“What was supposed to happen in five to seven years, has happened within five months”. This is what Practical Futurist, TEDx speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner Andrew Grill said at our recent webinar.

The change in the workplace is far from complete. Andrew predicts that the workforce of the future will be driven by the three Ps of People, Purpose and Place. People are already adapting by acquiring new, often digital, skills.

Purpose – the ‘why’ of working – is set to become a more valuable attribute when choosing the company to work for, and employers and environments that can answer the ‘why’’ question best will be winners in the battle for talent. The physical workplace is undergoing perhaps the most obvious and visible change.

When Covid-19 upended our lives, it was the Government that told us to work from home. Now, it is employees who are driving the new ways of working. Having experienced the benefits of home working – as better work-life balance, ten-second commute and increased productivity – we don’t want to give them up. But as much as we love Zoom, let’s face it, an occasional day in the office would be welcome by now.

In fact, lack of social cohesion is cited as an issue with the new normal, and both employees and employers are missing the environment that breeds collaboration and gets creative juices flowing.

A hybrid option?

Andrew believes that a ‘third place of work’ might be the solution. ‘The third place’ is a concept in sociology and urban planning that recognises the role semi-public and semi-private places play in fostering collaboration.

The third place is, of course, already here, and the likes of WeWork have been around for a while. According to Andrew, the concept is set to go mainstream. Space won’t be an issue: there is a real opportunity for struggling shopping centres to pivot and become third place/co-working spaces. Westfield London’s owners have submitted a planning application to convert two thirds of the flagship House of Fraser store into a flexible office space.

An insider’s view

Our client Orega, a ‘workplace as a service’ provider, has always focused on the whole office equation of People, Property, Space and Technology to provide a workspace that complements and enhances customers’ performance.

Zachary Douglas, CEO and founder, comments, “I have been running Orega for 20 years. We have so far traded through two previous downturns, after 9/11 and in 2008, and are currently navigating our way through this latest change of fortunes.

“Fascinatingly, each time there is a downturn the focus turns towards a long-term fundamental change in the way organisations work. The subject of everyone being able to work in an outsourced way comes back to the fore, primarily as it is a cheaper way of working than utilising office space.

This time, however, it is a little different as the move to working from home has been driven by our need to isolate from each other and be less socially interactive. Whilst we have seen fundamental changes to the way we are able to work, the one constant is that we are social creatures who for the most part require human interaction in our working lives.

This past six months has been a crash test for Zoom/Microsoft Teams/FaceTime etc., and even though most of us have been able to do the minimum we need to survive, it is unlikely to be adopted as a full-time change. Rather it’s just another tool in our armoury that we will all use a little more going forward.

“I have heard much on the relative benefits of the third place of work better suiting an employee’s work/life balance, however I am also aware that some organisations have raised concerns over both online security as well as productivity. Ultimately, there is an argument that if a role can be fully outsourced there is always a risk that it will no longer be done by the current workforce, but by an outsourced supplier who can demonstrate a more cost-effective option. Sometimes we need to be careful what we wish for…”


• takes away the intrusion of working from home
• re-orientates a sense of community with employees and the organisation
• allows for collaboration with co-workers
• avoids a lengthy commute in the office
• lets organisations ‘flex’ their space office depending on the evolving need.

Want to know more? Watch a replay of our Workforce of the Future webinar:

Read more from this edition of Ahead of the Curve

Table of contents


Contact us if you would like to receive Ahead of the Curve direct to your inbox.