The office… a place people used to go because they had to. Where meetings were held in person, in big conference rooms. Where everyone had their own desk, and where those desks took up most of the space. But the pandemic disrupted things. It introduced the remote working model, challenging the concept of using time spent in the office to measure productivity, and making us all rethink the future of the office in a far more flexible light.
When we take time to study what the office of the future might look like, we quickly identify a number of common pillars, including sustainability and wellness. And it’s interesting to look at which direction some of the world’s most notable organisations are taking with office of the future trends too. So let’s do that. And let’s also look at how smart technology is going to be a major driver of the future of the office.
How did the work from home experiment pan out in the end?
The work from home concept, forced upon millions of workers across the world as the pandemic took hold, was something of an experiment. No one really knew back then that it would change the face of so many working lives, and expectations around work, forever.
For a while, it seemed that work from home would eventually replace the traditional office based working model. After all, it showed us that life can go on without travelling into the office.
But, after a few months of communicating with colleagues virtually through screens, it turned out that there was a great deal of support for the office after all, with followers arguing that a permanent move to remote working would neglect critical lessons learned from generations who viewed the workplace as their second home. A place where problems were solved collaboratively. Where solutions were formulated by working together. And where less experienced workers sat alongside their more practiced peers, learning valuable skills and honing their expertise.
Whatever advantages the remote working movement may trumpet, it seems there is a clear need for the office. A place to interact face-to-face, formally and socially. To collaborate. And to share ideas, knowledge and challenges. As much as video conferencing technology has helped keep us together over the past two years, it can never replace our inherent human need to physically interact.
So now we have a new type of workplace. It’s a collaborative, social hub where people convene to discuss ideas and find solutions. A balanced workplace, where an organisation’s environmental and social beliefs are reflected, and where well-being takes centre stage. Finally, it’s an enabler of productivity, and a valuable talent recruitment and retention tool.
What are the common pillars of the office of the future?
When we explore commentary on office of the future trends, it’s clear to see there are a number of common pillars around which these trends are forming. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones.
Health and well-being
The office of the future will be focused on the physical and mental health of the employee. From breakout zones and relaxation rooms, to game stations, cafés and nap pods, office design is starting to encompass some interesting concepts, all centred on optimising well-being.
A survey conducted in the US by Staples revealed that 48% of employees would take a 10% pay cut in exchange for an employer that cared more for their health and wellness. What’s more, 78% felt that their employers were responsible for helping them stay mentally and physically fit.
Ultimately, an organisation that prioritises staff well-being is more likely to attract and retain the best talent, and do a good job of enhancing morale and productivity. Work-life balance is high on the agenda these days, and employers know that creating a restorative workplace that makes its staff feel at home and valued is key to boosting performance and overall commercial success.
The future of the office is clearly green-hued. Workplaces across the globe are adapting to be more eco-conscious, considering their impact on the environment in all major decisions and making use of smart technology to monitor and reduce energy wastage and pollutant emissions.
An eco-friendly office goes hand in hand with a healthy office. So going green also means enhancing staff well-being. Improving indoor air quality for example and incorporating greenery into an office bring countless health benefits, leading to greater concentration, better mood and enhanced productivity.
At the 433,000 square feet Meta headquarters in California’s Menlo Park, there’s a striking nine acre green roof consisting of no less than 400 trees and 100,000 native plants. Not only does this biophilic design boost employee well-being, it’s also a massive plus for the environment, with the plants acting as natural insulators, hugely reducing energy costs.
A place people want to go
The office of the future directly replaces the now defunct concept of the place where people had to go. Now it’s the place people want to go.
Encouraging people back into the office after they’d become comfortable working from home was always going to be something of a challenge. But employers are winning the battle by creating compelling workplaces that make staff feel at home, and that help them do their work more easily.
Comfort is key. Being able to control your own personal work environment – such as light levels and temperature – is something that’s becoming a common demand. App-based office of the future technology, aka smart building technology, is making this possible, and it’s using machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate a whole host of comfort settings too, using the likes of smart lighting and smart HVAC systems.
What’s more, with activity based working becoming so popular, and with the many different work zones it brings, it can be more challenging for employees and visitors to find where they need to be. The office of the future offers advanced indoor mapping, providing crucial wayfinding information, especially useful for newcomers, or those who are rarely at the office.
There’s also the concept of community to factor in. This is especially important where teams are fragmented across different locations. A sense of community creates a valuable feeling of belonging. Certain smart building technology has the power to create a sense of community at work, using apps built around smart office community features, including newsfeed style local events, special offers and community chat forums.
A real life tour of office of the future trends
Some of the world’s best known technology brands are trailblazing a path to the office of the future.
Google for example has come up with an innovative solution to the problem of day to day changing office needs. Their Team Pods consist of desks, chairs, whiteboards and storage on casters that can be wheeled into all sorts of formations, and rearranged in just a few hours. For meetings that call for privacy, Google is experimenting with a wheeled robot that inflates cellophane balloon walls to form enclosed spaces.
Microsoft knows just how awkward hybrid team meetings can be, with office based staff finding it challenging to properly see their virtual meeting colleagues. To help remote workers feel less remote, they’ve used office of the future technology to come up with high tech conference rooms that make it possible for all participants to collaborate on an equal footing. Featuring eye-level cameras, intelligent speakers and immersive surround sound, the rooms help everyone feel like they’re actually together.
Dropbox has transformed its office space into one that’s virtual-first, launching Dropbox Studios in major cities across the United States. The studios feature ‘soft spaces’, with a coffee shop to create a casual, welcoming feel; conference rooms for teams to have ‘onsite off-sites’, and classrooms for organised group learning. The spaces are centred on collaboration and connection and include large rooms with moveable furniture and false walls, as well as cafés and libraries known as ‘touchdown spots’ for catching up with colleagues, or simply just catching a breath between meetings.
The smart office and Smart Spaces, enabling the office of the future
Using machine learning, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) connected technology, the smart office makes it possible to achieve the key pillars of the office of the future.
Smart Spaces is a cloud-based, app-driven platform that converts a regular building management system into a smart building management system.
The app allows individuals to control their own personal workspaces and, when used in conjunction with the building management system, makes it possible for facilities managers to assess, regulate and maintain optimal working conditions as well as formulate cost, energy and time saving strategies.
What’s more, courtesy of the Smart Spaces Social Wall, workers are able to post, like and share content right across the entire building community, bringing everyone together and supporting that all-important sense of togetherness and engagement that is one of the key pillars of the office of the future.
To learn more about how Smart Spaces is poised to support the future of the office, you are welcome to request a free demo or get in touch.