The Evolution of the Office – Learning from the Present and Re-Imagining the Future

Monday, September 14th, 2020

The significant shift to remote work over the past six months has raised questions about the future of the office. Large companies like Twitter and Facebook are considering widespread adoption of remote work even after offices fully reopen – driven largely by the apparent success in working from home. Employee surveys suggest that productivity has remained the same or even increased in a large portion of the workforce and many employees have expressed the desire to continue to work from home at least part time in the future.

Even so, many workers are also expressing the desire to return to the office. The lack of face-time with colleagues is proving challenging for some work functions, some forms of collaboration are more difficult, and opportunities for mentoring and building social capital are diminished. Businesses likewise lose out on spontaneous collisions that can foster innovation and face greater challenges in maintaining a cohesive company culture. Remote work also presents significant challenges for businesses to retain control over assets and security.

What these two dynamics suggest is that we are likely to see changes to the design and purpose of the office. To begin with, we expect that a hybrid work structure that gives employees flexibility in moving across home and office, is likely to necessitate a smaller footprint – but one that also requires high-quality data to manage effectively. Offices are also likely to place greater emphasis on collaboration over solitary, focused activities, necessitating changes to the proportion of conference rooms and other collaboration spaces relative to workstations. We further anticipate a wider embrace of agile or activity-based working concepts to reflect the changing patterns of utilization. This change, too, requires investment in better data to ensure that the right spaces are readily available. Finally, we anticipate a growing emphasis on users, both in terms of experience and wellness. Just as we have needed to give employees better tools to manage remote work, we need to embrace technology to make the workplace a more efficient and comfortable space to which workers want to return.

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