The office landscape is undergoing a seismic shift. Many factors are inexorably driving major changes in the way offices are designed. These include technology advances, increasing globalisation, changing workplace demographics, and more.
Todays’ workplace is already radically different from that of, say, ten years ago. Technology plays a large part in this, influencing layout and ultimately, the whole company culture. It’s a symbiotic dynamic that continues to evolve into a whole new work style:
The corporate world has shifted from tiered layouts to more democratic open-plan environments, with the emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Not only is it more cost-effective to break down barriers, literally and metaphorically, it encourages multi-tasking and team spirit, the natural domain of digital natives brought up with technology from birth.
However, it is still necessary to have private spaces for meetings and confidential discussions, so it really is a case of blending the best of both old and new working worlds.
The incredible shrinking desk! Yes, desk sizes are reflecting democracy too. Out with managerial expanse and individual work stations and in with smaller desks and ‘work settings’, a free-flowing environment with people flexing between settings to support the work at hand.
This trend has been driven by a combination of factors:
- The arrival of flat-screen technology
- The need to incorporate more desks
- Office equipment in general is shrinking, from printers and copiers to computers
- The paper trail is also waning, making big file cabinets obsolete in many work areas
Collaboration is todays’ workplace buzzword as it nurtures productivity, creativity and innovation. It creates an exponential hotbed of ideas, with today’s millennial workers sharing and using information, connecting with colleagues and company. This fostering of an inclusive environment and sincere relationships pays significant dividends in people’s professional and personal lives. Knowing their input is valued automatically encourages output – a self-sustaining win-win relationship.
Some of the major changes and design trends in workplace operation:
- The shift towards Agile working or Activity Based Working. Technology has mobilised the workforce and this has created huge opportunities for more productive office designs that create different work settings tailored to the different tasks that have to be done. For example, more informal meeting space and breakout areas for collaborative activities, more quiet spaces for work requiring concentration and focus.
- Workstations are getting smaller. We are seeing the steady eradication of large crescent or core workstations and the return to rectangular desks. In addition the standard rectangular desk footprint of 1600mm x 800mm is giving way to a more compact 1400mm x 700mm – and in some cases as small as 1200mm or even 1000mm wide.
- A reduction in bookable meeting rooms and an increase in more informal unbooked meeting space. This is an interesting development as the perennial complaint from clients is that they don’t have enough meeting rooms. Research has shown that this is often due to large meeting rooms being taken up with small one-to-one meetings and also that, whilst meeting rooms are often booked, this doesn’t mean that they are actually occupied!
- Fewer designated managers’ offices. Another key finding of recent research is that one of the most under-utilised spaces within an office is the designated manager’s office. In addition many companies and managers find it beneficial to have middle management working in main office area alongside their teams – as long as they have access to quiet space for confidential work and also meeting space.
- More flexible working hours. Older staff members are often working beyond their statutory retiring age but asking for flexible hours/part-time working. Younger staff are more tech-savvy, have higher expectations of what a workplace should be providing and much more receptive to a more agile work style. In addition, an increase in globalisation has led to more video-conferencing across time zones, which often means early starts or late finishes to accommodate.
The changing workplace – an eye-opening trend
The NOW work setting is informal and open plan to promote flexible, collaborative knowledge-sharing and social interaction, with quiet areas providing the headspace needed for concentration.
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