Five trends to watch in the workplace of the future

Carissa Kilgour

by Carissa Kilgour

Workplace Director, Landsec

Employers can only ensure they have the right space for their staff if they can anticipate how changing trends will shape their workplace needs.

As the UK’s largest property developer, and a major employer ourselves, we're anticipating future ways of working and designing our buildings with them in mind.

Changes in the way in which people work are already having an impact on how an office space functions and its design, with five key trends emerging:

1. Activity-based working (ABW)

In some offices we are already seeing the move towards ABW, where space is designed around specific employee tasks and the physical building encourages collaboration or concentration.

This is something we’ve built into our own new office in London at Cardinal Place, SW1. As well as multiple different work settings such as treadmill desks, quiet rooms and soundproof booths, we have installed white-noise machines at strategic points in open-plan areas to increase privacy levels without the need for physical walls.

Cardinal Place Standing Desk
Our Cardinal Place offices include standing desks and connectivity throughout

All this allows people to work in a way that’s best suited to them.

2. Flexibility

As corporations are increasingly relying on freelancers, their culture and engagement levels can suffer without the right environment.

Everyone – whether they are a permanent or temporary employee – must feel welcome and part of the team. This means that the space needs to accommodate a variable and flexible workforce in an inclusive way.

Most of our London people are agile, mobile, flexible. Five to ten years ago they were very desk-based people, which is a significant change. We need to be able to look at ways to respond to that change without giving us long-term commitments where I have much less certainty than I used to about how long that space is going to be needed."

Will Esplen

Managing Director of Global Real Estate and Workplace Strategy at Deloitte – one of our customers at New Street Square, EC4

Organisations should look for somewhere that can adapt to their needs. That’s why we design our office floorplates to ensure they are flexible for all kinds of customers and can be adapted easily as businesses grow or contract.

Organisations should look for somewhere that can adapt to their needs. That’s why we design our office floorplates to ensure they are flexible for all kinds of customers and can be adapted easily as businesses grow or contract.

3. Technology

The physical space must make it easier for people, machines and technology to work together. There is a lot of talk around smart buildings and how companies can make more use of the Internet of Things.

Data-led connectivity can save organisations money on their catering or office cleaning, for instance, because they do not over-provide food and services. These savings can then be reinvested elsewhere.

Smart buildings can also improve the impact an organisation has on the environment by enabling greater control over lighting, temperature and carbon dioxide levels.

Staff are 15% more productive when they’ve got control over their environment."

CFO Survey Europe Report, 2013

Again, our office at Cardinal Place is a good example of work we’ve done with this because all our employees have Microsoft Surface Pro machines. This means their personal technology is seamlessly compatible with interactive screens in all our meeting rooms, as well as being portable and powerful enough to allow them to work flexibly and remotely when necessary.

Technology working
All technology in future workplaces will link up seamlessly

4. Health and wellbeing

The pace of technological change and adoption means we are moving to an “always on” work pattern, resulting in increased levels of stress. The pace of our lives adding to the pressure because so many things affect our mental space at home and at work.

Business leaders and the HR function have a vested interest in simplifying work practices and systems to enable their workers to be most effective. The physical environment is not a silver bullet to reducing stress, but do not underestimate the adverse effect that a stressful and counterintuitive workspace has on people and, ultimately, the business.

Intuitive buildings can boost morale and have a positive impact on productivity. Take The Zig Zag Building in London’s Victoria, which we’ve designed with the employee in mind. Research showed that something as simple as fresh air could drive significant benefits, so it includes seven floors with their own private outdoor terraces and windows that open instead of sealing people in.

Comfortable, well-ventilated, well-lit workplaces increase job satisfaction by 24%."

5. Simplicity

Whichever way you look at it, the key to adapting to a constantly shifting environment is to make everything as easy as possible.

The right buildings will simplify things for employees to do their jobs. For instance, many of our new office buildings have facilities that cater for a diverse workforce – even down to the way in which they travel into work or choose to use their lunch breaks.

Food & Drink
Giving people options for food and drink in and around work keeps them happy and healthy

Whether it’s our 62 Buckingham Gate office building in London’s Victoria with state-of-the-art changing facilities more at home in a health club, or the on-site gym we installed in an unused car park at 123 Victoria Street, SW1, it’s about the needs of our occupants.

The end of the workspace as we know it?

The office, as we know it now, may cease to exist in the not-too-distant future but that’s not to say office space is becoming redundant.

There will continue to be significant demand for areas that can bring businesses together because staff, freelancers and other partners must still meet to collaborate, co-create, problem-solve and build relationships.

As the office buildings we use today are different from those of ten years ago, so too will the physical workspaces of the late 2020s have a different emphasis – they will mirror the key skills of the innovative, creative and flexible professionals they serve.