The ever evolving office spaces of the present day are a continually hot topic in the news. With more and more companies becoming more in tune with employees’ working needs and the importance of health and emotional wellbeing at the forefront of public consciousness, workplace design has never been more exciting. MoreySmith are one of the UK’s leading design & architecture practices and have previously designed workspaces for the likes of Coca Cola, Primark and Sony. Not content with just crafting exceptional office spaces of the moment, they have also turned their eye to the workplace of the future with a specially commissioned report in partnership with The Future Laboratory. The LuxPad delves into the Workplace Futures Report which has determined three key workplace types we are likely to see in the future…
Commissioned to better understand the psychology of the future workforce and to emphasise the importance of workplace design to employers, the future-gazing study examines the workforce of 2025 and the shift in demographics that will make conscientious design a necessity. Founder and principle director of MoreySmith, Linda Morey-Burrows, believes design-led offices should no longer be seen as a ‘nice to have’ benefit but are essential to attracting and retaining talent in the workplace. Ultimately adding to a business’ success, workspaces should be designed with people’s happiness in mind which improves the overall efficiency and thus success of the workforce.
The Workplace Futures Report predicts that the workplace of the future will be multidimensional, multigenerational and interactive with three key architypes emerging…
The Sentient Workplace
With the boundaries between work and social life becoming increasingly blurred in our current age, it’s a natural step that this will only be more prevalent in the workplace of the future. Workers are now choosing working environments which will support their need for physical and mental wellbeing as well as looking to offset their ‘always-on lifestyles’. The Sentient Workplace the report predicts will be an intuitive and human-orientated environment designed and built with thousands of sensors which interact with employee’s wearable devices and smartphones.
Workers’ daily working output will be measured against their surrounding environment through artificially intelligent desks, wearables and apps which will in turn offer employers essential insight into ways to enrich the workplace. All of these smart systems will interact with each other to gauge employees’ stress, energy and hydration levels along with seating and lighting preferences to create a personalised working environment.
In addition to these bespoke features, workers will no longer be expected to check in as their devices will do this for them and the building itself will prepare their workspace in line with their lighting, humidity and temperature preferences along with the resources and data they need for a productive day. With women now accounting for 46.6% of the workforce, the Sentient Workplace will also be increasingly aware of it occupants and be more perceptive to women’s specific wellbeing needs.
What other experts have to say on the Sentient Workplace...
Michael Gauza – Creative Director at Extravagauza Design
‘I think this report rightly highlights some key areas within the probabilistic evolution of design and gives us an overview of what needs to change, not only in workspace design but space design in general. As an example, taking into account the problems retail is facing at present, many large retail outlets are closing across the UK, we can clearly see that we need a new way of moving forward. And by the way, the internet isn’t necessarily to blame, as around 80% of sales occur on the physical shop floor. A new approach with new methods of interaction is needed, in order to communicate with 21st-century humans.
Workspace designers are perhaps ahead of the curve on this. The next phase will involve dispensing with the usual human/screen interaction and replace it with smart systems which would personalise individuals’ experiences; creating intelligent spaces in order to adjust to human needs more effectively. In order to do so, architectural practices and interior design companies should focus on flexibility and multidisciplinary skills, traditionally associated with other industries, such as game design for example. Skilled engineers and architects will have to work hand in hand with specialists responsible for understanding and crafting end-user experiences.’
Nicola Holden – Nicola Holden Design
‘I am already seeing a shift towards Sentient workspaces, where businesses are investing in more homely interiors, blurring the boundaries between work and home. Offices are being designed so that employees feel at home in their working environment. Increasingly I am installing comfortable seating, works of art, rugs and accessories into office spaces, particularly in informal areas of the building, adding comfort and softness. Incorporating natural elements such as plants and green walls has also been shown to benefit employees for a number of reasons, including improving office air quality.
Companies are also looking more towards incorporating colour psychology into office colour schemes to improve staff morale, well-being and productivity. By introducing these design features, which unconsciously enhance occupant health and wellness, you have the potential to positively affect all staff.’
The Hospitality Workplace
MoreSmith and The Future Laboratory predict that the younger generations of the future won’t be as tied to financial burdens like renting or home ownership and will instead look for life experience, freedom and adaptability of lifestyle. This will inevitability lead to demands of a work culture which can be anywhere, anytime, in any way. The Hospitality Workspace will be a one-stop urban flagship destination for the multi-generational workforce which will be a place to work, rest and play all under one roof.
These open work spaces will be part hotel, part gym and part café where company owned office spaces will sit alongside collaborative start-ups with mixed use floors for the 5G workforce to socialise and sleep. Hospitality Workspaces will build homes for their employees in modular formats for convenience and adaptability using welcoming communal spaces such as kitchens and games room to help workers integrate with their colleagues and inspire greater camaraderie.
