Slides, swings, ball ponds, a spot of mini golf or anything else that resembles a kid’s soft play area were once the height of coolness. Revered and ridiculed in equal measure, the trend towards putting the fun factor into the office was epitomised by technology and media start-ups. Fresh new firms appealed to a younger workforce and the office design du-jour screamed “you don’t have to work in a boring office”.
As with all fads, attitudes change and those workers who loved nothing but to slide from one floor to the other have since realised that the workforce and management need something different. That difference is functionality.
The expectations that the workforce has on the workplace have largely been a result of technology, demographic and employment changes. It is these factors that have and will continue to evolve the thinking and implementation of design. Which is expected to major more on productivity and sustainability, increasingly being cost effective than previous iterations. Designers will still be deeply conscious of maintaining any dynamic culture that businesses have, but it must fit the current and future workforce and its working practices.
Technology has been the chief protagonist of change over the past decade. New technologies, whether hardware or software, have rendered previous office usage obsolete. From data rooms, to fixed desk PCs, to landline phones, all of which have evolved significantly to impact not just the way in which we work but the way in which we use office space. The fast pace of technological change has made it difficult to future proof office design. Technology is making the tools we use more portable, more personal and increasingly smaller, space can be therefore be devoted to more productive, collaborative and engaging activities rather than static desk spaces.
Whilst having revolutionised working practices, the ability to work from home (or anywhere other than the office) has made it difficult for some businesses to assess the adequate level of space needed. In the same vein, when remote workers do return to the office, ample space for collaboration with colleagues and/or clients is needed. These are just two high-level design dilemmas that businesses face when space planning. Designing a space that is functional and productive for the entire workforce is no mean feat - especially when trying to retain the company culture and enhance the future one.
Functional and productive design is not about stealing away those elements of the office that were ‘fun’. It is about repurposing space for the modern workforce. Devoting areas for team-work, quiet spaces, meeting rooms and private offices are all elements that need to be given some thought. If specific features are wanted, they must hold meaning and have purpose. Examples include rooftop running tracks, climbing walls and contemplation rooms; all additions that promote wellness within the office. A games room or even a fully functioning kitchen can help to create a shared space for everyone to come together. Designing an effective space both for work and downtime is key for the modern workspace. The office will now more than ever play a key role in a business’s success. Using the office as a tool in which to attract and retain talent is of the upmost importance in 2019. Offices do not have to make grand statements of fun and craziness. Ultimately the workspace should be functional for all the workforce, whatever the age, job role and more importantly the business.