The future of office space

January 5, 2021

What the future holds for the places we spend our working days in is one of the most interesting questions to have come out of the coronavirus pandemic.With flexibility and collaboration the new watchwords, ADP Architecture’s commercial director Graeme Feechan looks ahead to how office space will continue to adapt to our new ways of working.

2020 was a year when the virtual triumphed over the physical in almost every way, and social distancing measures have tested communities to breaking point.

It’s therefore somewhat ironic that community spaces – real, physical spaces – are set to be the biggest long-term benefactors of the lessons we’ve learned.

Although measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic have varied wildly, a few key pieces of advice have stayed consistent.

Perhaps the most enduring – short of washing your hands – has been to work from home if you can, and few could have anticipated just how much we’d realise we can work from home.

Conventional office space represents a huge portion of our highly connected and amenable city centres – second only to retail space.

With the realisation that working from home is possible on a wide scale, those spaces that survive will need to adapt.

This challenge shouldn’t surprise us; the days of rows and rows of white desks in vast, open-plan, mechanically ventilated spaces have been numbered for some time.

A new generation of employees, fresh out of university where flexible, creative and collaborative ways of working have become the norm, have partly driven
this change.

But the pandemic – and the technological advances that have followed – have stripped away any lingering wish to have staff in a single room from Monday to Friday.

At ADP, we’re drawing on our higher education experience to design workplaces where people can safely meet, interact and share ideas in inspiring settings.

The key is adding value in an era of more choice, and new workplaces will need to offer facilities that are unavailable at home, while actively promoting wellbeing.

Not all office space can adapt to this style of working, and we’ll see many other uses – including residential, healthcare and education – making their way into prime city centre locations. We should welcome these with open arms.

Our planning system and sectorised economy – fuelled by political dogma – have spent many years hollowing out our town and city centres.

In their place came monocultural shopping or working zones, which become inactive and even unsafe at different times of the day, week and year. While small towns and villages are benefiting from commuters who live there now staying put, our city centres will need time and creativity from a wide range of stakeholders if they’re to evolve successfully.

As we play our own part in this, it’s important to remember the lessons we learned in 2020 – most important of which is that people are the basis of our economy, and that by acting together, we can create and learn to value places which reflect our diverse needs.

An inspiring environment to work
– by Nigel Scorer, director at interior architecture and design practice Contents Design

At Contents Design, we see the future of the workplace being a hybrid of working from home, at a community hub and at a ‘central experience’.

The ‘central experience’ will be a place to bring everyone together to experience the vision, brand, goal and character of a business, and then feel energised to be productive anywhere, with a sense of purpose and belonging.

Community hubs will be either co-working spaces or dedicated satellite locations within local communities (high streets) to allow people to work, meet and socialise near the places they live.

The space in which you work will no longer be a sea of uniform desks and chairs, but an inspiring environment based upon activity themes such as social, meet, collaborate and concentrate.

The benefits of this hybrid workspace are fewer cars, less travel time, increased productivity, greater wellbeing and healthier lifestyles, which is better for employees, employers and the planet.

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