What Will the Office of the Future Be-and Why is it Important?

What Will the Office of the Future Be-and Why is it Important?

What Will the Office of the Future Look Like?Much has been written about the changing corporate culture, relating to company policies that have been altered to attract and retain talented new employees. More than ever before, the needs—in terms of job satisfaction and personal growth—are now being addressed. From factory to high-rise office, business life is a lot more than base pay and benefits.

Now there's a new consideration in the mix for employers.

It's not only an American phenomenon. Nor is it a concern only in urban settings, or for corporate giants. There is a growing sense, worldwide, that the quality of the workplace affects the quality of the work, and employers are "on board" to maximize both in increasingly personalized ways.

Creating a Better Environment

Among key ingredients for an "attractive workspace," according to Tom Redmayne, director of business development for U.K. and Ireland at Wiredscore.com, are those that provide employees tools and opportunities to balance their personal and business lives.

Companies that go beyond the norm in terms of physical space routinely provide cafeterias; offer comfortable lounge areas and exercise opportunities; equip offices with ergonomically-designed seating; and add soothing color schemes, natural daylight and views of the outside world. Today, however, those amenities are not enough. Savvy employers today also design outdoor walking paths or indoor workout rooms, offer flex hours, encourage "casual Friday" attire and allow employees to work from home on an as-necessary schedule.

With a business climate that encourages 24-7 availability—entirely possible in the digital universe—there is a sense that no one is ever "off duty." There is also a growing sense that the workplace must become a place more "home-like" in character if it is to respond to employee needs.

An emphasis on a home-work balance is a distinctive hallmark of the new job market mindset. Modern employers offer many "home-like" advantages, ranging from daycare facilities to healthcare clinics, exercise rooms and self-improvement classes. The office complexes and corporate campuses of the future, though, are likely to explore new territory in search of corporate amenities that appeal to a broad spectrum of age groups and employee expectations. In addition to park-like grounds with outdoor walking/jogging paths, a future business park might incorporate shopping and entertainment as well as a variety of eateries.

By integrating home-style into the business world, asserts Redmayne, companies will be better able to recruit and train effective personnel, respond to changing economies and develop a dynamic workplace model that is grounded in innovation, collaboration and efficiency.

Trends to Follow

Although no one predicts the demise of the traditional office, space planners recognize the need for some "attitude adjustment" to accommodate generational shifts in work styles. Office buildings of the future are likely to feature:

  • Team spaces that encourage networking in addition to private cubbies that offer quiet and solitude
  • Free lunches, onsite food markets, even community gardens to encourage healthy eating
  • A digital infrastructure that acknowledges personal communication needs as well as business connectivity
  • Flex schedules and work from home options that are not tied to a time clock
  • A new emphasis on transportation, addressing commute times and public transportation options
  • Lounge-like office interiors and integrated "play spaces."

Architects and designers of futuristic office buildings have great leeway to design new spaces, but there is no shortage of ingenuity in modern urban environments or when it comes to renovating historic buildings.

Minneapolis Scene

Unique in many ways, Minneapolis is at the forefront of the new business culture, with a compact and vibrant urban core that not only offers exceptional work spaces but also has a tradition of close-in neighborhoods with great living options, dining destinations, downtown shopping, cultural, sports and entertainment choices, and riverfront parks and trails for exercise.

The city represents a unique blend of live-work integration, and local business leaders and real estate developers have not been slow to recognize the opportunity. Continued development of new office space in downtown buildings, including renovation of the former Macy's facility and the four-story Maytag facility, join new construction high-rise development of mixed-use buildings that respond to the new desire for balanced lifestyles, and a new direction in business.

While there is some indication that a virtual office structure will also be a part of the future, there will always be a need for physical space, according to all observers. And that physical space is destined to become more desirable, more functional, more convenient, and more in demand—especially in downtown Minneapolis.

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