The Future of Office Design

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by Scott Colman, Creative Director at Blue Jelly

Evolution of Workplace Design

Offices of the 70s were rigid workspaces. They were complex, cubical-crazy labyrinth layouts that resembled the interior design of a casino. You couldn’t escape. There was minimal natural light. A cacophony of noise—chatter, combined with the abundant tappity-tappity-click of typewriters. Twinned with the occasional whirring noise from a fancy new computing terminal (such as the Apple II introduced in 1977, other computers were available).

We’ve seen several step-changes evolving this office model in the past three decades. However, the most exciting innovations are just ahead of us. The third space will transform the office of the future—but what is it? Business lounges used to be associated with airlines—why are workspace designers adopting the concept? And how will flexible working influence office design? We’ll investigate how past and present trends are shaping the office of the future—the most productive office of all time.

Too Much Open Space?

After the 80s, there was a sudden shift to modernize the office. Business leaders decided thattheir own closed ivory towers’ productivity could be increased if they replaced the traditional ‘cubical’ workspace design. Collaboration and community became core workspace trends. Those holding the purse strings were also happy as this office style meant the walls were coming down, so the project costs did too. The time-worn, pale grey cubicle walls tumbled down. Open space was the new norm.

This trend is still present today. However, open space is now becoming a problem. It doesn’t address the issue of people working in different ways and needing different spaces for different tasks.

Cutting Edge, Innovative Space

Anyone who has tried to get his or her head into deeply focused tasks in a bustling, vibrant open space office without their trusty noise-cancelling headphones knows how difficult it is to complete work. The two concepts completely juxtapose one another.

A critical change in workplace design is beginning to emerge—and it could offer a solution. Office designers are starting to incorporate a variety of workspaces into their designs, replacing the single open-plan workstation layout with a more diversified design. Some key areas we will see integrated into forward-thinking offices now, and more widely adopted in the office of the future, include:

Collaborative Workspaces

Complete with massive walls for brainstorming, large desks for mapping thought processes and presentation areas.

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Breakout Areas

Relaxed open spaces for consulting clients or conducting person-to-person meetings.

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Pods

An enclosed, quiet space for heads-down work or important meetings which require a distraction-free environment.

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The Third Space

This terminology is based on a concept dating back the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky in the early 1900s. It relates to a theoretical place between work and home. In terms of its recent adoption in office design, it can be helpful to think of it as a location between workstations and formal meeting rooms.

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Read more: Check out design firm Ologie’s Third Space.

Business Lounges

A space offering facilities such as Wi-Fi, lounging, drinks and meeting areas. Supporting the ‘always on’ executive. They will be predominantly present in the office of industries where clients visit regularly, for example estate agents and transport hubs like airports and railway stations.

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You can find out more about modern office terminology in our glossary of workplace terms.

Creativity and Imagination

An estimated 47% of US employment is at risk of automation, a recent study shows. It is widely accepted that creative industries cannot be automated, so it is expected we will see heavy growth in this area. Workspaces must shift to support this trend, fostering raw human imagination at the core of its design.

Designers will create spaces that get the mind thinking. We are seeing this spread already, although constraint in the future would definitely be welcome. Ping pong tables, fun slides and games rooms are all well and good, until they impact work output. A balance must be found.

Companies are beginning to understand that to attract and retain the highest quality talent, they must invest in company culture and employee engagement. In fact 87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their most critical challenges a recent Deloitte survey shows.

Employee Well-Being & Health

Wellness within the office is essential to ensure workers remain engaged, happy and creative. On average happiness makes employees 12% more productive.

When renovating a workspace, recent trends to prioritize well-being should be at the forefront of the design process. With more flexible working practices taking hold, such as changes to the traditional 9 to 5 hours or working from home, designers may consider replacing the common allocated workstation layout with an intuitively designed third space. Using space more efficiently in this way will also decrease overhead spending as fewer desks are required.

Finally, ‘vegging out’ in the office, turns out, can actually be beneficial for business. Before you get your lounge pants out, we don’t mean ‘vegging out’ in the traditional sense. A study from Australia concluded that office plant life can increase productivity by 15%. Landscaping the office with plants can increase quality of life and take the edge off the sterile climate control by refreshing the air. Indoor nature is no longer limited to pots too. Office interiors have been liberated since the arrival of vertical green walls, transforming even the stuffiest of offices into beautiful, living spaces.

Conclusion

Creativity will be at the core of many businesses in the future and this will be reflected within their workspace design. The office will maximize employee well-being to increase engagement and productivity. From large, open workstation spaces, future office design will split this up into a variety of different optimized spaces – third spaces, collaboration rooms, pods and breakout areas.

This is the office of the future – and will be the most productive office of all time.

Scott Colman, Creative Director at Blue Jelly, is responsible for the creative and practical considerations of Blue Jelly’s forward thinking office designs.


 

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