The traditional office environment is changing. Behind an increased focus on remote work, employee wellness, and flexibility, office spaces are embracing strong trends in cost efficiency and resilient design for sustainability.
Smart building management systems, project management tools, wireless networking, task automation, and artificial intelligence represent only a few of the tools employees can use to make work easier, faster, and safer.
Hybrid work models combine remote and in-person work. Employees are given the opportunity to work from home, from a traditional office, or from other locations. Hybrid work emerged largely as a result of the pandemic. It allows employees to experience the flexibility of at-home work and the collaborative aspect of an in-person office space.
Greater movement toward hybrid work could mean big changes for future workspaces. Potential effects of hybrid work include reductions in office size and redesigned office spaces that emphasize teamwork and communication. Hybrid work shifts could also significantly affect a company’s focus on technology, forcing the use of video conferencing technologies to connect in-person and at-home employees.
Future office spaces should also see a greater emphasis on flexibility. A flexible workspace is an environment that can adapt to meet the changing needs of its employees. Companies that maintain a flexible office setting will find ways to accommodate different employee work styles, work schedules, and productivity requirements.
There are several key features to a flexible workspace. These can include adjustable or ergonomic furniture that can be reconfigured to an employee’s preferences. Adjustable furniture allows employees to remain comfortable while working in any physical position. Flexible furniture often features a modular design, furniture that can be divided or rearranged to create different spaces for different activities.
Flexible office spaces should also feature the latest in workplace technology, from high-speed internet to project management software. This technology should help further improve communication and collaboration between coworkers, no matter where those employees are located.
A flexible workspace can encourage work-sharing trends like coworking — when employees of different companies share the same workspace. Collaborative work environments might also accept project-based work or space for freelancers who work independently for a number of clients.
Many flexible workspaces also feature multipurpose design — floor plans that can be used for multiple functions. This means that an office space can be redesigned to host a range of different activities, from work and collaboration to leisure and recreation.
Mixed-use spaces could represent the future of flexible office buildings. For example, an office building might include retail, residential, and recreational spaces, alongside traditional office spaces, to create a more integrated community. A multi-use office space might also have space for conferences, meetings, workshops, or other events that welcome outside guests.
The layout of a multipurpose office building should accommodate all possible uses of the space. This means careful flooring estimation during construction to ensure an office layout can accommodate any and all planned activities. Multi-function office spaces should also prepare facilities that different users might need. For example, a flexible office space featuring a workout facility might need locker rooms, showers, and other design elements.
Many office workspaces are actively shifting from an isolated, cubicle-style layout to floor plans that emphasize collaboration. This shift creates more space for group work and communication. Increased collaboration space also helps dissolve barriers between employees and company leaders, particularly when executives were traditionally hidden inside private offices.
The trend toward more collaborative space reflects a greater shift in the way work is done today. Increased space for teamwork might also drive the need for collaborative technology, particularly in work environments where one or more project contributors are working remotely. Communal amenities like break rooms, kitchens, and lounge areas can help further encourage socialization and collaboration between employees.
Natural light has been shown to have numerous benefits in the modern office space. An abundance of natural light can help improve your mood, decrease stress, and even improve sleep quality. Allowing natural light into your office can create energized, positive employees with the right mindset and work ethic.
There are several ways that a flexible office space can incorporate natural light. For example, maximizing window space can increase the natural light that enters a building. Automated shading systems, like AI-enabled blinds or curtains, can help reduce glare while expanding openings for natural light. Properly calculating for and applying paint can also enhance the natural light in a workplace, appropriately balancing colors and producing a warm effect.
Optimizing the workspace is an important step for any employer that wants to prioritize employee well-being. This means creating a physical workplace, and a workplace culture, that encourages employees to prioritize both mental, physical, and emotional wellness.
Many employers offer mental health support to employees, including resources and employee assistance programs with professional therapy staff. Companies can also add physical spaces for meditation or quiet thought to their office building for onsite mental health support.
Other companies prioritize worker well-being through access to healthy food options, AI-supported workplace safety protocols, and green initiatives like recycling programs or energy-efficient lighting and heating.
Green building is a construction design strategy that focuses on creating environmentally responsible, resource-efficient buildings. This approach helps to reduce the negative impact of buildings on the environment while promoting long-term sustainability.
Energy efficiency is one major benefit of green building. Green buildings typically use less energy and water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and converting valuable resources. Green building can also improve indoor air quality, reduce the risk of employee health problems, and lower utility bills.
The green building process often relies on specific building materials, such as sustainably sourced wood harvested from well-managed forests. Other materials include recycled metals, biodiverse roofing, and accounting for only the concrete you need. Together, green building materials mean great things for the environment and can also help companies save on utilities and maintenance costs.
Smart technology, AI, and automation can promote sustainable, flexible office building design in several ways. For example, smart climate control systems use sensors and automation to help maintain consistent temperatures while reducing a building’s energy consumption. Companies can also integrate Internet of Things (IoT) devices like smart locks, smart appliances, and smart speakers to improve efficiency and security in a workspace.
Some companies also use predictive maintenance programs to further reduce costs and improve operations. These programs use automation and AI to analyze building data — including temperatures, building materials, and occupancy levels — and predict when maintenance might be needed. These systems help companies reduce risks, avoid downtimes, and maintain productivity.
Many companies already use these trends — from eco-friendly design to multi-function design — to improve all aspects of their workflow. These design and technology strategies help to create healthier employees, more productive work environments, and new opportunities for collaboration and efficiency.
Affordable technologies have made seemingly futuristic advancements possible for companies of all sizes. For example, even small businesses can deploy AI-powered tools that automate measurements, forecast costs, and design workflows for the fastest and safest possible construction takeoff. These and other breakthroughs make the workplace of tomorrow available today.