Innovation Is Revolutionizing the Future of Work

Freedom, flexibility and transformation are the philosophies shaping the workplace today.

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By David Mandell


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Disruption. It's likely the most popular word used to describe tech ventures. Not surprisingly, the more it's used, the more meaning it loses. True disruption means flipping the status quo on its head. In the workplace, we see traditional businesses label their work as disruptive, but the majority of the time they're actually doing the same old thing with a new spin.

However, some recent entries into the market have proven to be disruptive in the term's truest sense. We've seen solutions for finding and managing space where the cost structure and ease of use is optimized to complement modern, dynamic businesses versus restricting them.

Take KISI, for example, whose team is reinventing building access and security by doing away with the concept of keys and fobs all together. Additionally, you have Managed By Q's automated system that connects you to office management professionals and schedules their services -- from cleaning to kitchen-stocking -- at the click of a button. These are the disruptors who are wholly focused on giving the consumer exactly what they want, when they want it. It's a mantra that's forging the pathway for everything from monetizing couches, automating butler services, redefining office space leasing or opening private air travel to the masses. The world is being reimagined by a workforce that not only expects change, but is willing to create it.

Related: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Disruption

So what's fueling this fire? The short answer is technology, and it gets better and better at driving a level of human productivity that some of us never thought possible. We've moved from an information society to a knowledge society where technology is enhancing our ability to learn, teach and apply our learnings to varying situations at a swifter and smarter pace. This shift is creating a new generation of workers who have developed a more diverse skill set and range of abilities and have created new forms of communication and work styles. In turn, this new workforce has different priorities regarding their work/life relationship and are unrestricted by things like time, money and space. We're in the middle of a transformation. The future of the workplace is turning on its head.

A balance of freedom, trust and performance equals happiness.

Baby boomers and the traditional workforce are retiring. Generation Xers are skeptics, and millennials are hell bent on changing the world. By 2020, millennials will make up half of the workforce, and their path to success is very different from that of their predecessors. This quote from a male graduate employee cited in a recent PwC study is a perfect example of the millennial approach -- "My career will be one of choice, not one chosen out of desperation. It will align who I am with what I do."

In short, millennials want their work to be valued, purposeful, and most of all, impactful. Gen Xers still value many of the same things and don't want to burn out the way the boomers did, making the work/life balance very important to both segments. Our businesses are responsible for supporting this direction -- and in many cases, it's these people who are starting companies and injecting the very same concepts into the foundations of the business.

Related: Did Millennials Kill the 9-to-5 Workday, or Just Point Out That It's Dead?

The question is, how do you empower their drive so that together you can catapult a business into success? It starts in the workplace -- physical or digital -- where your company's culture will either help inspire your employees to be greater or drive a wedge between you. And when I say the word culture, I mean far more than fancy office spaces, ramen lunches and weekly ping-pong tournaments.

Beyond entertainment, real company culture is about building valuable connections and ensuring every team member feels empowered to make meaningful contributions to a company's growth. For millennials, that often entails an environment that allots a great deal of freedom and trust. I've found that by leveraging tools like Slack and Google Hangouts to connect with my remote team, I don't miss the old way of keeping tabs on employees. In fact, by giving my employees a longer leash, I've actually built a stronger, more accountable team -- a team that performs because they care about the fruits of their labor, not because they have a boss looking over their shoulder. On the business end, should you choose to employ this approach, you can look to performance and results to measure the effect, rather than time spent behind a desk. We favor Mixpanel, Yesware and Salesforce in particular, for monitoring performance.

Mobility redefines the definition of work space. And SaaS makes it flexible.

The result of this newfound freedom? The traditional workplace is dying as mobility takes hold. Stodgy offices where employees remained on lockdown between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm -- and where status was determined by the size of your office and the number of windows -- has given way to a new generation of workers who have no need to mark their territory with picture frames and postcards from the edge. Rather, a comfy seat, a well-equipped laptop and a place to connect are the only requirements to building the next big thing. Add to that the 80 percent increase in telecommuting jobs between 2005 and 2012, and you'll see the trend has switched to collaborative workspaces and tools, flexible schedules and the ability to transcend borders. Face it. How we work and where we work has been completely upended by the new working economy.

Fueling the shift is the efficiency created by the combination of mobility and Saas. Software as a service (SaaS) innovations make things flexible by providing companies a way to cost effectively gain access to a host of services that scale alongside the business to fit the evolving needs of employees. Mobility allows those services to operate virtually anywhere. The two combined have allowed companies to free themselves from the traditional models that have long tied companies to costs and overhead that impact the profit margins -- namely office space. Untethered to a traditional office location or a static lease agreement commercial real estate, SaaS services and marketplaces have expanded the workforce geographically by eliminating the need for multi-year commercial leases that were costly and fought against the dynamic nature with which modern businesses grow.

Related: How This SaaS-Based Startup Managed to Bag $250K

Today, hosting remote teams, opening new markets and expanding into international regions is easier than ever due to more flexible office space solutions. The commercial real estate industry (brokers, landlords, building managers) is starting to take notice, partnering with progressive, shared office space solutions who have a stronghold on the market. Gone are makeshift offices housed in garages and seedy basements. Establishing a multi-market presence was a feat that was once reserved for Fortune 500 conglomerates. Now it's open to any size business.

Applying a SaaS model to office space has changed the game. Businesses can easily secure professional office space on a month-to-month basis in any major city across the globe. With global satellite offices supplemented by remote teams, they can attract top talent and leverage mobility solutions to stay connected and build on their company's culture. The payoff is the company's ability to deliver real value to their employees in dividends of money, time and independence.

In short, change is inevitable, and change is good. Freedom. Flexibility. Transformation. These are the new philosophies infiltrating today's workplace. Rest assured it will be different tomorrow when a new breed of workers arrives. Accept it, embrace it and leverage it to empower the people who are committing to help you build great things.
David Mandell

Co-founder and CEO of PivotDesk

David Mandell is the co-founder and CEO of PivotDesk, a TechStars Boulder 2012 company that helps find room for growing businesses.

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