The working landscape has evolved and transformed so frequently over the last 18 months that expectations, predictions and aspirations for what the office should be, have never been more disparate. Although while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that where the office was very much ‘home of the 9-5’, it has now taken on a completely new identity.
Companies are now far better equipped to support their people wherever they are working and the uncertainty of hybrid working and what it means has worn off. But if that’s the case, why are companies considering their office designs and making their workplaces resource-rich, engaging environments? Despite workplaces seeing less traffic day-to-day, the office has consolidated its value to businesses during the Pandemic and the evolution it has been through means that it is exciting prospect to redefine the way we work and how we use the office.
The rise of hybrid working has meant companies have changed the way they occupy office space but it is still appealing to big companies. Savills reported that office space across central London reached 5.1 million sq ft by the end of Q3 2021, easily overtaking 2020’s total annual take-up of 4.7 million sq ft. Big Tech was also active in the commercial real estate market during the Pandemic as reported by Forbes. Amazon, Facebook and Google all picked up office space in the US in moves that were seen as “indicative of long-term bets on cities and established headquarters, along with additional large satellite locations in major secondary markets.”
Office design will keep moving forward and progress our ways of working. From adapting to changing markets to balancing new strategies, here are some of the key design considerations that will define workplaces for companies in 2022.
Sustainability has moved higher up the list of many business operations and the same applies with commercial property and office design. Companies are looking for ways to make their offices more sustainable day-to-day and this has influenced design and product designs.
Our recent project for Artistic Spaces at Oxgate House in London, was designed only using materials that were sourced within 500 miles of the site.
Sustainable design starts with the procurement process; it is not just about the amount of recycling bins you put into your office. Businesses are seeking ways to make their offices more appealing to staff and so more time is being dedicated to creating sustainable environments that align with CSR initiatives. Carbon net zero initiatives and other sustainable goals are all supported through sustainable office design.
There are many ways to build workspace with sustainability in mind. By incorporating high-efficiency systems, using LED lighting, taking advantage of natural light and passive ventilation, sticking to low-emission materials and re-using or re-purposing furniture, businesses can easily lessen their environmental impact. Certifications such as BREEAM, SKA or LEED are great for assessing the sustainability of buildings and infrastructure – demonstrating how the design and build industry can mitigate its contribution to climate change.
This trend will continue to grow in popularity as it will become a standard that new projects are procured, built and designed in a sustainable way. This will put more expectation on contractors to understand how to design a sustainable office and the benefits this offers to tenants.
Work from home (WFH) and hybrid schemes accelerated by the pandemic, the shrinking size of tech and its broader connectivity have freed us from some of the constraints of geography. We saw this with the multinational software company, Infor. The new office incorporates private booths with power and data integration, flexible and permanent desk space, breakout and touchdown zones and a range of AV meeting and training rooms to support several types of virtual collaboration, enabling staff to stay connected regardless of location.
As we continue to embrace a mix of ‘borderless’ physical and virtual meeting spaces, companies are realising that knowledge work doesn’t necessarily require physical proximity – an especially vital consideration for companies operating with a distributed or globalised workforce.
Employees’ dependence on digital tools during the pandemic – whether for collaboration or focused work – is paving the way to adopt even more innovative technologies. From pop-up to permanent solutions, the next generation of advanced digital platforms, such as virtual reality and augmented reality will drive a lot of change in 2022. The Metaverse remains a stratospheric idea for many of us as it is still unclear exactly how influential it will be within our working lives but this is certainly an area which will evolve quickly once more is understood about how it changes the way we work and connects us.
With remote working becoming the norm for so many companies, there is an expectation for data and analytics to provide businesses with monitoring and tracking capabilities. While this could cause some challenges over trust and accountability, the theory is that analytics can offer insights into user experiences. In the same way data is recorded in the workplace to help improve space utilisation or energy efficiency, this technology may be able help close the divide between remote co-workers and create a positive influence on wellbeing and performance.
As companies shift towards more inclusive workplaces, there are several considerations that are being introduced into offices with greater intent. Neurodiversity is not a new concept in the workplace and it has not always had the backing of employers, but the tide is changing.
Neurodiversity refers to the differences in our brain functions and our different approaches when interpreting information. ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia and Dyslexia are all examples of neurodiverse conditions.
Office design should provide employees with a sliding scale of spaces, offering them the option of where best to conduct their work depending on their wellbeing and psychological needs. In the same way that mothering rooms, prayer rooms and yoga spaces are being added to offices, the workplace is now becoming better equipped for neurodiverse workers.
Considering our environments either enable or inhibit our ability to work, office design is a critical facilitator in ensuring your people play to their strengths. Designing spaces that offer support for different working needs is making offices more inclusive for workers on the spectrum. This includes quiet working zones, areas with sound and light control, a considered use of colours or fabrics to help create calming spaces. These design details help to make offices more inclusive and help support talent attraction and retention.
Smart buildings can collect and share data, enabling companies to better understand when and how different spaces are being used. In Gymshark’s HQ we installed the UK’s first human-centric smart lighting system. It tracks how the space is used so that Gymshark can continually assess and optimise their office design as the company evolves.
A more integrated relationship with technology can also help us as we move forward in our return to the workplace: thermal imaging systems and touchless doors, like the ones we recently installed for Network Rail, help keep your employees safe from transmission, and we anticipate that future touchless sensor technologies will further enable employees to move easily around the workplace.
Remote working has solidified our reliance on digital information. Smart workspace uses digital sensors to monitor and respond to things like occupancy, air quality and natural light levels. Other technology solutions such as desk booking apps will help maintain a smooth flow of staff, ensuring that only one person touches a particular desk each day, and eliminating the possibility of being unable to correctly socially distance.
The rise of hybrid working will dictate how the office looks through the way we use it. While the look and feel of the office is not expected to transform drastically, staff will want their time in the office to be more purposeful and productive. With increased transient workers, the office will still be an essential part of a business’ structure so companies will look to maximise their available space to support this new type of working.
Remote working is expected to remain in some capacity, so when staff visit the office, they will be looking for the things they can’t access at home. This will push office design to enable greater collaboration and improve staff experience.
Office space will integrate more touch down and agile workspaces such as benches and booths to accommodate for a fluctuating office headcount. Rather than the large open plan layout of the past, the new settings need to be able to scale up and down with ease. The office will need to support the emerging needs of hybrid and flexible working both in the office and for remote workers.
To maximise autonomy and flexibility in the workplace, the office must serve a wider purpose than previously. As we adopt work models that empower staff to work from anywhere, we must consider how best to ensure staff remain engaged and productive throughout the workday.
In 2022, we anticipate that there will be a lot of change in the workplace. This will be influenced by the shift to hybrid working, and successful that proves to be, as well as how staff adapt to going back into offices on a more regular basis. Even though remote working is expected to remain for most businesses, the office will be redefined as a destination for socialising and community building. It is likely that the office will become more easily adaptable and cater more directly to people’s needs.
We lead you through each step of the fit out process, outlining industry terminology, considering cost and timescale, and demonstrating the benefits of design and build throughout this complex journey.download now