Published on:

27 July 2020

Updated on:

12 July 2022

Read time:

less than a minute

What does the future workplace look like?

It is evident that offices of the future must adapt for its employees in ways that traditional offices don۪t consider. In recent years, interior office designers have placed more importance on the role of health, wellbeing, inclusivity and productivity in the workplace, with designs that directly benefit the workplace۪s employees.

How Is the Future Office Being Shaped?

When we consider the factors that might be shaping future office designs, we only have to look around us. In recent times, the workplace has undergone significant changes.

Following the unprecedented spread of Covid-19, the workplace was quickly affected by lockdowns, self-isolation almost overnight. Many offices were forced to close, instead adapting a new method of remote working.

And whilst we live in a time where technology is advanced enough to facilitate remote communication, this presented huge challenges to workers, businesses and CEOs.

As the majority of workers begin to return to the office, businesses are slowly getting back to normal۪ or adopting to a hybrid home-office work style. But, as our awareness of health and wellbeing has significantly increased, as well as our caution around the spread of diseases in the workplace, commercial building owners and corporate CEOs are fully aware that future workplaces must include features that prevent the spread of Covid-19 and promote wellbeing.

When Will the Future Office Begin to Take Shape?

With ubiquitous refurbs and retrofits on the horizon, offices of the future will start to take shape immediately.

It is well-established that traditional office interiors cause more problems than solutions. Open-plan offices are noisy, distracting and harmful to the health and wellbeing of employees.

Countless studies have shown the interior design of most offices has a negative impact on creative thinking, productivity, job satisfaction, employee retention and work-related illnesses.

A move away from the traditional office layout has been slowly turning the tide for some time now. The positive response from interior office designers had been agile offices.

What Are the Future Office Solutions?

Whilst the philosophies behind flexible working are needed for employees and employers, the pandemic has forced a shift in the way companies create future office solutions that promote a productive working culture and an environment people want to work in.

Although still in its infancy, studies showed flexible working relieves stress, improved wellness and increased productivity. Future workplace trends should not depart entirely from the benefits of agile working.

In addition to customisable workspaces, flexible working features, quiet spaces and collaboration, the future workplace will have to focus on health and wellbeing, smart planning strategies and behavioural responsibility.

Designing Future Offices With Health and Wellbeing In Mind

The immediate Covid-safe solutions for retrofit offices is to install protective desk shields, foot-powered hand sanitising stations and safe distance floor stickers.

We expect to see a push towards future workspaces that value the health and wellbeing of staff. Not only will future office solutions help prevent the spread of Covid-19, but also office pollutants that have hampered health and wellbeing in the past.

Air-quality is notoriously poor in traditional UK offices and researchers have found multiple benefits natural light gives to office workers.

Interior designers also recognise the importance of being close to nature when considering future office designs. Biophilic office plans are shown to improve the health and wellbeing of employees in a number of ways, but also enhance space and enable better interaction.

Larger offices that have space to create an outdoor environment indoors should take advantage of innovative future workplace designs, bringing your employees closer to nature and improve air quality in the process.

It۪s clear that the future office will have to strike a balance between working on one level whilst adhering to social distancing regulations. Creating more space by opening up the office to outdoor areas such as gardens and rooftops to adopt the safety policies recommended by government advisors.

A Future Workplace to Facilitate Hybrid Working

We fully expect to see future workplaces take on a hybrid design that merges indoor and outdoor areas. Although the rain and the cold weather in the UK poses a problem, retractable walls and ceiling will enable companies to install open-air seating when the weather permits.

For instance, the interior office design of Google۪s Mountain View campus in California could be used as a marker. Traditional floors were moved and replaced with plates with ramps sloping down from the centre of the office. As a result, a large workforce has its own space, an outside view of nature and a healthy dose of daylight.

The future office will also see more incentive to source furniture made from sustainable materials. Synthetic products such as paint and plastics will be replaced by chemical-free furniture, modular designs and self-cleaning fabrics.

Future Office Design For Individual Users

Whilst companies want to encourage collaboration, future office designs need to accommodate both introverts and extroverts. Offices of the future will be designed with the user in mind, allowing for inclusivity, collaboration and individual workstyles.

The one-size-fits-all approach to traditional office spaces has worn thin for an increasing number of workers. A YouGov survey revealed that 36% of employees said they would throw fewer sick days if the office environment was more inspiring.

In fact, 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.

Office pods in various shapes and sizes will become a common custom feature in many future workplace designs, especially in the wake of post-pandemic ways of thinking. Acoustic pods were already offered as a sound barrier to muffle noise levels.