These work/life balance centred spaces are predicted to make this goal easier and more rewarding for staff by providing attractive benefits such as swimming pools, gardens, allotments and even resident chefs. This in turn will inspire greater productivity and happier, cohesive teams who will work and play together in new ways.
What other experts have to say on the Hospitality Workplace...
James Heaven – Business Interiors
‘In the future, our individual contributions to an organisation will be detached from a physical location. We may choose to work from home or on the other side of the world. Our ability to work and collaborate will rotate around technology not place. Physical connections will be important, but not on a daily basis. Providing a central “hub” to meet face to face will be only occasionally important, and therefore the cost of commuting, and the office space itself, will be reduced greatly.
If this “hub” was a co-working space, that makes sense. But the social aspect would be more important than the work itself. The hub could just as easily be a pub, a coffee bar or an actual gym. In effect the office will compete with these already existing spaces, to the point where we might ask ourselves….do we need an office at all? And if so, maybe we’d just be recreating a private pub, coffee bar or gym (and the expense that goes with that). But with property costs the second largest overhead after employees, will that be a competitive strategy? Probably not…for example, today’s high street physical shops, cannot compete with online virtual shops. The same will be true of virtual companies collaborating in the cloud.
Paul Dare – Oktra
‘The best businesses of today are the ones that can offer employees a homelier environment. In 2018, the focus is on what a company offers its staff to provide an atmosphere which eliminates the need to leave the office unnecessarily. Breakout areas are now designed specifically as multifunctional hubs for socialising, working and eating, whilst also providing an interface for clients to experience the company culture. Some employers are even building gyms or offering space for yoga, Pilates or meditation; this is an excellent way to attract new talent as it offers flexibility, encouraging personalised work schedules, built for individual needs.
These developments are centred around an increased investment in employee wellbeing, as businesses show greater care for their people. When Oktra first started implementing wellbeing into the office, there was an obvious scepticism from staff that a run club, yoga, free fruit or after work drinks wouldn’t make any difference to their work experience; however, this has since been replaced with renewed colleague engagement, collaboration and a rise in general morale.’
The Flat-Age Workspace: Age-Agnostic & the 5G Workforce
The workplace of the future has been forecast by the report to contain five generations working collaboratively together. This demographic shift will see the Five Generation (5G) workforce which will include the digitally-native Generation I, inventive Generation Z workers, the socially conscious Millenials, reliable Gen Xers and finally a diligent cohort of Baby Boomers. This report believes that for employers to navigate this vast and varied workforce they will need to become increasingly age agnostic by creating inspiring offices designed to capture to generations who have very different work ideals, expectations and needs.
In the future age will be seen simply as a number rather than a gauge of mind set and aspirations. The older generations will be fitter and healthier than previous generations at their age thanks to lifestyle changes and medical advances and because of this they will be able to share many of the lifestyle expectations and characteristics of their younger colleagues.
The report found suggestions that existing workplaces are largely inflexible to the evolving workforce which often creates barriers to lifelong learning exchanges amongst workers. Traditionally centred on a young, fit and male workforce aged between 25-40, employers have struggled to take gender, culture, ethnicity and generation into consideration when it comes to office design but this will become an issue of the past with the Flat-Age Workspace.
What other experts have to say on the Flat-Age Workspace...
Howard Barnes – Three Hundred & Sixty Degrees
‘My overall view is a little more dystopian than the Future Laboratory vision. The global economy has an unprecedented set of pressures which means we are likely to be in the grip of a recession/depression within the next 5 years which will be deeper and more painful than anything previously experienced – due in part to the need to correct the $3 trillion of additional cash pumped into the world economies to survive the last recession.
The effect on society will be profound; there’s likely to be even more issues around available homes which could lead to more people finding themselves homeless, which in turn would mean people will spend more time in public places (including the workplace) and very few will be able to afford to ‘retire’ meaning that they will need to be in work longer than originally planned. The difficult trading conditions will also mean that organisations will be more interested in survival than in employee happiness which is likely to slow down the pace of tech integration in the workplace – unless it can be proved to deliver efficiencies.
In my opinion we will see an emergence of the workplace that best supports 5G Workforce dynamics. This will be a fusion of the very customised working environment – the ‘Sentient Workplace’ and the office as a place to meet and socialise – the ‘Hospitality Workspace’.
Elements of the former will be needed to particularly accommodate the needs of an older worker (more control over climate, distraction etc) – although I don’t see the IoT delivering quite the joined up micro-climatic experience articulated in this vision. The latter model will be more appealing to the younger workforce as the division between ‘work’ and ‘life’ becomes ever more porous.
The challenge facing workplace designers today is how to prepare the working environment to accommodate the shift towards AI and machine activity as well as leveraging overall productivity of the individual in the context of global economic relevance.’