Work environments are becoming more and more complex, with digitalisation prompting a big shift in consumer behaviour.
As more disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things flood into the workplace, the office environment is changing to accommodate these new modes of operation.
Today’s employees demand improved working environments that cater to their health and wellbeing, while providing flexible working options too.
We’re taking a closer look at how technology will shape the future of office design, and how brands can start thinking about their future offices now, saving time, money and effort in the long run.
Activity-Based Work Environments
Combining existing and emerging hardware allows companies to create activity-based workspaces that are specifically designed to boost work performance.
For example, cloud computing and mobile tools enable employees to move around the office and access files from anywhere. If they are working alone and need to concentrate, quiet zones or sound-proofed pods provide a private space where they can fully concentrate.
A project team needs space where they can collaborate, brain-storm and use technologies to share information to the group, such as interactive whiteboards and projectors.
Considering health and wellbeing demands of your staff, a relaxation area encourages people to leave their desks and recharge. Large tech companies are even installing break out areas such as games rooms, cafes and a mini-golf course on the roof.
20-minute breaks in relaxing areas help to give cognitive function a boost and lower the risk of decision fatigue.
Dynamic spaces are an emerging trend designed to enhance activity-based working even further.
Examples of dynamic spaces include converting empty garage spaces or knocking through the walls of underused meeting rooms – but it doesn’t have to be that drastic.
Lightweight, movable furniture on wheels and step-style seating makes it possible for teams to arrange their workspace in a way that suits their task at hand. Installing multiple power points and sockets that support a variety of cables also helps to support a range of technologies.
Sliding walls can expand or condense a workspace depending on what’s required – so where a meeting between a small group or a podcast recording requires privacy and quiet, a department meeting, on the other hand, needs more space.
The driver behind dynamic spaces is a multifunctional workspace that meets the needs of a multidisciplinary business world.
With a global focus to lower the carbon footprint and improve health and wellbeing in the workplace, there’s no doubt that smart buildings will shape the future of the office.
The priorities of smart offices include creating an environmentally friendly space, improving air quality, streamlining day-to-day activities, organising work schedules and optimising cleaning services.
With state-of-the-art technology as a platform, companies can connect everything and everyone in the building. Apps will become a key feature for office workers.
Smart buildings can find and reserve a car parking space, order coffee and dinner, allocate appropriate desk space that is customised for specific tasks, pre-book meeting rooms and control the temperature of individual workspaces.
The flexibility and enhanced mobility smart buildings offer will only work if the office design supports the functionality – so you’ll need a dynamic space to incorporate smart functions.
“A conventional building is always either cooling or heating, its switched on from early in the morning to late in the evening, consuming a lot of energy at full capacity.”
Boudewijn Ruitenburg, chief operating officer of EDGE Technologies.
Health and Wellbeing
With health and wellbeing a primary focus, there are many reasons why you might want to rethink the traditional open plan office for your future workplace.
Studies have confirmed that this style of office can actually be detrimental to the physical and mental health of your workforce.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 160 million new cases of work-related illnesses occur every year, and it is thought that around 38 days’ worth of productivity per employee is lost per year due to ill-health.
Even when employees are physically present, noise pollution, poor air quality and stress have a big impact productivity.
Distractions and noise pollution cause a lack of concentration, which in turn induces stress and frustration. Poor air quality is also responsible for circulating bacteria and viruses that contribute to employee absenteeism.
Installing air-ventilation systems, acoustic partitions and stand-alone sound-proof pods can all contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of your people. Companies with office space to spare also have the option of incorporating a yoga and meditation room or even a gym.
It is thought that around 38 days’ worth of productivity per employee is lost per year due to ill-health.
Facilitate Remote Communities
Before the pandemic, companies were torn between whether or not to introduce telecommuting, and those that did offer it had mixed reviews.
Social distancing regulations mean companies have had to accommodate remote working capabilities, and will continue to do so going forward. As a result, many firms need to reimagine their office design to ensure the right technologies are in place to support this.
One of the key issues for remote workers is that they feel isolated and disconnected. There is a concern that companies will also struggle to integrate employees into the company culture when they are working from home.
Office designers are challenged to find a solution that creates a sense of community among a dispersed workforce. TV screens that accommodate video-conference technologies such as Zoom and Skype are a starting point, but there’s so much more to explore.
The growing trend of virtual reality meetings makes it possible for remote workers to connect with their teammates and actually feel they are in the same space.
Biometric Access Controls
To date, many companies have resisted biometric access controls despite the increased security they offer.
The resistance is mostly due to the “Big Brother” nature of biometric systems. The technology is designed to record and recognise facial dimensions, retinas, fingerprints and palms. Some people find this too intrusive.
The need for touch-free access points following the coronavirus outbreak will accelerate the influx of biometric technologies into the workplace – and these kind of controls will be part of office designs in the not-too-distant future, whether we like it or not.
“Biometric access controls will be part of office designs in the not-too-distant future.”
At the heart of the office design revolution is the realisation that the modern workspace has to support collaboration, innovation, creativity, productivity and the general wellbeing of employees.
With the emergence of disruptive technologies and a swift change in workplace regulations, there is an immediate need for firms to design strategic office space that incorporates all of the above.
At Office Principles, we’re at the cutting-edge of office design. Our experienced consultants already have a vision of the future and are on hand to help you address immediate problems and plan ahead.