Whilst it is doubtful companies will revert back to the isolated environments imposed by private cubicles, individual glass-sided pods are likely to become a post-pandemic, future office trend to prevent employees from feeling totally isolated.

Pods, like telephone booths, will be used sparingly in future offices for when people need to work in complete silence so they can concentrate on their work. The practical choice is to install three-way cardboard desk shields with clear film windows that allow natural light to shine through.

Lightweight sneeze screens are portable, easy to install and low maintenance. Moreover, researchers have confirmed that coronavirus only lasts up to 24-hours on cardboard compared to 72-hours on perspex, glass, steel and wood.

Future Office Technology

Technology in the office is nothing new, but it has certainly advanced to levels in which we now completely rely on.

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 future office environment must continue adapting to accommodate new modes of operation.

For brands with a vision that embraces company culture especially, installing the technological foundations of your future office now will save a lot of time, money and effort in the future.

Smart Offices Of the Future

Intelligent buildings are at the forefront of technology-driven corporations, and a key part of future office solutions. 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.

Facial recognition software and office management tools on mobile phones were already starting to appear in smart offices. For example, Deloitte۪s intelligent building, The Edge, in Amsterdam connects its employees to a central AI computer that knows how and when individuals like their coffee, organises work schedules, finds a free parking space and sets your workspace to a customisable temperature.

The priorities of future smart offices not only include solutions that benefit employees by improving air quality, streamlining day-to-day activities, organising work schedules and optimising cleaning services, but also focus by creating an environmentally friendly space.

Boudewijn Ruitenburg, chief operating officer of Amsterdam-based office developer EDGE Technologies, says: A conventional building is always either cooling or heating, it's switched on from early in the morning to late in the evening, consuming a lot of energy at full capacity.۝

With state-of-the-art technology as a platform, companies can connect everything and everyone in the building, all whilst benefiting the environment with smart energy usage. Apps will become a key feature for office workers.

Biometric Office 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. This future office technology is designed to record and recognise facial dimensions, retinas, fingerprints and palms. Many workers can often find this too intrusive, raising questions around the acceptance of biometric controls in future workplaces.

However, the need for touch-free access points following the coronavirus outbreak will accelerate the influx of biometric technologies into the future of the workplace.

The flexibility and enhanced mobility smart buildings offer will only work if the office supports the functionality. For instance, dynamic spaces support intelligent building designs and vice versa.

Dynamic Future Workspaces

A future workplace 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, shifting 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, your future office plan doesn۪t have to be that drastic.

Installing multiple power points and sockets that support a variety of cables will support various future office 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.

Activity-Based Work Environments

An amalgamation of existing and emerging hardware enables companies to create flexible future 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 needs 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 paving the way for future office spaces by installing break out areas such as games rooms, cafes and mini-golf courses.

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.

Facilitating 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 in future workplaces. Subsequently, firms need to reimagine their office design to ensure the right technologies and work spaces 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 future office 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 office based teammates and actually feel they are in the same space.

Health and Safety in the Future Workplace

With coronavirus spreading through contact with surfaces, hands-free technologies will become more prevalent in the workplace. Employees will have to scan passes to enter the building, pass through doorways and order drinks.

Companies with a high number of employees working in the office on a daily basis should consider future workplaces that include non-contact thermometers to monitor people۪s temperature and automated taps and dryers in the toilets that people do not have to touch. Handsfree sanitiser towers enable employees to cleanse their hands using foot controls.

Additionally, 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.

How Will the Future Office Affect Social Interaction?

It۪s human nature to want social interaction, both at home and in the workplace. Whilst Covid-19 does not mean we must all continue life in total isolation, community spaces in the future workplace will require strict policies that benefit our health.

Future office designs that encourage Covid-safe behaviour will play a part in ensuring employees socially distance whilst also enabling companies to integrate a sense of togetherness.

Clear-screen partitions between desks and dining tables do not stray from government recommendations. The aesthetic quality also adds to the look and feel of a stylish, and futuristic interior office design.

Portable furniture will also enable workers to have the freedom of flexibility without putting co-workers at risk by sharing seats. A policy of wiping desks clean will become common practice in offices of the future, and lockers will allow workers to keep their personal belongings in a safe place.

Covid-secure future office solutions are already underway. Whilst temporary measures are in place, companies and interior office consultants have to find long-term solutions.

Start Creating Your Future Office Design

At the heart of the future office design revolution is the realisation that the modern workspace has to support collaboration, innovation, creativity, productivity and the general wellbeing of employees.

By working together, companies and designers are able to find long-term future office solutions much faster. To get the ball rolling with your future workplace plan, simply get in touch with our experts and lead the way for other businesses to follow.