Will offices of the future be sleek and technology-based or are they apt to become more comfortable and homelike? While advocates exist for each extreme, it is evident that the work space of the future continues to evolve, and that there is no "one size fits all" solution. What offices in the next decade become is anyone's guess, but certain trends have emerged that point to new directions in design.
The Importance of Technology
Although many Baby Boomers have retired "from active duty," so to speak, large numbers still work from home or hold consulting positions, and new technology will serve to keep them connected with their industries even though they may no longer work 9-5.
Those in Scott County and elsewhere who do work regular hours, however, will work in different ways, with fewer walled offices and more collaborative space that can be reconfigured to suit changing needs. The work environment will become less formal, with storage units and movable partitions defining spaces, rather than immovable walls.
Some key concepts driving the design of tomorrow's work space include:
- Task Integration
- Wireless and Beyond (Make way for Lifi)
- Creative Interaction
- Virtual and Augmented Reality
- Wearable Technology
- Remote Tracking
In addition, new technology will bring about changes in the way business in transacted: Physical facilities of the future will include fewer single offices and many more spaces that encourage tech integration and creative interaction.
Health and Wellness
The concept of "healthy buildings" grew out of global sustainability concerns, but business is now recognizing that buildings and people interact in unique ways, giving way to new specialties and a better understanding of the relationships between interior and exterior space.
Biophyllic design is an emerging science that recognizes a human need to connect with the natural environment. Hotels have already embraced the concept, and the next "frontier" is the work environment. It goes beyond simply giving employees a nice view or allowing access to park-like landscaping. Greenery and natural materials are now used in interior spaces to create a built environment that mimics the natural world and enhances the "life experience" of employees.
Architects and interior designers use living walls of greenery, natural light, water features and even scents to enhance interiors and establish a beneficial link between the workplace and the environment. Benefits include increased superior employee engagement and satisfaction, better physical health, and higher productivity.
The Comfortable Workplace
Workplace amenities—including workout rooms and showers, onsite daycare, pets in the office (along with pet play space both indoors and out), game rooms, "homestyle" dens with television screens and comfortable furniture, and complete kitchen facilities that look nothing like the common "break room" are just some of the features that forward-thinking companies provide for their employees.
With the growing popularity of flex time, job sharing and telecommuting, firms recognize that traditional offices may be a thing of the past, and have begun to concentrate on the quality of the work experience. Even conference rooms are apt to abandon formal table and surrounding chairs in favor of comfortable sofas and chairs with tablet and laptop convenience. They are finding that meeting employee needs and desires involves more than just pay and benefits, so that a whole new picture of appropriate office design is emerging.
It is certain that both high tech and comfort will be features of tomorrow's offices. Millennials and members of younger working generations have had and will continue to have profound influence not only on the way business in conducted, but also on the way offices, factories and warehouses are designed and constructed.
The emphasis seems to be shifting from production to people, and from the bottom line in financial terms to a better sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The office of the future is sure to reflect that.