Experts say that reports of the office’s demise over the past year have been exaggerated. Rather than abandoning them entirely, many companies will do what Adtrak has done, and develop their spaces to meet the demands of a hybrid workforce that wants choice and flexibility for where and how they work. Gone are the days of rigid social and physical structures that many companies believed were essential to a productive work environment. What’s in, instead, are more adaptable designs, and communal areas meant to foster teamwork, creativity and a sense of connection lost during the pandemic.
Fewer desks, more social spaces
Offices are, of course, always evolving. Even before the pandemic, digitisation and changes in generational demands were already greatly altering the look of the corporate world. Cubicle farms had given way to open plan layouts, while technological inventions such as Google Docs, Slack and videoconferencing made workers’ physical presence in the office less essential.
“There was an evolution of the workplace that was already underway,” explains Robert Mankin, a partner in architecture firm NBBJ's Los Angeles office, who oversees international corporate practices. “What the pandemic did was pour fuel on that, and accelerate that transformation five to 10 years from where it might have been otherwise.”
Nicola Gillen, a London-based workplace strategy and design specialist and author of Future Office, says that people will no longer be commuting into city centres “to work by themselves in rows, to be monitored in an old-fashioned presenteeism style of management that was invented more than 100 years ago. Instead, they will come to the office more purposefully for specific reasons”, such as collaborative work, meetings and brainstorming sessions.