01.10.19

The Office of the Future

Share

Technology frees the digital nomad from a desk, they are able to work anywhere, an airport, a cafe or a park. This is blurring the boundaries between home, workplace and hospitality, but also the definition between work and leisure time. The ubiquitous smartphone means we can be tethered to work 24/7, never really fully escaping its draw.

As a society, we have never been so well connected, yet in many ways so isolated. Is this why we are seeing the need to be part of a community gaining prominence in the workplace - an antidote to our reliance on technology?

From the moment we pick up a pencil, addressing these challenges is fundamental to how we approach workplace design.

Whilst technology has allowed a more fluid approach to working practices, there remains a strong human need to be with like-minded people - to be part of a community.”

The established archetype of a corporate lobby has all but vanished. It is no longer about cathedrals of glass and stone, imposing reception desks and designer leather seating; Lobbies reflect the blurring of boundaries between uses and spaces and as such are becoming more permeable and flexible; it isn't about 'them' and 'us'.

Clever design can embrace public engagement, animate street frontages and spill out in to the public realm. Cafes, refectory tables, informal touchdown lounges and co-working environments reinforce a collegiate atmosphere, making office lobbies more akin to hotel lobbies. If the lobby is the face of the building, forming peoples first impression, then it isn't a show of opulence or grandeur, but of openness, inclusivity, and innovation.

Whilst technology has allowed a more fluid approach to working practices, there remains a strong human need to be with like-minded people - to be part of a community. This is evidenced by the huge growth of co-working environments, giving freelancers, start-ups and entrepreneurs a sense of belonging, somewhere to take root.

This ‘need to belong’ equally applies to larger companies - it can even be seen in how large tech companies organise teams internally, into Squads, Chapters, Tribes and Guilds. It demonstrates the importance of being part of a group with shared goals.

The design of workspace can and should reinforce this; clear views across floorplates, interconnecting flexible volumes and adaptable communal areas help generate a collegiate atmosphere; the ability to benefit from a collective energy, whether you are a 5-person start-up or a 5,000-person multinational.

The blurred line between work and leisure means the office environment needs to offer its users more than just somewhere to work, it also needs to provide somewhere to relax, to reflect, to escape– albeit just temporarily. With our increasing reliance on technology, landscaping and outdoor space gives us the ability to introduce some much needed balance in a digital world.

These spaces are an opportunity to create tranquil seclusion or to bring people together. They can be flexible, programmable spaces, allowing for a curated programme of events and potentially even benefit more than just the users of the building; Why can’t they be used for public events? Why can’t they become a ‘village hall’? By inviting a wider audience in, the building becomes part of the local neighbourhood, and by extension, users of the building become part of an even larger community.