Smart devices and artificial intelligence are shaping our future. From redefining how we interact with each other to reshaping our thought processes, the influence technology has on our behaviour, and environments, is significant.
Grant Johnson, Founder and Head Designer of Conduit Interior, a hands-on commercial interior design agency, foresees the office of the future being less of a place where people go to put in their nine-to-five and more of a space where ideas and collaboration happen.
So what does the office of the future look like and how will it affect workplace design?
A desk is not just a desk
The coffee shop has become a much loved hub for mobile working, especially among freelancers. Free Wi-Fi, great coffee and a relaxed atmosphere promote a willingness to share ideas and stay motivated to ultimately get the job done.
Mirroring what they see outside of work has influenced what companies should do to increase staff productivity. There is a shift to offering staff flexible working hours and the option to work remotely from the office when needed. This has not only become the new status symbol among employees, but a high demand perk when considering a new position.
Sitting in one desk all day, for the length of your career, is no longer going to be the norm and is why a desk can no longer just be a desk. It could be a hot desk; a private focus room; even a bean bag or a sofa in the work café.
The office of the future offers staff the freedom to come and go, and sit anywhere they need to as long as they can plug in and get connected.
Ergonomics keeps changing because technology keeps changing. While communication tools like Skype and email have made it a lot easier to communicate without having to physically move from one place to another, it’s also increased the likelihood of remaining desk-bound. For staff to remain productive they need to change their bodily position throughout the day. Thanks to tech and the various devices we use to conduct business, the way we sit around a boardroom table has changed; tables and chairs have changed shape, even lighting and air flow are now purposed to allow for longer meetings.
Gesture control technologies that let users manipulate a screen with their fingers, arms, and facial expressions have already made their way into the video game world. Soon, they’re expected to migrate to the working world and office design needs to accommodate for this.
Blending of hierarchy
In companies around the world, we see more company leaders less concerned about having the corner office. They want to feel part of their teams, and super desks are popular. A super desk is one long desk, or in some instances a raised bar counter, that runs throughout the office floor plan.
This standing-height work surface encourages democratic participation and allows for working side-by-side. It’s been proven to help build intimacy and assists with making the transition from work space to social space seamless, and taking a break less distracting.
Simultaneously the need for privacy is still recognised and an “alone together” approach is adopted. This means the use of private sound booths, smaller meeting rooms and glass cubicles.
Finding the right balance of personal and mixed-use space can help build trust and ultimately inspire group creativity and flow. The use of glass is a great way to achieve this encouraging transparency and social cohesion, even in a ‘private’ space.
Home away from home
Tech companies are leading the way in creating self-contained villages that give employees little reason to ever leave the office. More thought is being put into the design of work cafés and social rooms that offer staff breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks and coffee throughout the day. Instead of a foosball table in the middle of the room, there are now relaxation rooms, equipped with books and music, and even yoga rooms.
This builds the company culture and lifestyle. Investing in the wellbeing of staff builds their emotional investment in the business, which is key to retaining staff in the long term.
Bringing nature inside
There is a lot of research around the benefits of working in nature, and incorporating it into your office design takes more than just a few pot plants. Think hanging plants in focus rooms; roof top gardens on balconies; fresh herb walls and clusters of trees inside. The office of the future will be more creative in its use of natural elements.
Fresh air is key whether naturally vented or filtered in. Smart lighting that switches on and off automatically will save electricity. Positioning workspaces next to windows, and boardrooms centrally, makes better use of natural light and boosts productivity.
The key to success is nurturing creative thinkers and the office of the future needs to magnify this. Ultimately staff will choose to align themselves with a business that offers more than an employer but rather a lifestyle that improves one’s quality of life – in the office and outside.