Future workplace signals death of the cubicle
What comes to your mind when you think of the average office is probably an image of small individual cubicles, drab white ceiling tiles, and a gurgling water bubbler. However, this picture is increasingly becoming outdated. Thanks to technological advancements, traditional offices have had to compete with new, non-traditional workspaces. Employees can work at from home, at cafes, or even at bars. In light of this, offices now need to fill a new role.
They must be spaces for collaboration and consultation, rather than just places for employees to individually produce at an isolated workspace. Not only does this require a change in the physical environment of the office space, it necessitates a fundamental change in how the space functions.
A report prepared by real estate services company, Cushman & Wakefield, titled Workplace 2025, suggests that by 2025 the workplace experience will have fundamentally changed for American employees. The report argues that, as employees “no longer need to be at work,” it is increasingly “important that they want to come to work.” Technology will be used to personalize the workspace. Specific coffee orders can be synced to an employee’s identity, so that they are prepared as soon as he/she keys into the office. Lights, temperature, and even chair heights can be adjusted along the same principle.
Ultimately, however, the office community is more important than any technological novelty. The report suggests that the workplace of 2025 must act “as a physical embodiment” of the company’s culture. Creating a vibrant community that attracts and holds talent is more important than floor layouts or location alone. The report concludes that the office of 2025 should be thought of as a theater rather than a static room and must be “adaptable, flexible and quick to change.”
Workplace as collaboration space
The shift in how people work can be seen in the rise of “coworking spaces” across the country. These rentable workplaces have proven exceptionally successful in the D.C. market. In 2016, there were over 70 coworking spaces in D.C. alone, according to Curbed. These spaces offer both traditional “work pods” and less traditional spaces, such as game rooms, couches, and coffee bars.
These workspaces also vary in style and price, some resemble rather straightforward conference centers, while others offer staffed kitchens and individualized rooms with unique furniture and amenities. The fact that this business model is successful reflects that, not only is work no longer tied to a specific location, but that employees still want some elements of the “office.” Particularly, these spaces usually advertise the creative benefits that being around other working people can bring. These spaces are designed to be collaborative, offering employees the benefits of an office, in addition to the freedom that being able to individualize your space and experience offer.
How people work has fundamentally shifted in the last two decades. The rise of the Internet and highly portable computers mean that work is no longer tied to a specific location. However, employees still want and benefit from some elements of the office.
As the Cushman & Wakefield report suggests, the role of the office is no longer primarily as a workspace, but rather as a place for collaboration and idea incubation. The huge success of coworking spaces shows that offering a customizable and personalized space is not only popular, but highly conducive to this new role. The office may no longer be defined by rows of cubicles, but it is still important to offer employees spaces where they can discuss their ideas and receive the face-to-face interactions and feedback that cannot be fully supplanted by working remotely.
Author credit: Thomas Schaffner
Photo credit: Nastuh Abootalebi