Published on:

11 November 2022

Updated on:

15 November 2022

Read time:

3 minutes

Jason Batour

Creative Director

“We’re hearing and reading a lot about how much the workplace has changed at the moment - but has it? Has it really, Jason?”

This was put to me by friends at a dinner party recently (some of these doubters have worked for large, established corporate companies for a long time so they were ripe for a bit of educating, albeit wine-fuelled chat).

My response was simple – yes. Then I paused, poured another glass, told Alexa to turn down to volume one ( still wanting a bit of Foo Fighters in the background to keep the ambience going), then started my (not so brief) explanation...

The workplace has taken on many changes over the last 25 years. Workplace design wasn't a sector people identified with before then; design and build wasn't even a recognised term.

The traditional route of multiple specialists and a long-drawn-out process had long been the norm. A1 drawing boards and tracing paper were the trendy options ( obviously, I didn't mention art bins or portfolios – that would have been too nerdy and you have to hold your audience).

The fundamentals and parameters of a workplace have drastically evolved since the last century, though. Many factors have shaped this evolution: Types of buildings; contract options; long or short-term leases; amenities on offer; location; travel; technology. The list goes on and on.

But, the key change over the years is people - the biggest asset of any company. The physical parameters are present but people have always been at the centre of change.

And, let’s face it, the way we think has changed. As we've evolved and our lives have evolved, our environments have had to evolve as well. Companies have had to adapt - not just by creating new work settings to suit the demand but also by allowing flexibility into the matrix. It’s what’s known as a hybrid approach.

Historically, few companies embraced this philosophy. However, the recent pandemic has meant many companies have had to adopt this viewpoint or fall out of kilter; risking their ideologies going stale and getting left behind. The hybrid method of working is now at the forefront of most agendas when conducting the majority of staff engagement surveys.

The realisation that this can work has not necessarily been forced upon these companies – many of them learnt it through lockdown when productivity levels continued, despite staff having to adapt to working from home.

Benefits were identified which supported offering workers the chance to choose when and where they worked, based on specific activities and the need for deep concentration or group interaction. Most importantly, many businesses were able to identify hybrid working as key to their longevity; to help sustain the company and support further growth.

What’s now front of mind is that the evolution of the workplace is key to retaining or attracting staff. Even landlords offering spaces have had to rethink what is the norm. The barriers that surround how we should be working have been dismantled. The norm isn't one-dimensional; it isn't static and it isn't one option.

1416 DFS 022

Our needs have developed, mainly driven by our expectations and what tools we need to succeed when tackling multiple tasks at any given time. To meet our needs, we have to review our environments and what we require of them in more detail.

There are many questions to be answered: How much sq ft do I need? Have the right aesthetics been applied to this space? What different types of spaces are on offer and have acoustics been considered? Do I need an office? Do I need a desk? Do I actually need to be at work? Is six monitors enough in my bedroom? And what’s biophilic design? ( Just joking honest – no DMs, please).

So much has changed. You getting my drift now?

Alexa, volume 2, please.

I continued to educate (well I wasn’t going to leave it there!).

Flexibility, hybrid, collaborative, focus, open plan, quiet zones, social hub, Teams rooms, project zones, gyms, bikes, the list goes on and on. These are examples of normal requirements when reviewing what is required in a modern workplace.

A workplace, by definition, is a place where people work - but that doesn't mean one specific place or environment. It doesn’t even mean one experience.

Multiple, choice, micromanagement, plug and play and tactile all start to become embedded into our language as designers. We even start to talk about the types of coffee machines that are on offer. We don't create tea points anymore. These have become multi-usage bars and hubs; town halls, tiered seating, informal meetings, project catch-ups and touchdown areas.

The workplace is now more fluid and diverse than ever before. And it will continue on this trajectory as people keep evolving and we continue to adapt that crucial work-life balance.

Diversity, being inclusive, and being aware of our environmental responsibilities and the types of materials we use, are all elements that, as designers, need to be considering. We are now consciously aware of everyone and their individual needs and the effects on how we design and construct, have a big impact environmentally and socially.

We mention the future of the workplace, but it's here already. Embrace it.

I tell my audience I won't get started on workplace consultancy, building analysis, feasibilities, open offices, AV, or fluted glass. That last one provoked a splutter. “Fluted glass? Is that an instrument, Jason?”

At this point, the toffee vodka was hovering and I’d held the floor long enough. Time to shut it down… So, to answer your original question, guys - has the workplace really changed and are we teaching you anything new? What do you think?

“Jason, do you consult?”

Alexa, off!

Meet the Author

With almost thirty years’ industry experience, working across a varying scale of projects, Jason has a strong track record in the commercial sector and is renowned for taking a flexible approach to suit the needs of any given client. Design-led and people-focused, Jason’s interest lies in creating dynamic and inspiring designs that are functional and have longevity.