The Office of the Future

Chris Birchall, workplace strategist at Penketh Group, discusses how changing attitudes at work are influencing office design and predicts how future workplaces will function. 

With increased pressures on businesses to reduce costs and continually innovate, there is a huge demand for the offices of the future to bring employees together to support collaboration, improve engagement and boost productivity.

There are now more mobile workers than ever before and this is set to increase to nearly half of the UK workforce by 2020, so to bring people back to the office, future workplaces will need to offer employees an experience and work tools they can’t access elsewhere. By investing in improved workplaces, employers can make their offices a destination of choice for both existing employees and new talent.

The future is creative 

Work that used to be driven by processes and efficiency has become much more complex and varied.  Many of today’s business problems require employees to be creative and innovative on a daily basis.

To support this culture shift towards more creative and team-based work, an office of the future will need to offer a new range of spaces with the right tools to support the creative process.

With 72 per cent of workers believing their future success depends on their ability to be creative and 44 per cent of people feeling they could be more creative at work if they had a place to work without distractions, it’s important to offer a range of spaces to support different stages of creativity.

Such environments include:

  • Focus areasfor one or two people to get into the flow and work on a project with minimal distractions
  • Hi-tech, yet comfortablebrainstorming environments that encourage active participation, giving everyone the opportunity for idea generation and sharing
  • Somewhere comfortable and privateto rejuvenate and have individual thinking time to process the information and ideas discussed

Research has also revealed that 40 per cent of workers come to the office for access to the tools and tech they need. To support a collaborative work environment, physical and digital spaces will be merged, with a wider variety of workspaces incorporating technology to support the creative process as it moves through different stages.

With fewer assigned desks and more agile working, people will increasingly work from alternative spaces, depending on the type of work they are doing.  This may mean they need integrated power for using their laptop in a work café, or video conferencing to connect with remote colleagues when working on a project, or screen sharing technology within a collaborative environment.

A destination of choice

An increase in agile working in the future will reduce the need for individual and ‘assigned’ desks, providing more space to incorporate a range of alternative workspaces to support the different ways of working.

With workers more dispersed than ever, a key role of the future workplace will be to bring employees together so they can socially connect, build relationships and identify with and be part of the culture of a company.

Seventy-two per cent of workers say the office is the best place to interact with colleagues, so a more social workplace will incorporate more informal, relaxed and comfortable co-working spaces to appeal to workers and bring them back to the office.

In terms of furniture and decor, design influences are increasingly crossing over from the home into the workplace, to create spaces where people feel comfortable and at ease, and therefore more likely to share thoughts and ideas freely without question or inhibition.

Feel better, work better

Employee wellbeing is likely to be near the top of the list for any future workplace designs.  By considering employees’ emotional and cognitive needs as well as their physical, the office of the future can make people feel, think and work better.

Wellbeing can be incorporated into workplace designs by providing a variety of spaces to cater for employees’ needs at different times. For example, there should be different levels of privacy, social interaction and a range of possible postures that encourage movement (i.e. high tables and stools, low soft seating, touchdown spaces for short-term working and rejuvenation spaces.

As mentioned we’ve has seen an increase in the use of home interior design trends, and this expands to the use of natural materials and biophilic design – recognising the influence a work environment can have on the way employees feel.

With the increased amount of UK workforce operating mobile, it’s more important than ever to invest in improved workplaces. Employers need to ensure they are doing their upmost to provide the best possible working environment in order to bring employees back together, consequently gaining more efficient staff.

For more information about Penketh Group, visit www.penkethgroup.com.