Connectivity and access to knowledge are the defining features of contemporary business and society, helping to redefine how and where work is accomplished. Technology has enabled us to be connected anywhere and extending the locations of work beyond the office building, into a variety of public spaces. This fundamentally alters how space is used over time, by blurring functional boundaries and helping us reimagine the places where we work, live and play. It also suggests that we can plan cities to be more multi-functional and permeable and to transform office buildings from uninspiring containers of routine work into intensively used destinations of social connectivity and interaction.
Work today is being staged in environments which are dynamic rather than static and adaptable to change as often as work itself changes, by the hour, day and week. These new workplaces are constantly evolving, event driven, curated experiences in which space, tools, and technologies are provided to support the ever changing daily needs of groups and individuals, to create the successful conditions of their own work. This represents a big shift in expectations for commercial real estate and requires dynamic solutions.
The office begins to look and work more like a city – drawing to itself valued urban experiences and spaces: quiet areas for individual experiences, courtyards, cafes and social destinations. The successful characteristics of cities become part of the design language; permeability, diversity, overlapping experiences that surprise, delight and constantly change. Space no longer reflects hierarchical structures but supports dispersed networks and open source innovation. The nature of the city also changes as it becomes an extension of the office – a broad work-scape in which key work functions move into parks and coffee shops.
Recent research by the British Council of Offices on Wellbeing at Work found that:
Workplace design should factor in provision of a choice of environments to support a variety of tasks. Design should offer employees flexibility in how and where they work; allowing them to decide their own working patterns is essential, but it is also important to note that changes to the design of the workplace are only effective if there is an empowering workplace culture to support the change.
It is easy to see how over time, corporate real estate portfolios will increasingly become a dispersed network of social and adaptive working environments, empowering users and teams across different work contexts and collaboration modes. A workplace model that reflects the individuality of the people in it, while also meeting business needs, will be both more efficient and morale-boosting.
When work spaces are designed with a clear narrative and with people in mind and has it can make our life at work more meaningful. It can help us to be more aware of what we are doing and who we are 'being' at work; to more meaningfully connect with others, to share knowledge and ideas, to concentrate and focus, to activate our mind and body, to connect with nature, to recharge our energy and to inspire ourselves and others to thrive.