The Office Of The Future
Instigated by the pandemic, traditional ideas of the office are transforming.
According to a report by Accenture featured in Apollo Technical, approximately 63% of high-growth companies have adopted hybrid work models. Additionally, 83% of the time, workers prefer hybrid work options.
Salesforce president and chief people officer Brent Hyder noted to the Washington Post, “our physical spaces serve a different purpose today than they did two years ago.” Basically, the function of the office is changing with a greater focus on team empowerment and connection. By virtue of this change, the traditional design of the office is bound to be different.
“Because companies are trying to do such different things, it won’t be surprising that their offices look different as well.”
– Peter Cappelli, professor of management at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania – Washington Post
So, what do trailblazing offices, hypothesised to be of the future, look like today?
NBBJ Design Partner Ryan Mullenix explains the effect of the pandemic to Time, in which “suddenly we had two years of scrutiny around the health of the employee.” The positive impact of nature upon health is thus stressed, with Mullenix tapping into human history, whereby we “spent 99.987% of our lives as humans outdoors.” Because of this, it is only natural to be “kinda grumpy when you squeeze us into the indoor environment that’s controlled.” Companies are becoming cognisant of nature’s beneficial properties, as depicted by Salesforce’s Trailblazer Ranch, located on 75 acres in the Redwoods of Scotts Valley, Calif.
As described by the Washington Post, this off-site facility is a type of retreat, offering nature walks, garden tours, cooking classes, yoga and meditation.
Cochran Hameen, co-director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics, helps us to reflect on its value: “think about cost in terms of beneficial health to employees… it’s the value of someone’s health.”
The turn towards nature is a growing trend, mirrored by Hana Financial Group’s new headquarters in South Korea, opening 2024. LinkedIn describes it as a “restorative workplace, with the presence of nature everywhere.” The space features “parklike spaces… lopping public pathways that traverse the buildings from top to bottom.”
Whilst the pandemic showed that working remotely was possible, Bryan Hancock stresses to McKinsey that coaching, mentoring, or some of the creative interactions that happen together require people to be regularly face-to-face.
Coworking spaces make this reality more palatable. For example, Microsoft built “neighbourhoods” into its campus, prioritising equality and collaboration.
“For decades, Buildings 16 and 17 consisted largely of private offices, but with the remodel, the walls literally came tumbling down. Now, everyone works in a neighbourhood. Essentially, it’s like the student housing at the fictional Hogwarts—each team works from its own large, open common room, one they were invited to customize to their liking. Each team also has dedicated focus and meeting rooms.”
– Jennifer Warnick – Microsoft Story Labs
Phil Kirschner, senior expert, expressed via McKinsey the resulting benefits he has experienced from a ‘flatter’ workplace structure.
“I feel like I have lost my office through this transition, but I’ve gained a floor. I have all this diversity and access not just to meet different people but to use different typologies of spaces and technologies and signals and feeling and design throughout my day to best serve my needs and the needs of my team.”
– Kirschner compares it to sitting shoulder to shoulder in that hot, new restaurant. No one minds because “it’s a vibe, it’s an experience.”
The tide is changing.
Rowland Hills, chief operating officer at Leathwaite, spoke to AESC about the new requirements of the professional world. With people having grown up with flexible working technology such as a laptop or tablet, they expect that same flexibility from the job to which they’re applying. Hills states that they’re “hiring people who are surprised… if they don’t get the ability to do things where they want.”