Work is something you do, not somewhere you go. Now that we have proved beyond all reasonable doubt that technology allows us to work anywhere, a workplace must offer more than just a room in which to work; it must provide an experiential richness that the digital world is unable to replace or circumvent. The workplace must have the ability to draw people together and facilitate the social and creative interactions that we crave and which lead to innovation.
Below are four key attributes of the future workplace, which describe a point of departure from which we can explore how ‘work’ will evolve:
Successful workplaces are engaging, in a physical and a social sense because they facilitate the planned and serendipitous interactions that foster creativity and innovation. We help this to happen by designing a kind of convergent space that blurs and mixes different uses together.
Prior to Covid-19, two in five workers in the UK spent at least half a day a week working flexibly, whether in a coffee shop, at home or on the move. We can see the trend towards convergence, with traditionally separate spaces expanding and overlapping as we learn to work in richer and more complex ways. Increasingly we will combine shops and offices, or café and hotel, or work, life and event to fit our mobile, post-pandemic, urban lives.
Fifty percent of our waking hours are spent at work so we need workspace that supports our mental, and physical wellbeing. Business that supports a culture of good health (‘wellness’) dramatically increase employee engagement and productivity. For too long, the approach has been to minimise the negative effects of work, but the future workplace needs to be active in support of mind and body.
Space for rapid change
As we begin to assess our changing views towards working in an office, workplace buildings need to provide bespoke, flexible space that can respond rapidly to the shifting occupancies and way of working the future demands.
New buildings will adopt light, tight and integrated envelopes with movable cores, and open floors. As for existing building stock, rapid technological change by no means signals its redundancy. Workplace will no longer rely on fixed infrastructure (raised access floors, desktop workstations, landlines, etc) and uses wireless data and power, to liberate office floors from static layouts to allow endless adaptive reconfiguration. The infrastructure of the modern office has a minimal physical footprint that can be woven into the fabric of the city allowing historic beauty to blend seamlessly with the data performance demands of tomorrow.
With economic uncertainty tenants continue to prioritise flexibility over cost, which leads us to more creative leasing and tenancy arrangements. Larger companies can house incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces, to simultaneously market their services and scout for talent. The combination of flexible buildings and agile leasing will allow companies to expand and contract without changing their workspace provider. No longer bound to a single space, the workplace can expand to different sites across a campus, neighbourhood or an entire city.
The future of work and workplace has been one of the fastest changing sectors, adapting rapidly to the opportunities of new technology. Our experiences of the last few months have propelled us forward even faster, to embrace innovative thinking about how we organize our future working lives, and where that might take place.