As technology changes the way we work, and the millennial generation enters the workplace, it’s inevitable that the physical workplace will evolve, too. So what are the new trends in workplace design, and how will they be used? Let’s take a look!
Anyone who has taken a break from the workplace or moved into a new office space in the last five years will appreciate how much the workplace has changed in that time.
Whether you work in a large corporate setting or a boutique agency, hot-desk between work and home, or even share a co-working space, the days of boxy hierarchical offices are rapidly fading, along with completely open-plan offices, and we are now seeing spaces far more suited to the next generation – the millennials.
Employers wanting to recruit the best new talent and hang onto their staff are aware that the look and layout of the workspace is a crucial element in creating an appealing environment as well as the right impression to clients who visit.
Flexibility is a key factor as people no longer need or want to be chained to a desk from 9-5 every day, and millennials see work as an extension of their social lives, not separate to it. As such, the changing physical workplace represents an exciting development in how we live and work.
This is a topic relevant to not just employers – it also impacts how the next generation of corporate real estate is designed and marketed, so it’s clearly a topic of relevance to many.
A well-designed space can improve performance and motivation, and is practically essential to attract a younger, creative generation who can easily choose to work for themselves instead.
So what does the office of the future – and twenty twenty is now less that two years away – look like?
The workspace of the future is multi-faceted
Companies will need to provide not one but three key types of workplace:
We have seen a shift towards open-plan workplaces teamed with breakout areas and small meeting rooms for collaborative work.
From a real estate perspective, with more staff working freelance, office environments may become smaller and more space-efficient to run.
By looking at how business functions on a daily basis, savvy office designers will incorporate bespoke interior design elements – for example, shared areas for collaborative work and communal lounges to encourage teamwork. Wheeled desks and moveable partitions will also enable a more ‘agile’ office layout, giving people the freedom to choose how they want to work.
Attracting and retaining staff is also a key element when designing an office, as more workers choose to go it alone. Workplaces need to be welcoming and there is now a trend towards creating a comfortable, almost hotel-like space, with natural light and comfortable furniture, a kitchen and even a barista.
Technology, marketing and advertising businesses are leading this trend, which can go even further with slides, yoga spaces, nap zones and beanbag meeting rooms – all encouraging a relaxed and playful work environment.
Remote working is on the rise, with freelancing website Upwork reporting that 35 per cent of the US workforce is now freelance. With larger companies increasingly using freelancers for single projects rather than hiring permanent staff, offices will need to accommodate a more fluid workforce with areas for freelancers. We are seeing a growing interest in setting up large co-working spaces, with fast wi-fi being the obvious drawcard.
Remote working can also apply to permanent staff, who may work from home but will also move around the workplace, with a fixed desk surrounded by filing cabinets a thing of the past now that so many tasks are completed online. Offices will increasingly be designed to enable workers to move around depending on the project.
Online meetings are now commonplace, cutting down on traveling time and enabling people to work from home. We will soon see virtual reality headsets which will enable holographic meetings, too!
How the top companies design their workplaces
The research arm of American design and architecture firm Gensler surveyed 900 full time workers, from different companies, to find out what makes a successful workplace. This research suggests that top performing companies set up their workspaces to accommodate and support five work ‘modes’ that inspire innovation, with employees moving between these modes throughout their day.
The five work modes
Quiet spaces for focussed, individual work requiring undivided attention are now essential, particularly with offices now more open-plan and the 24-hour work culture that has arisen with the internet.
Comfortable lounge areas, outdoor space, even bars, encourage employees to build relationships and share ideas in an informal setting, which leads to better working relationships and increased performance.
Millennials in particular see work as an opportunity to socialise and collaborate, and so there is a move towards workplaces being more casual and home-like as the 9-5 workday has been replaced by a blurred line between work and play.
Some offices go further and design spaces that can be opened to the public and invite engagement with the wider community.
Seminar rooms and shared spaces will encourage learning, which is important to millennials who see work not just as a means to make money but also an opportunity to have new learning experiences, to grow and be exposed to different ideas.
Although this work mode takes less time than focussed work, it is seen as essential to business success in the growing ‘ideas economy’. The workplaces of the future will increasingly provide not only meeting rooms and team working areas, but also the technology to enable remote collaborative work.
This is a newer work mode that encourages employees to rest and recharge, not only from technology but also from all that collaborative work that can be draining, particularly for introverts. This may be as simple as a quiet room or a space for yoga or massage. And with sleep deprivation on the rise, some companies are even providing a nap zone for staff to have a quick power nap before returning to work refreshed and alert.
Enjoying the workspace of the future
Driven by technological changes and a new generation that expect a more creative and inspiring environment to spend their working lives, the workplace of the future will demand more from its designers.
But the payoff are spaces that will inspire and motivate, with all the business rewards that follow – and that is something to look forward to.