We have seen a move away from the cellular work plans; where everyone has their own individual office. Then we saw the revolution of open plan offices: where everyone has their own individual workstation in an open environment…. Now the question is…. what does the future hold next for workplace design?

Over the last few years, Activity Based Working (ABW) has become all the rage. This means unassigned desking that encourages people to move around depending on the task at hand. An ABW office is made up from flexible, multipurpose areas with an array of work-point options, such as informal and formal meeting areas, hot desks, work cafes, and quiet zones.

As technology has evolved, it has broken the link between a fixed workstation and the employee, which has made ABW possible. I’m sure you have seen, even in your own office the move to laptops? This flexibility enables workers to simply plonk down anywhere and work, but… if there is still a traditional workstation layout still in place, people are going to tend to still sit in the same spot. After all we are creatures of habit!

Right now, we are seeing clients seeking more interesting spaces for their workplace, inspired by those of Google headquarters. Clients want their office space to be interesting, unique and encourage creativity.

So what does the future hold? Over time the office may evolve into more of a corporate lounge environment with an abundance of flexible spaces, for colleagues, peers and friends to catch up. These more casual settings encourage social interaction and collaboration, which are so important for developing and sustaining of a company’s culture.

These casual exchanges of information can lead to fantastic results such as the happiness, engagement and retention of staff (which is going to be particularly important with the Millenniums hitting the workforce!!!)…all of which assist in increasing the companies’ bottom line.

The shift towards smaller floor plates for the workplace has already started but will become more common in the future. In some cases this will be a forced change due to the density of the city, but in other cases it will be a choice by the client to achieve a greater sense of community. These small-scale workplaces will force us as designers to do more with less space. We will need to rethink the way we work, consider spatial planning and ‘convertible’ spaces and really get those creative juices flowing!

There are also economic concerns is also on people’s minds: not knowing what the future may hold for a company due to economic downturns and the rate of advancements in technology. Understandable reasons why companies aren’t keen on investing in an 8000-square-metre-plus space.

In the future, we will see more shared studios and short term leases as a reaction to real estate unaffordability and hence companies will be looking for a way to convert the cities neglected nooks into useful spaces.

Future workplace interior design will need to embrace new opportunities in technology that encourage new and smarter ways of working. Companies will need to look at incorporating these resources into the office design initially, rather than at the end of the project, as we so often see now. This technology should be seen and not heard and carefully integrated within the workplace landscape. It is my point of view that the spatial requirements will be determined by technology first and foremost, establishing the physical verses the virtual spaces needed.

Within these future workplaces there will need to be spaces which are technology free (Yes can you believe it!), to give our brains some relief from our hyper information-driven world.

So what do YOU think? Sound interesting?
I love this topic and would love to hear your thoughts on the future of workplace design. Let’s Chat!

Stefney Schultz
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