If you don’t currently have a child in primary school, you probably don’t know what’s starting to happen in the classrooms across Australia and how it’s going to affect workplace design in 10 years’ time.

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Last year, my 11-year-old daughter was telling me how excited she was that her class had recently received new furniture. I didn’t really give it a thought until I attended the parent’s “iPad boot camp.” That’s where we parents were briefed on how a lot of school work was being migrated on to iPads, which is another story in itself.

When I walked into her classroom, I was a bit taken aback! Where were the desks in neat rows? Well, there weren’t any. The classroom looked more like something you would see in a new tech startup: lounges, café seating and big, shared tables … but no desks!

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During a typical school day, my daughter “works” — by the way, it’s not called “study” anymore – as part of a team on the big table, reads on the lounge or does some one-on-one work with the teacher at a café table, all using the school’s Wi-Fi network. I asked the principal, “What gives?” and he explained that when they needed new furniture they decided to visit a few cutting-edge workplaces and chose a similar look. By bucking the traditional classroom format, this school is equipping their students with an environment that will best prepare them for their transition into the workplace.

Lessons from this story:

  1. In 10 years’ time, there is a good chance that new employees will have never sat in a traditional desk.
  2. Those new employees have grown up doing their work wherever they think is the best place for the particular task.
  3. If you want to recruit and retain that bright new graduate, you better have a workplace that looks like my daughter’s classroom.

We can expect to see more of this as the education systems prepares their students for a more flexible workplace of the future.

Find out more about how workplace strategy can create spaces for a multi-generational workforce.

As National Director of Workplace Strategy and Design for Colliers International in Australia, Peter is a workplace strategist and qualified architect with over 25 years’ experience in workplace and base building design, working with clients ranging from Bauer Media Group, AT Kearney, Ricoh, ANZ Bank and Citrix.