What Can We Expect From the Office of the Future?

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Sony Music offices showcasing the flexibility, openness, and collaborative environment of new office spaces - Ke-Zu

Planning and designing offices isn’t just about choosing pretty furniture and arranging desks. There’s a lot of considerations to be made, from the diversity of people who’ll be working there to the emerging technologies that will need to be seamlessly integrated into the design.

The traditional office cubicle labyrinth is now a thing of the past as new generations prefer a more collaborative approach to work. They want flexible and open spaces that encourage brainstorming and collaboration, as well as smaller enclosed pods for quiet time and ‘working in the zone’.

From what we’re seeing, offices of the future are going to be a lot more personal, flexible, spacious, and sophisticated than ever before. Let’s take a look at three of the major ways that office spaces are currently transforming, and how they may continue to evolve into the future.

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Studio Nord Mail.Ru St. Petersburg Offices. Colour is used here to divide the office into different spaces. A ping pong table is visible in the background; offices of the future are all about recognising the need to take a break and have some fun - Ke-Zu

1. Flexible workspaces

Office design is all about increasing productivity, and when it was found that the tiny dark cubicle mazes of the 70s and 80s weren’t helping with workers’ motivation or energy levels, they were quickly replaced with more open office spaces.

As with any design, it takes time to see results, and so it’s only recently been found that these open office spaces tend to hinder a person’s ability to focus deeply on a task, as there’s simply so much happening around them.

And that’s where the new shift towards flexible working spaces is beginning to emerge. Rather than having one large office space, we’re now seeing a range of different spaces and areas from where a person can work, providing different environments and settings for different stages and types of work. These spaces include:

  • Collaborative workspaces - Think of a boardroom, but reinvented. These workspaces include large desks and walls for brainstorming and collaborating ideas. Walls are part of the furniture here - black or whiteboard walls that can be written on, kaizen walls, noteboard walls, and so on.
  • Breakout areas - These are designed to be relaxed, smaller spaces where you can meet clients or have one on one meetings with other staff members. The idea here is to remove you from the office environment so that you can concentrate on the task at hand.
  • Pods - Pushing back against the large, open spaces of today’s offices, pods are quiet, enclosed spaces that are ideal for when you simply need to put your head down and get to work in a distraction free environment.
  • Business lounges - These areas will be common in offices that often host clients for meetings and so on. Business lounges are designed for the executive who never ‘switches off’, offering all the comforts of drinks, meeting areas, lounges, and Wi-Fi.

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This private space in Sony Music offices can be used for client meetings, getting ‘in the zone’ and focusing on the task at hand, or simply taking a short break between projects - Ke-Zu

The office of the future needs to be able to respond and adapt to the needs of its inhabitants, perhaps with just the click of a button or a simple visual command. As technologies become more integrated and connected, the future office space will be more responsive.

2. Emerging technologies

Before interior designers can begin looking at work environments of the future, they need to first understand how the workforce and workplace is going to be changing. New emerging technologies could potentially alter the way that work is conducted in an office, so it’s necessary to incorporate these advancements into any design.

We’ve already seen how emerging technologies have shifted the workplace in the last 20 years, with widespread internet use allowing people to work from anywhere in the world using their laptop, smartphone, or tablet. This flexibility has had a huge impact on what offices are used for, and mobile technologies have seen the traditional desk evolve into something else entirely.

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G Adventures offices give workers a flexible space in which to move and work freely - Ke-Zu

Multilingual and sensory-recognition software will allow for work to be completed far more efficiently, potentially requiring less people to complete any particular job. But beyond considering how technologies will impact the workforce, it’s also important to also look at how they will alter the purpose and requirements of a work environment, as well.

According to tech blog NexusTek, these are the two main technological changes that will have a significant impact on future work spaces:

  • IOT (Internet of Things) - The Internet of Things refers to devices with embedded technology and sensors that have the ability to interact with one another, as well as smart devices, through the internet.
  • Visual computer navigation using eye tracking technology - NexusTek suggest that this may make the computer mouse a thing of the past. Samsung are already working on EyeCan+, an eye mouse for computers that can help those with disabilities.

Keeping these two advancements in mind, NexusTek suggest that perhaps the only thing that will sit on the desk of the future may be a screen.

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This boardroom in the Heerlen head office is going green, literally. A ceiling mirror expands the room in size, and allows the lighting to be amplified and bright - Ke-Zu

3. Going green

Going green isn’t just a passing fad, it’s here to stay. Being eco-friendly not only makes smart business sense and benefits the environment, but it also offers huge benefits for office workers.

Offices of the future will utilise rooftop gardens, something which we’re already starting to see on both commercial and residential buildings alike. Plants, vertical gardens, and internal landscaping will also be dispersed within the internal and external design of office spaces, to both clean the air and improve working conditions. A bit of green and nature can make anyone feel good!

More businesses will also start to turn to green energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines. This will be out of both interests in sustainability and decreasing running costs. You can imagine, then, how different a future office may look - sunny and bright, open yet with the ability to hide inside tucked in spaces, and filled with lots of greenery and nature.

It’s all about responding to the needs of the office worker and ensuring that when they’re in the office, they’re comfortable, healthy, and happy. It will be about offering workers flexibility to meet their specific needs at any time. The future is set to provide organic environments that suit the needs of an ever-changing and increasingly diverse workforce.

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