Work environments are becoming increasingly complex. Digitalisation has prompted a shift in consumer behaviour and subsequently created an upheaval in how businesses remain competitive.
As more disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things flood into the workplace, the office environment has to change to accommodate new modes of operation.
Employees on the front lines also expect changes. Today’s employees demand improved working environments that cater to health and wellbeing together remote working capabilities.
The outbreak of coronavirus has further complicated office plans. Government guidelines insist companies have a responsibility to provide a Covid-safe working environment for their employees.
In this article, we take a look at how technology will share the office design of the future. For brands with a vision that embraces company culture, installing the foundations of your future office now will save a lot of time, money and effort in the future.
Activity-Based Work Environments
An amalgamation of existing and emerging hardware enables companies to create flexible workspaces that are specifically designed to enhance work performance or ambience.
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.
Alternatively, a project team need a space where they can collaborate, brain-storm and access technologies that make it easier for them to share information to a group; ie, interactive whiteboards, projectors etc.
Buying into the 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.
Research shows that 20-minutes breaks in relaxing areas help to give cognitive function a boost and lower the risk of decision fatigue. When they return to their desks, people are typically more creative and productive.
A trend in dynamic spaces has emerged to enhance activity-based working. The driver behind dynamic spaces is a multifunctional workspace that meets the needs of a multidisciplinary business world, shift towards work-centric objectives and spearhead collaboration and innovation.
In recent years, examples of incorporating dynamic spaces have included converting empty garage space or knocking through the walls of underused meeting rooms. However, you don’t have to be that drastic.
Installing multiple power points and sockets that support a variety of cables will support various technologies. Lightweight, movable furniture on wheels and step-style seating makes it possible for teams to arrange the workspace that is most conducive to the operation they are performing.
Sliding walls can also expand or condense workspace. For example, a meeting between a small group or a podcast recording requires privacy and quiet. Sorted in seconds. A department meeting, on the other hand, requires more space.
Intelligent buildings are at the forefront of technology-driven corporations. With a global focus to lower the carbon footprint and improve the health and wellbeing of the workplace, smart buildings will shape the future of the workplace.
Boudewijn Ruitenburg, chief operating officer of Amsterdam-based office developer EDGE Technologies, says: “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.”
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, ordering 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. Dynamic spaces support intelligent building designs and vice versa.
Health and Wellbeing
A number of studies confirm traditional open-plan office designs are 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 inhibits economic growth.
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 impact productivity.
Employees mostly complain about the number of distractions in a typical open-plan setup. Noise pollution causes a lack of concentration which induces stress and frustration. Noise is not good for mental health.
Poor air quality is also responsible for circulating bacteria and viruses that contribute to employee absenteeism. A lack of air filters in polluted offices cause “sick building syndrome” and has even been linked with respiratory tract infections including lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Installing air-ventilation systems, acoustic partitions and stand-alone sound-proof pods contribute to improving health and wellbeing programs. Companies with office space to spare also have the option of incorporating a yoga and mediation room or even a gym.
Firms can also encourage employees to move more often by downloading walking apps that offer rewards. A Health & Wellbeing e-hub that provides access to online fitness videos and healthy eating webinars can encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle.
Facilitate Remote Communities
Before the pandemic, many companies were torn between whether or not to introduce telecommuting. Companies that did offer employees flexible working gave mixed reviews.
Social distancing regulations will mean companies will have to accommodate remote working capabilities. Subsequently, firms need to reimagine their office design to ensure the right technologies and work space are in place.
One of the key issues for remote workers is that they feel isolated and disconnected. Moreover, there is a concern that companies will 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 only a starting point.
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, the majority of companies have resisted biometric access controls despite the increased security they offer. They can also be used to timestamp the comings and goings of employees, measure absenteeism and calculate overtime.
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. People find this too intrusive.
Biometric access controls will be part of office designs in the not-too-distant future, however. Biometric technologies have been quietly ushered on to smartphones for social conditioning.
The need for touch-free access points following the coronavirus outbreak will accelerate the influx of biometric technologies into the workplace.
The idea of using workplace designs to inspire employees, influence operations and facilitate collaboration is a growing trend spearheaded by the technology behemoths of Silicon Valley.
Given the tech firms are designing the future, they already know what facilities the offices of the future need. In recent years, other Fortune 500 companies have invested in office design perks in order to attract and retain top talent. Skilled workers in tech firms are in short supply.
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 fosters information exchange, collaboration, networking, problem-solving, the allocation of space and resource and more.
Office Principles are 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.