Designing for the future office relies on the ability to predict trends way before they happen. The workplace is a living, breathing organism that is in a constant state of flux. And now when we talk about the office, the stereotypical views of a small cubicle amidst a sea of desks are a thing of the past. There is no longer a standard office and this is due to the exceptional rate of growth and development in office design.
In the early-mid 2000s, the workplace was experiencing significant changes due to the dotcom era and technology like fax machines were being classed as cutting-edge. The types of offices we see in 80’s sitcoms and old movies were shaped by these functions and the aesthetic of workplaces was determined by seas of cubicles and desks.
In a relatively short space of time, the attitudes and expectations of the office have shifted significantly. In 2023 we are prioritising sustainable design, neurodiverse spaces and wellbeing in the office. Our understanding and appreciation of what we need from an office has evolved and our work behaviours have changed. The outlook for the future workplace is that the way it is today, will not be how it is tomorrow and businesses need to align their offices with the demands of the future workforce.
The future workplace is an environment with dynamic work settings that blends experience and performance.
The office of the future will be a multidisciplinary space that will be highly optimised to support specific functions within the office. There will be a seamless balance of in-person and virtual working and office interiors will look less corporate, adopting a hospitality-inspired setting.
A common viewpoint is that the workplace of the future will look different for every company; there will not be one aesthetic that is mirrored across organisations. However, certain aspects of office design will emerge as more popular choices based on the needs of the users. This means offices will look less generic with a prioritisation of workspaces that allow individuals to be more efficient.
Some of the things that may appear in the future workplace:
• Gyms and wellness areas
• AI and robots
• Office gardens
• Coffee shop-style collaboration zones
• Focus rooms and private workspace
In the coming years, office space will continue to be reimagined to support the needs of people in the workplace. The office of the future will provide highly optimised work settings and aim to address the needs of individuals.
As more companies look to consolidate their office space and streamline their properties, there will be a shift away from generic open-plan office space. While open-plan space allows for flexibility, it also creates ambiguity over the purpose of the space and leads to increased sharing and cross-pollination of tasks.
One of the ways that the future workplace will change is that the term hybrid working will become redundant. As working behaviours shift to become more flexible as standard, “hybrid” will become a thing of the past and will simply become known as work. Time in the office will remain an important commodity for many businesses as the requirement for knowledge sharing, career development and socialising becomes increasingly important in the future workplace.
There is also an expectation that robots and artificial intelligence will blend more seamlessly with the human workforce. We have already seen the emergence of Chat GPT and how that is being used in business and it will likely only become more prevalent. Currently, the idea of robot assistants and smart machines feels like science-fiction but workplace technology will be one of the biggest areas to evolve.
When we talk about the future, we must consider the next generation and the legacy of the office. Our ways of working evolve quickly and it’s essential to create a plan which will ensure the next generation of workers are engaged with their workplaces.
To help understand what the next generation wants, we have published the Future Workplace Report based on data from 1,000 18-34 year-old office workers. Building a picture of what is important to these younger workers helps to shape the look and feel of the future office and support talent attraction in the years to come. We have highlighted 4 key takeaways from the Future Workplace Report that will influence the design of the future workplace.
Gen Z and Young Millennials view time in the office as a time to be productive. With hybrid working becoming more standardised in many businesses, time in the office is becoming increasingly valuable for young workers. The future workplace should be optimised for efficiency and enable people to be autonomous in their work.
Wellbeing will become a priority in the future and there will be an expectation that the office will get better at supporting people. This will involve greater access to quality amenities and dedicated spaces within the workplace will help improve both physical and mental wellbeing at work.
Focusing on the quality and efficiency of office space will lead to more productive teams. Having excessive, underutilised office space is costly and multipurpose spaces provide less value to workers. The office should aim to offer high-quality environments that optimise specific tasks rather than generic settings that support a variety of tasks.
Organisations should use their office to offer employees something they can’t get at home. Hybrid working will only grow in popularity so the value of the office must be explicit. Young workers view the office as a place to socialise but also to learn and develop. The unique value of the office needs to be unlocked and elevated.
Workplace experience will be a crucial element in the success of the future office. Investing in creating a memorable and positive experience in the workplace will help lure staff back to the office. This will also prevent companies from having to roll out return to work mandates amongst other drastic measures.
If the option to work remotely for part of the week is available, then the office has to compete with the home or “third places” such as coffee shops. This means that the office has to offer employees something they cannot find in these other settings.
One of these things is the notion of control and Creative Workplace Director Sean Espinasse believes that giving employees more control over their working environment can drastically improve their office experience.
Creating the right environment and delivering the desired experience of the office comes from a combination of things and is not a quick fix. However, with the right design strategy and workplace brief, businesses can design more rewarding experiences in the office.
The future workplace will almost certainly not be determined by one single thing. There will be characteristics that are shared by different businesses across different sectors but the workplace of the future will be different for everyone.
As the future of work becomes clearer, the need for greater flexibility will be one of the traits of the workplace that will be seen across many organisations. It is difficult to predict exactly how the future workplace will look for one company vs the next but it all starts with the workplace brief.
Every business and every team within a business will have slightly different needs and requirements from their work environment. These determining factors help shape the look and feel of the office so the physical office will not look the same for everyone in the future.
There are lots of exciting developments and opportunities which will redefine our current working patterns in some way. New technology, enhanced wellbeing facilities and a better understanding of how to be effective at work will shape future offices and these trends will be adopted by more than one company.
For more information on how to build your future workplace brief, download our Future Workplace Report to give you an insight into what the next generation of workers expects to see in the office.download report