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Exploring the future workplace: results of the futures forum study

Purpose – The purpose of this paper describes the set-up and results of the “futures forum” study. Through different methodological approaches, the future of work and its implications for the future (physical) workplace are explored. What will our office workplace look like in 2025 and how best to support future work, in alignment with the different organisational support services [human resources, information technology (IT), facility management and real estate] Design/methodology/approach – Different stakeholders were involved through different methods. First, a global literature study summed up some of the contemporary views on future directions and future studies. Second, focus groups were held with office end-users and employees of 11 participating organisations. Third, a Delphi study was applied to a multidisciplinary expert group. And finally, results were further developed in a “pre-design” workshop. The “forum” refers to the consortium of private and public partners that supported the study. The research involved large (>1,000 employees) knowledge-based and administrative organisations. Findings – The fast-developing digitalisation will have substantial repercussions for work processes and environments. New types of work and work processes are appearing and need to be accommodated. Work will be organised in a more dynamic manner to adapt to the rapid changes in the market. Automation will lead to a continuous decrease of administrative processes which leaves more complex, knowledge-intensive work in organisations. Digitalisation and technology will lead to new ways of working and other necessary capabilities in the organisation with great emphasis on IT and technology-based activities. This dynamic environment brings the demand for an agile response of the support services in the organisation and a work environment that can accommodate changes easily. The main findings centre around eight themes for the future workplace that were considered to be the main, joint priorities of support services. These themes are changes in work, move towards digitalisation, adaptive potential of organisations, liberation of old structures, attract and retain employees, self-employment and self-marketing and future employee needs. Because of the dimensions of the research topic, a broad thematic perspective was applied so a further in-depth exploration might be valuable. The stakeholders that were involved in the data collection were mostly contacted through research partners, which might narrow research findings. Originality/value – Many “future studies” have been taken place in the past, and they all apply a different research scope. This study aimed specifically at large office organisations in The Netherlands and on the implications for the future workplace that are to be addressed in a communal way by the organisations’ support services.