The modern office in 2018 should be a far cry from the cubicle-filled rooms of past decades. Thanks to the rapid expansion of Internet connectivity and the boom in personal technological devices, today’s employees can — and often do — work away from the office as often as they do within it.
This game-changing transformation of the way we work has been reflected in the way our offices are designed.
While personal workstations are still a staple in office buildings today, companies are also investing in more alternative workspaces — lounges, group work tables, “quiet floors,” and more.
Having an individual desk for every employee may not be needed anymore. Companies are realizing that being successful today is heavily reliant on collaboration and creativity, which means their workers need space to interact with each other in meaningful ways. An office needs both — spaces for individual work and for collaboration.
Add to this the fact that personal workstations are a highly inefficient way to provide space for a large number of people, and you can see why alternative seating is becoming so popular.
Along with the idea that employees do best when they can be creative and work together meaningfully, companies have also embraced the truth that people are healthier and happier when they feel connected to nature.
That’s the principle behind biophilic design, which brings elements of the natural world into the build environment.
In 2018, we can expect to see more than the rooftop gardens, indoor herb gardens and vertical planters that have become fairly commonplace. Paths specifically for walking meetings, more outdoor green space and plenty of sustainability initiatives like grey water systems are going to be popular this year and in the future.
Design that accounts for the IoT
The Internet of Things (IoT) hasn’t really transformed the mainstream office space yet, but the time is coming — and soon. We now need to consider how universal connectivity will change the way space functions. Meeting rooms may need space for more video screens. Workers will need more charging stations for their multiple devices. The building will need to accommodate more and better IT security hardware. These are just a few of the possibilities.
More inclusion and better accessibility
The progressive workspace in 2018 is not only collaborative, but also inclusive and accessible. Companies are taking concrete steps to make their offices more welcoming to people with differing abilities, taking advantage of things like adaptive office chairs, adjustable height desks and assistive technologies.
Technology has removed some of the barriers companies previously faced in hiring employees with disabilities. It’s encouraging to see so many organizations working harder to make their workplaces inclusive ones.
Design based on employees’ activities, rather than job title
In the past, your job title largely dictated what your personal share of an office space looked like. If you were CEO, you got a large corner office with a view and two large computer screens — even if you only spent 30% or 40% of your day in the office.
If you were a customer service representative, you got a small desk with a phone and computer next to every other customer service rep — even though you spent 95% of the day at your desk.
This is changing. Companies are rethinking spaces based on how their employees use them. Someone who spends hours on the phone each day needs a quiet, private office. A salesperson who’s in and out of the office many times a day may be better served with a tablet and an area for hosting client meetings.
Wireless and wired tech are both accommodated
Most of us expect to have access to WiFi in any public space we visit, so it stands to reason that we hold our offices up to high standards when it comes to wireless capabilities. Forward-thinking designs accommodate wired and wireless tech, allowing workers to move seamlessly between them.
Just like employees today prize flexible work hours and flexible leave, they want their workspaces to be flexible as well. This ties into the rise in alternative workspaces, of course, but it’s more complex than that — flexible workspaces must work for any worker, with any technological needs.
This is part of the idea behind “touchdown” spaces, or office locations that are designed to give employees space to touch down — check email, voicemail, and maybe brainstorm for a minute or two — between work sessions or meetings. Ideally, these stations can be used by any employee no matter what his or her job function.
Centralized files and data
As individual offices become more rare, companies need alternative solutions for paper files. Instead of giving each employee a file cabinet, which isn’t terribly useful nowadays anyway, organizations are moving toward keeping long-term files in a single, central location where people who need them can access them.
With electronic files, we’re seeing more and more companies use the cloud for storing their company data. This way, it’s safe, secure and accessible anywhere.
Although we’ve moved on from the entirely open-plan office fad that was popular in the 1990s, offices today are removing much of the space that used to be behind closed doors. As companies are utilizing fewer private offices, they’re opening up floor space for more creative uses.
This literal breaking down of walls is also allowing in more natural light, making these offices more pleasant and healthful spaces to work.
Greater investment in workplace design
More and more companies are realizing that workplace design has very real effects on their bottom line, and their ultimate success. Employee productivity is heavily influenced by the working environment, as is the ability to attract top talent in one’s field.
Because of this, more companies are placing greater emphasis on designing beautiful, functional office spaces — and they’re budgeting accordingly.
Work is vastly different today than it was 10 or even five years ago. The best workspaces are the ones that are not only embracing the current changes, but are readying themselves for the next wave of changes as well.
Shama Hyder is CEO of Zen Media, a leading digital marketing and design agency, a best-selling author, and an internationally renowned keynote speaker. Her latest book, Momentum, is now out in paperback.