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by Addleshaw Goddard

Beyond flexibility – the future workplace…now

Workin’ 9-to-5 – not a way to make a livin’. The working models of yesteryear no longer apply; working practices are changing, and traditional office buildings no longer enable efficiency. Flexibility is a key buzzword, but getting the most from your workspace does not end there.

Office occupation trends are dynamic, and the workplace of tomorrow will not only look, but also feel, different from its antiquated ‘ancestors’.

Digitisation and globalisation have disrupted working methods. As a result, agile building, where constructions can easily adapt to further tech changes, is now essential. Building information modelling (BIM) and the use of virtual reality are helping developers to look at the full life cycle of the office building.

Using such tools to stay ahead of the game in a rapidly changing environment is vital. So, too, is being mindful of timings. When you factor in planning, construction, leasing and so on, it can take years for an office to go from conception to occupation. Workplace trends appear to be changing at a faster pace than office development can respond to, so this is a very real challenge for the sector to deal with.

Today’s workplace must, therefore, be suitably ‘futureproofed’, in the knowledge that “must-have” technology will be newly available (and may even have become ‘par for the course’) by the time workers have inhabited an as-yet unbuilt office.

Employee impact

Working models must respond to attitude and culture. As an employer, you get the workforce that you deserve. There is therefore an associated responsibility to provide a workplace which drives the culture you are seeking to achieve.

These days, employers are fond of team-building ‘away days’ which aim to inform and curate a sense of the organisation’s culture. These can be great, but why not embed culture early in your business’ life cycle by focussing on the impact the physical workspace has on culture and ‘vibe’, too?

Employee engagement is a big issue for the office of the future. How should employers monitor and measure employee activity without crossing the line into Big Brother territory, and how can the built environment feed into this? The future office should be built to respond to the question: how can we make life for our employees easier? It should be an exercise in employee empowerment and support, not employee monitoring.

Workplace design and worker productivity are inextricably linked. The office of tomorrow – indeed, the office of today – is no longer about bums-behind-desks, ergonomic chairs, video conference rooms and the odd interactive whiteboard; it is about cultivating a physical environment to compliment the atmosphere and culture your brand wants to instil. And one which has the ability to develop as you do.


The principles we’ve touched on do not just apply to single-occupier workspaces. Co-working is clearly a big trend, but agile working environments must still seek to foster a sense of community, rather than simply a shared space. The campus model of working can create a community with connections between organisations and buildings at a macro level.

People spend between 40 and 60 hours in their office each week. In some cases, we spend far more time with colleagues (or co-workers) than with friends and family. Therefore, people want a ‘home’ of sorts. They want to feel comfortable. They want culture, collaboration, innovation and sustainability. Hot-desking is proving less popular than other office occupation and working trends, because it does not breed comfort. People want their own space. More often than not, hot-desking simply serves to create a horde of headphone-wearing strangers, typing away in close proximity, but not interacting in any meaningful or creative way.

Quiet rooms within the workplace are on the rise – another sign of the future office mirroring the environmental ‘needs’ and practices people are accustomed to at home. Many predicted the future of working to be the death of the office as more people work-from-home. However, the opposite is true; people want to come together to meet, collaborate and innovate. The future workplace must feel more like a ‘home’ and less like a generic row of computer monitors, or workers will not feel inspired to innovate.

Although co-working is a new(ish) trend, futureproofing must again be top-of-mind from the outset. The next phase of this trend could see the co-working space transform into a much broader one-stop-shop, where everything is provided on one site – this means resi and retail colliding with ‘the office’. A likely transition will be to house office and leisure alongside one another. Some workplaces already have on-site gyms, for example.

Pour yourself a cup of ambition (from the shared water-cooler)

So pour yourself a cup of ambition. Think grand. Weaving culture and vibe into your office architecture and layout will pay dividends down the line. The odd employee will still come and go, but your sense of culture will not depart with them, because it is now a much more intrinsic fabric of the workplace. ‘Futureproofing’ is the critical buzzword, here, not ‘flexibility’.

Get your head around the future workplace, now, or the office you have planned will quickly fall behind the times. In such a fast-paced environment, trends rise and die quicker than the office chitter-chatter when the boss walks by. Be brave, now, and think ahead while your office is still an artist’s sketch or a floorplan on a whiteboard. Playing catch-up at a later date will only create headaches. As Dolly says: it’s enough to drive you crazy, if you let it.

This article was provided by Addleshaw Goddard and was originally published on CoStar News.



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