‘We Space’, The Destination Office, And More Design Expectations For The Year Ahead

A recent report predicts the big workplace trends that we can expect to see in 2021 including the rise of amenity rich, hospitality-type spaces that will make going to the office an attractive experience. 

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This article was originally published by Allwork.Space.

What are the big workplace trends we can expect to see in 2021?

This is a question fraught with uncertainty at the best of times. Throw in a viral pandemic and you’d need nothing short of a crystal ball to figure out what’s on the cards this year.

However, having endured the best (or worst) part of a year living with this situation, and based on the workplace patterns we have seen during that time, we can put together a certain amount of expectations for 2021.

One set of predictions comes from CallisonRTKL, a global architecture and design firm, which recently released its Forecast 2021 report.

The impact of decentralisation

One interesting point is the impact of workforce decentralisation.

For workers who are able to work closer to home in satellite offices and coworking spaces, theoretically their former HQ will become a cultural meeting hub; a place where workers pass through and collaborate with colleagues rather than sit and work.

“There won’t ever be a generation looking to return to an office 5 days a week 9-5”

Paul Dunn, CallisonRTKL Executive Director

What does CallisonRTKL’s Executive Director, Paul Dunn, make of this? And how might it affect workplace design in the near future?

“There can be no substitute for social interaction and a celebration of culture, but there won’t ever be a generation looking to return to an office 5 days a week 9-5,” he said.

“As a result, I believe employers and operators are going to need to work very hard to entice staff back to the office in central business districts. This will have an impact on the design and operation of spaces going forwards.”

According to Dunn, this will manifest itself in various ways:

1. ‘We’ space, not ‘my’ space

“Expect to see bigger and more widely spaced desks — but not to the extent it drives additional area because there will be lower utilisation for the purpose of ‘work’.

“This will be bolstered by a broader array of spaces like cosy nooks and bar tables, focus and hub spaces. It is less ‘my space’ and more ’we space’ with varied settings to socialise and collaborate.”

2. The office becomes a day out

“Staggered working days will allow overall ‘work’ footprints to reduce slightly. This will lead to the rise of amenity rich, hospitality-type spaces offering food, retail, ‘markets’ and cafes – a trip to the office will need to be an enticing day out in future.

“Savvy operators will straddle the residential, hospitality and workplace sectors.”

3. Hassle-free meetings

“In the longer term, I also bet on higher tech and superlative meeting facilities with huge, sweeping matrix style displays that allow hassle-free video conferencing and wireless screen sharing.”

4. Comfort and wellbeing

“Wellbeing is also going to be central – one of the key positives to be accelerated by the pandemic. There is a renewed focus on living and working better, so space users will demand more natural light, quality filtered air and unmatched acoustic comfort.”

Workplaces are also focusing on creating outdoor spaces to enhance wellness, which also benefits physical distancing and screening at entry points.

“I believe all of these trends were already in play,” added Dunn. “The virus has only accelerated them – immeasurably and at a pace we could never have imagined.”

Key Takeaways: CallisonRTKL Forecast 2021

The workplace is in a fast-moving evolutionary state. Here are 4 more expectations from CallisonRTKL for the next 12+ months:

Re-imagining and Re-purposing

While companies delay decision-making, the opportunity lies in re-imagining existing spaces or repurposing them into other uses. During this time, “tenants will increasingly consider flexible workspace as an interim solution while they define a long-term strategy.”

That strategy is likely to feature “the next-generation office” to enable hybrid working and decentralization.

“In the short term, once countries, municipalities, cities, and employers deem that it is safe to return, the office’s function will be to support the people who cannot work effectively from home or those who want to be in the office.”

Is Low Density Here to Stay?

In a PwC CEO Panel Survey, CEOs view low-density workplaces as a lasting change in most regions around the world. However, CEOs in the US are evenly split (at 49% each) about whether low density workplaces are here to stay, while in Latin America, 69% of CEOs expect low-density workplaces to be an enduring shift.

What does this mean for workplace design?

“From a design perspective, it makes flexibility and connectivity in the work environments important,” said Munich-based CRTKL Senior Associate Claudia Beruldsen, “because in-person meetings will likely be intentional or an uptick in hybrid work solutions of in-person with remote meetings connected via technology.”

Re-building Culture and Human Connections

According to surveys conducted by CallisonRTKL, the number one reason employees want to return to an office is for in-person collaboration with team members.

The future hybrid workplace model means “offices need to provide a vital cultural hub for employees who make an effort to come in and offer the technology to connect to employees at home easily.”

“There needs to be a reason to come to work,” added Jeanne Wood, Workplace Strategist in London. “Having the support – whether it’s technical or operational that helps ease the task or type of work they are doing that day is important to create that hub.

“Also, creating a place with more collaborative, specialized uses for sharing, socializing, and learning from others fosters a stronger workplace culture.”

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