If your vision for the future workplace is a drab, cold warehouse sparsely dotted with drone employees, think again.
Over the next decade and beyond, workplaces will be geared more towards the needs of its employees, which will mean a diverse mix of spaces, furniture, and amenities, experts say.
“My view is that we’re going to see more and more flexibility in workplace design,” organizational psychologist and “The Best Place To Work” author Ron Friedman told Business Insider.
In researching his book, Friedman analysed thousands of academic studies in behavioural science to better understand the conditions that help us work more effectively. In the past, he said the focus of workplace design has been on saving space, primarily for financial reasons.
“That’s changing as the knowledge economy grows, and there’s a greater appreciation for the extent to which the brain is influenced by its surroundings,” he said. “Offering a selection of spaces for workers to choose from is going to become essential for business success.”
To determine what this trend of designing workspaces around elevating worker performance might look like in the future, Business Insider also conferred with experts from office space rental company WeWork, research and advisory firm CEB (now part of Gartner), and architecture firms WXY architecture + urban design, nARCHITECTS, and ESI Design.
In designing workspaces that will serve the future workforce, Mimi Hoang, a principal at nARCHITECTS, told Business Insider, “the aim is to create synergies and spontaneous opportunities for collaboration through the diverse mix of work-related functions.” Workspaces of the future will essentially function as “an expanded ecosystem.”
“The day of everyone sitting by themselves at their own desk is coming to a close,” Michael Schneider, a senior designer and A/V technologist at ESI Design told Business Insider. “With interpersonal, creative work proving more resilient to automation than many of the rote jobs conducted at individual work stations, expect the office of the future to be centered around collective spaces.”
Emily Webster, a senior designer and A/V technologist at ESI Design, also told Business Insider that, as more and more jobs are handled by freelancers or gig workers passing through temporary spaces, offices will “need to prevent employees from feeling like strangers waiting at a bus station.”
Based on these conversations, we’ve compiled a number of workspace design elements we may see over the next ten years and beyond.
Join us on a tour of the workplace of the future:
Mixed workspaces that workers share will allow employees to move around based on their mood or the type of work they need to do.
Meanwhile, private offices will still offer teams that require closed collaboration a space to work.
Some communal space furniture design like sawtooth counter-spaces and X-shaped 'crosstalk' tables will help facilitate conversation and information sharing.
While private phone booths with a small work surface and seating will allow for the privacy not afforded by open-plan workspaces.
Quiet rooms will also allow employees get away from the noise and distractions of an open workspace, recharge, and do more focused work.
Large conference rooms will still allow large groups of people to meet at a time. Technology will allow people to book conference rooms in any city or area.
Conversation conference rooms, for example, will be more intimate and designed with acoustics in mind. Low tables, comfortable seating, table and floor lamps along with layered materials and textures provide an escape from the formality of a standard conference room at WeWork.
Brainstorm rooms, on the other hand, would be covered in whiteboards or other surfaces that lend themselves to problem-solving on the fly.
Centrally-located staircases may be used as a way to not only physically connect people on different floors, but also as a communal space that drives collaboration.
Communal kitchen spaces will offer daily food options so employees can stay close to work and work comfortably.
'Connection to nature is super important,' Claire Weisz, a founding principal at WXY architecture + urban design, told Business Insider. She said that creating enjoyable open areas and outdoor seating, dining, and activities has been and will continue to be 'the secret to success' in workplace design.
Connecting workers to nature can happen indoors, too. Greenscaping around the office may help lower worker anxiety levels and increase productivity.
And windows that allow for views of the outdoors and exposure to natural sunlight have been found to make for happier workers with more mental energy and creativity.
Technology including employee badges and sensors around the office are already tracking employees' location and behavioural data. Employers can use this data to determine how space could be better used and how productivity and information sharing could be improved in the future.
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