With the onset of globalisation came the rise of a massive middle class and the freedom of people to enjoy a lifestyle that may have previously been unavailable to them.
This megatrend is directly influencing the OP industry in terms of not only connecting with customers and offering products and services they want, but even gaining and retaining talent within companies.
Businesses need to get to grips with the fact that every employee and every client/customer is an individual with particular requirements. Brother UK Managing Director Phil Jones says that individualism is increasingly becoming a de facto requirement, from cars, to clothing and technology. “Rapid, cell-based, short-burst manufacturing will be required to respond to consumer demands. Personalisation will help to differentiate from high-commodity, same-day, drone-delivered, high-volume products,” he adds.
We are already see the ‘individual’ trend working its way through the workplace in terms of office furniture and products. “Individualisation sees staff having a keen interest in personalising and ‘owning’ their workspace. From a specific chair to drinking a beverage of choice, this trend extends across – but isn’t limited to – desktop accessories, writing instruments, notebooks, catering supplies, furniture and technology devices,” says VOW Commercial and Marketing Director Heather McManus.
And not forgetting…
While OPI has focused on the ‘biggest’ megatrends of individualisation, globalisation, climate change, demographics, technology and urbanisation, there are many more. Other current megatrends include e-mobility, health and fitness, entrepreneurship, women in business, smart cities, attention economy, commercialisation, zero world, and the sharing economy.
Within all the megatrends are numerous sub-trends, several of which will eventually become megatrends. Some of the most influential sub-trends currently include robotics, artificial intelligence, beyond BRIC, war for talent and increasing philanthropy.
OPI spoke with CBRE Americas Head of Research Spencer Levy about megatrends and their effect on the workplace. Below is a summary of that conversation.
On the biggest megatrends
Levy considers secular megatrends – demographics, political intransience, globalisation and automation – as the most impactful as they affect everyone. One important trend in the real estate office sector is densification – taking up less space with the same amount of people. The rise of cities is also worth taking note of as in many cases they are becoming more important than states.
Levy stresses the war for talent as a major concern for businesses and warns there is a major shift occurring with regards to the global workforce. Citing a recent trip to Mexico, Levy said: “I made a point that their [Mexico’s] competitive advantage today of low cost labour is going to be fleeting in its value. Automation and capital vs labour is eventually going to reshore manufacturing elsewhere as cheap labour loses its attractiveness.”
Explaining further, Levy says globalisation made it possible to outsource labour to other countries when it got too expensive. But, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find cheap sources of labour.
On cities, demographics and urbanisation
Levy believes the rise of cities is going to become more pronounced over the next two decades as the value of skilled labour becomes more noticeable. And while half of the world’s population now lives in urban rather than rural areas, he also adds that contrary to popular belief, millennials will stay in the city only until they start families at which point they will move out. He also reasons that millennials like the gig economy as it means flexible jobs and working hours because of growing up during the global financial crisis when they were unable to find permanent jobs.
Millennials are also helping to redesign the workplace environment in terms of connectivity, co-working, and the open office. The Internet of Things (IoT) is also accelerating these changes and is important when talking about the interior of an office along with the facilities management aspect of a building such as door locks, sprinkler systems and air conditioning. “IoT is only going to increase and will also move into areas that you can’t even imagine right now,” says Levy.
Technology is changing just about every other aspect of the business supplies world, including logistics. Self-driving cars and trucks are already being tested across the world, as are drones, and different types of businesses are forcing each other to offer ever-faster delivery times. But Levy believes that there is a point where the logistical advantage offered by e-commerce versus bricks-and-mortar stores will reach a plateau.
While e-commerce generally offers lower-cost goods that can be delivered quicker, it is just one service. Levy explains that what cannot be provided by that service is the experience surrounding a particular good – something that retailers are constantly adapting too.
One trend causing concern for many employees is that the rise and pace of technological change – including robotics – will result in increased automation and the loss of jobs. Levy says there are two schools of thought: the techno-optimism and the techno-pessimism.
The former, led by Andrew McAfee and Alec Ross, believe that technology change and technologies such as artificial intelligence will create more jobs than they destroy. The pessimistic side led by Robert Gordon says the productivity of the average worker is slowing down and that technology has not been innovative enough to make the average worker better. Therefore, if you cannot produce more goods, you cannot make more money. “We are at a tipping point today and the two camps are lining up,” Levy concludes.