Future of the office: an overview

Specialist insight

Future of the office: an overview

In our ‘Office of the Future’ series, Andre Sharpe, Chief Information Officer at Regus, looks at key trends that will shape how and where we work in the future. Here, he offers an overview of what we can expect from the offices of tomorrow.

The workplace has gone through many changes over the past few years. There have been advances in technology, distributed teams and locations, increasing freelance/contractor mixes, rising real estate prices and more millennials arriving in professional roles.

This evolution is not going to stop and it’s clear that the office of the future will be a very different place. Our experience, as well as recent studies into the way workplaces are changing, give us a  good picture of what these offices might look like.

In the coming years we can expect firms consolidating their offices for more efficient use, greater staff density, satellite offices and agile working increasing. There will also a growing need for collaborative spaces.

Let’s look at some of those things in a bit more detail.

Work environments

Distributed teams across multiple cities, countries and conditions is becoming the norm. The mix of contract and temp staff vs full-time employees is growing. Ultimately the way performance is measured under these new trends is undergoing a transformation. All of this impacts the how workspace may be designed and used in the future.

In many cases daily use of a traditional office is not required. Employees may need to simply drop in for key meetings, have access to remote locations and a network of business environments around the world when and where they require. Technology and work culture are changing quickly to support these new flexible demands and we will explore these new concepts in the upcoming articles.

Consolidation

83% of respondents to the recent Future of Work in Professional Services survey by CBRE cited ‘cost’ as their biggest concern going forward. As real estate prices continue to rise, office space will need to be used more efficiently to manage costs effectively. This could mean an increase in mergers and acquisitions, as we’ve already been seeing, as well as fewer offices in expensive city centres.

Density

Workspace density is likely to increase to 1.75 people per desk in sectors such as accounting and management consulting. This is a side effect of consolidation and agility (more on that in a minute). It’s also related to the increase in headcount as firms face an upswing in work volumes.

Satellite office

As urban transport networks continue to expand, a central location will no longer be essential. Infrastructure projects are underway from California to Kolkata, with a particular emphasis on high-speed rail systems. These will give talent and clients based further afield easier access to emerging business hotspots. As real estate is often less expensive in such areas, firms can invest in small satellite offices where people drop in as required.

Agility

Increased workplace density and better technology will mean that employees are no longer expected to be tied to one desk and, as a result, agile working will become more commonplace. Business professionals will be given the option to work remotely (either from home or based within a client’s office). Hot desking will also become a regular occurrence. Staff members will be able to base themselves from the head office or a satellite office, depending on the demands of their day.

Collaboration

The rise in agile working will increase the need for collaborative workspaces. As more professionals work remotely, the need for face-to-face meetings will be greater. For example, The Professional London report, ‘Managing growth: using workplace strategy to deal with the challenges of expansion and cost management’, notes that the majority of management consulting firms will need a 70% increase in breakout areas and meeting spaces to meet these demands.

If I were to sum this all up, I’d say the key themes of the office of the future are efficiency, flexibility and creativity. To meet the demands of the future, workforce management will need to think outside the box in terms of real estate investment.