's Knowledge 2021 event, "Nobody wants to play office anymore."
For as long as they've existed, corporate office buildings have been places for workers to perform their daily tasks and for managers to ensure those tasks were completed. Those two fundamental purposes have held true whether the facility is a small suburban office or a massive corporate campus, whether the building is full of single offices or has an open floor plan, or whether the office is full of engineers, accountants, graphic design or all of the above. Yet as Bob Dylan immortalized in song, "the times they are a-changin'." And, it's about time.
So, the office's first purpose as I described it above, to provide a physical place for tasks to be accomplished, is no longer relevant.
What about the second purpose, allowing managers to ensure workers complete their tasks? Again, technology has solved for this. From software development to PR campaign launches, today's project management tools, office productivity apps, and enterprise software give managers and business leaders more insights into employee productivity than ever before.
Our thinking about the office's function however, needs to dramatically change.
During his remarks, McDermott noted that by 2024, 75% of the workforce will be from the millennial generation or younger, these people want to work "in a way that makes them most productive" and "want the flexibility to have a great experience."
"I think about office buildings like a computer or a smartphone," McDermott added. "It's a tool. And if that tool can bring you together with your colleagues and ideate, collaborate, innovate...fantastic. But they don't want to waste their time being stuck in the bullpen punching a time card looking busy."
McDermott's sentiments are supported by multiple studies conducted during the pandemic.
McDermott describes the danger for companies that fail to embrace a flexible, hybrid model of work as two fold.
First, they risk harming their customer experience.
As McDermott put it, companies can't have a Michelin 3-star customer experience without first having a Michelin 3-star employee experience.
Second, they risk losing or failing to hire top talent.
"If you want to attract the very best talent, you're going to have to have flexibility built in to the way you manage these companies," McDermott said. "We want to attract a whole new generation into the information technology industry and particular ServiceNow, and not every one of them is going to be able to move to Hyderabad or San Diego or Santa Clara. They could be in Chicago. They could be in Atlanta. They could be in Miami. They could be in Houston. They could be in Austin and many other places around the world."
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The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.