Now, and in the future, offices will be more mobile, characterized by high information flow from the top down, and be less managerially centralized. Office real estate will look different (55 percent of office space is estimated to be underutilized), open on the inside and flexible on the outside. The trend will be accelerated by mobile technology, economic volatility, and a global war for the talent. We’re quickly approaching the “death” of the office as we knew it. New tools are helping designers understand how work settings contribute to effectiveness, interaction and collaboration, and job satisfaction.
Office spaces will be collaborative labs designed for workers to generate and test ideas with the intent to continuously inform innovation. Crowdsourcing will be the basis of these labs, and their forms will provide flexibility and fluidity. Proliferating compact technology, such as virtual keyboards and smartphones, will enable workers to complete tasks on-the-go. The cloud and other file-sharing platforms are reducing the necessity of fixed workplaces. The workplace will essentially “pop-up” spontaneously in both indoor and outdoor locations. We are moving toward the ability to work with anyone, anytime, anywhere. In the knowledge economy, information is currency, and retaining highly skilled information workers will be critical for all companies.
The increased speed of the work environment has also made it more stressful, and those stresses are being played out generationally -- Millennials have greater interest in flexibility, autonomy, and freedom in the workplace.
Gen Y will make up 40 percent of the workplace by 2020. Workplace culture is becoming as important as salary, as the generational cycle takes hold. Design will become more health-conscious to overcome desk-oriented work, increase focus, and boost productivity. Distances mean less, so the competition for talented workers will grow. Low-skilled workers will be replaced by a robot economy. Outsourcing, artificial intelligence, and just-in-time labor are here to stay. Today, the United States produces more goods and services than it did at the beginning of the recession, but with about 5,000,000 fewer workers. Office environments will have to adapt. Health and hard work won’t be mutually exclusive.
So, space design has never been more important. Open office plans, creative spaces that encourage inspiration and collaboration will be more prevalent. Access to daylight and natural ventilation, views, green space, public transit, on-site parking and proximity to residences will play a greater role in working environments.
Cubicles, assigned spaces, and heavily programmed environments will be less necessary. Furniture will be comfortable and moveable. “Hackable” spaces -- dynamic, pragmatic, and sustainable -- will prevail. The “new” office environment won’t be new, it will be adapted from former single-use environments. The necessity of “speed-to-market” will also influence this direction. Small interventions will address costs, speed and effort of implementation. Competition for retaining the highly-skilled, mobile worker will be fierce, and the role of flexible exterior spaces that connect people to their work and with each other will be a key component in retaining them.