Written by Anton Chernikov, illustrations created by Nooma Studio
The office of the future is all about people.
In a future where working from home 2-3 days a week becomes the norm, the commercial real estate operators and owners that will thrive will be the ones that focus on the way that people socialise and collaborate within their buildings. A prime location and an expensive interior fit out is no longer enough. What matters most is the culture and ecosystem of added value services and experiences that a workplace can provide. Operators need to focus not only on the physical design of their buildings, but also on the way they communicate and co-create with their tenants and members. We need to think about the fusion of the hardware and software of buildings, with a seamless flow between physical and digital environments. We need to pay much more attention towards recruiting high skilled staff and training them to use smart technologies to deliver a more personal and high value service. When it comes to the interior design we need to think much more deeply about wellbeing and sustainability. What does it mean to feel well? How do we measure it? How do we make coming into work a joyful experience? How do we help people shift towards healthier habits? How do our spaces tell a story? How do our spaces surprise and inspire? How do our spaces catalyse creativity, collaboration and authentic human connection? How can our tenants personalise and transform our spaces to reflect their own unique values and culture? How do we cultivate a culture within our operational teams of deeply listening to the needs of our community and then curating or co-creating a vibrant programme of events, dinners, exhibitions, performances, wellness classes, pop-up retail and brand partnerships to meet those needs? Simply demonstrating that you care about these questions and are committed to exploring them with your tenants and members is how you build an authentic culture and strong sense of community and belonging. This is the first step.
When it comes to hybrid working, there is no one size fits all solution. There are many aspects to work. Some of the time we need to have privacy to get our heads down and work without distraction, ideally with multiple screens. Some of the time we need to make a client pitch or host a networking event. Some of the time we need to get everyone together to solve a problem or align around the core values and vision of the organisation. Every day is different and every team is different and so naturally the optimal workspace is one that offers the highest level of flexibility. The best way to achieve this is to ensure you have wide diversity of on demand spaces that can be booked and adapted to suit any occasion. It is helpful to consider the section of your building and also the way that furniture, artwork and decorations can be effectively stored and moved across the building. Perhaps a table could be lifted into the ceiling, or perhaps a spontaneous silent disco dance could be held on the rooftop. The secret to designing the office of the future is superflex.
Make sure to create welcoming, vibrant and multi-use ground floors and basements. No more empty and corporate looking lobbies. Invest in spaces that are dedicated to transformational learning and multi-disciplinary collaboration. Invest in a wellness programme and be creative with how your spaces can be used outside of working hours on evenings and weekends. This is the time to rip up the rule book and challenge old assumptions. Organisations no longer need to commit to a single office location. They can spend their office budget in many different ways. Organisations could give their team members a personal work from home budget so they can find a local coworking space to work from and avoid the commute. They could redesign your team's workflow so that everyone only needs to meet once or twice a week. They could sign up for memberships across multiple coworking spaces and private member clubs. They could also book out countryside venues and do overnight offsite retreats and workshops. This is the ideal moment for retailers and commercial office operators to redesign their floor-plates and adjust their business models. The purpose of having a central office will no longer be to sit at a desk all day but to connect, learn and be inspired. The best way to maximise the value of a space is to open up to a wide range of functions and revenue streams. If one stream struggles you can focus on another.
Work With Us We have a deep understanding of how to design for coliving, BtR, and multi-generational single family and multi-family communities. We also have experience in designing for hybrid workplaces and working with clients to co-create placemaking, wellbeing and sustainability strategies for their developments and organisations. We are a small specialist placemaking and community architecture studio with a wide network of interdisciplinary freelancers and advisors. We use our studio space called House of Transformation to host immersive workshops and test experimental projects and events that enable us to bring unique perspectives and creative solutions to our clients.