Four capitals discuss emerging workplace trends in Latin America

Big themes of workplace change were on the agenda as WORKTECH branched out with four conferences in Latin America in 2018. Six more are planned for 2019

The WORKTECH conference series launched four Latin American events during September and October 2018. Live events were held in the capital cities of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Ecuador. More than 1,000 people attended, as professionals from different disciplines offered a fresh and inspiring look at the corporate environment and at the design of workspaces.

Víctor Feingold, CEO of Contract Workplaces and co-organiser of the WORKTECH LATAM events, explains why WORKTECH came to Latin America: ‘The transformation of the working world means we have the increasing need to stay updated. Holding events like WORKTECH allows us to share not just with our team, but with the entire market, all the trends and drivers that are triggering changes which are affecting our day-to-day business and which come at an ever-growing speed.

‘How to adapt positively to this change and not die in the process, how organisations should understand technology disruption when new generations join the working world, and how to manage that situation, are some of the questions we are attempting to answer.’

The WORKTECH conference series has been successfully held for more than 15 years around the world. With the support of Contract Workplaces, WORKTECH has come to Latin America and is here to stay. Playing to full houses and with notable international speakers, WORKTECH 2018 LATAM dealt with topics such as: emerging technologies, AI, human-centred workplaces, neuroarchitecture and high-performance culture, among others.

Emerging technologies

Integrating technology into the physical space, along with wellbeing, control and customisation of the environment, will allow companies to be more efficient and to attract and retain the best talents of the 21st century.

‘Work environments will become a confluence of social media and physical spaces’, claimed Philip Ross of UnWork and Cordless Consultants, who brought to the table the debate on technology and its impact on the ways of working and on establishing relationships within the workplace. As new technologies are developed, the expectation for being constantly connected grows. This has driven a transformation towards a streamlined and flexible working style – people no longer need to be chained to a desk to work. Technology can help each user find the available working space that best fits their working style.

Regarding this approach, Matías Romo, CEO of ST GO LAB Inc, developed clear examples of how the different technology platforms will become more and more involved in our everyday working life and will simplify all kinds of tasks. When faced with the question of whether human beings will ever be replaced by machines, Romo stated that both will keep complementing each other to generate solutions tailored to the needs of the market.

Rodrigo Astiazarán, General Manager of Microsoft Uruguay, and Wilson Pais, Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft Chile, discussed the skills required by today’s labour market and the ways in which modern work spaces help to boost and develop them in this context of digital transformation. HOK’s Director of Workplace, Kay Sargent, also reflected on the integration of emerging technologies in workspaces and she added the commitment of people to companies as an added value.

‘Another important factor to take into consideration is the work flexibility people now have thanks to digital technology,’ stated Juan Carlos Cisneros, General Manager of Microsoft Ecuador. For her part, Eva Rimbau Gilabert, professor and researcher of people management at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, submitted scientific evidence supporting the positive impact of digital technology on workers, but she also mentioned negative effects and suggested possible solutions to them.

During the Santiago de Chile edition, there was a fruitful panel discussion to deal with these topics, made up of Tomás Sánchez, Director of Accenture Digital Chile and board member of ASECH (Entrepreneurship Association of Chile), and Gabriel Gurovich, President of Cuponatic Latam, during which the audience was invited to participate.

The humanised office

With technology, the growth of urban concentration and generational change as the main drivers of this transformation process, the office of the future will become the heart of social interactions and collaboration, with a focus on the empowerment of people to decide how, where and when to work.

‘Workplace will be a powerhouse for creativity…’

On this subject, Louis Lhoest, Managing Partner of Veldhoen + Company International, focused on the fact that ‘the humanisation of the office is the future to actually boost individual skills’. He introduced the concept of activity-based working, which formulates the need to have different places for each activity developing in the office. According to the specialist, ‘implementing this strategy may result in an increase of productivity of up to 40 per cent.’

Along the same lines as Lhoest, architect Víctor Feingold, CEO of Contract Workplaces, stated that ‘the office of the future will be much more humanised, absolutely flexible and a powerhouse of creativity. The work space will become a meeting place, a space for collaboration, where the best ideas and the innovation needed to survive in an ever-changing world will come into existence.’

On the other hand, Eduardo Oppenheimer, Expansion Manager of Globant, spoke about the importance of team interaction in workspaces and the comforts which need to be offered so that all employees can freely express their creativity and make a difference.

In this sense, Mariana Maggio, head of academic programs at Microsoft LATAM, said that ‘to turn our organisations into places where knowledge is built, it is necessary to think of redesigning the educational space.’ Guzmán de Yarza Blache, Academic Director at the IE School of Architecture and Design, gave seven principles that result in building innovative, productive and healthy environments focused on individual wellbeing.

Productivity paradox

In a highly competitive global market that has a heterogeneous workforce equipped with professional education, values and very diverse skills, companies need to treat their employees as unique persons to attract and retain the best of them. According to Santiago Fernández Escobar, the founder and CEO of Acros Training—a consultancy firm specialised in coaching – the way to build a high-performance culture in a company is to have great leaders capable of recognising and exploring concepts such as trust and acknowledgment.

A high-performance culture is characterised by employee productivity, particularly by the creation of a context where people do much more than the average, more than what they are required to do. Productivity should arise from the desire and the belief that it is necessary to work to offer the best possible version of oneself, and not just comply with rules.

To get productivity to increase, it is essential to have a work environment in line with the concepts of wellbeing and comfort. In that sense, Feingold stated that ‘the office should be a more natural environment that promotes employee health and wellbeing, since it is impossible to improve productivity in a place that makes employees sick.’ Lastly, he also highlighted the importance of flexibility. If a space does not offer the chance to adapt and evolve with the business, it will thwart all possibilities of growth.

Change the perspective

As regards solving complex problems, the founder and director of Minds Garage, Hernán Kigel, referred to the need to change the perspective through multidisciplinary and heterogeneous teams, while he explored the concept of design thinking through the work methodology practiced by the medical team in TV series House.

‘Culture is the set of beliefs and actions that a person thinks they need to have to belong to an organisation,’ said Rafael Hermida, Country Manager of Mercado Libre Uruguay. This is why it is essential to create solid values at an organisational level to drive its proper operation based on the commitment and identification of its collaborators.

Over the course of two months, the WORKTECH conference series travelled to four leading cities in Latin America – each event presented key themes which are transforming the future of work. From the emerging technologies of Artificial Intelligence to the pull-back to human-centric workplaces and neuroarchitecture, the landscape of workplace is changing and the region is ready to embrace it all.

Watch the full WORKTECH LATAM 2018 talks here

WORKTECH LATAM 2019 In 2019 the WORKTECH Latam series extend to six cities and will take place in: Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Mexico City, Lima, Santiago de Chile and Quito. If you want to be a part of the future of work, contact us at  [email protected] or follow us on social media to hear all the latest news.
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