On the Horizon
WHAT WILL FUTURE OFFICES LOOK LIKE? THINK SLEEPING QUARTERS, SENTIENT DESKS AND “FLAT AGE” LEARNING LABS
The collaborative-workplace revolution has, for years now, spurred the removal of office walls – both physical and metaphoric – in favour of all-access, casual spaces believed to be more conducive to creativity. But studies and real-life experience have shown that the all-for-one approach is, in fact, neither all that great for productivity nor individual work habits. So where do we go from here? And what must workspace designers consider when creating the offices of tomorrow? To grapple with these questions, the London-based architecture firm Moreysmith, which has been designing offices for a quarter of a century, partnered with trend forecaster The Future Laboratory to study “the psychology of the workforce in 2025.” The goal: anticipating future labour-force realities to get employers thinking about the need for (and value of) “conscientious workplace design.” “Design-led offices should no longer be considered [merely] ‘nice to have,’” says Linda Morey-burrows, founder and principal director of Moreysmith, “but as imperative to retaining and attracting talent.” That talent pool will grow even more diverse as igen, Baby Boomers and everyone in between populate the workforce, each bringing their own skill sets and working culture. What this melding of up to five generations will require from designers and architects, Morey-burrows adds, is a “need to be adaptable and take diversity into consideration.” The research identified three office archetypes on the rise: the Sentient Workspace, the Hospitality Workspace and the Flat Age Workspace. Intuitive and humancentric, the Sentient Workspace promotes a healthy lifestyle. Smart systems will be integrated into everything from desks and chairs to responsive architecture and sync with personal wearables to monitor such factors as stress and hydration levels, total minutes of physical activity, the temperature of personal spaces (à la Carlo Ratti’s “atmospheric bubbles” for the Agnelli Foundation in Turin, Italy) and more. The end goal is an office that “cares” about the worker. As its title implies, the Hospitality Workspace will be a “one-stop urban destination where work, play and rest are combined under one roof.” With the 9-to-5 workday (expected to be) a relic of the past, future offices will need to be hybrids and include such spaces as comfortable kitchens and lounges where coworkers can socialize, cafés, barbershops and even sleeping quarters – basically all the conveniences of a neighbourhood. The Flat Age Workspace will reflect the converging generations and include accessible, tech-reliant and multi-dimensional learning zones that develop complementary working relationships based on skills and knowledge. Ultimately, successful office design will reward the work-life balance and inspire happier, more productive teams. As Morey-burrows puts it, people are the priority. moreysmith.com, thefuturelaboratory.com
Anticipating the needs of workers, London architecture and design firm Moreysmith already integrates a range of considered enhancements into its office projects, from comfortable communal spaces such as the atrium in Primark’s Dublin headquarters (top) and flexible co-working zones at Perenco in London (above) to the informal mixed-use areas of Deskopolitan’s office in Paris (left).