The caterpillar office is about to spread its wings and fly! 

The transformation of the office has been ongoing for a number of years. We just haven’t really noticed the slight tweaks here and there. It’s more noticeable when you compare recent builds to those from a few decades ago. The transformation now though is ramping up. The office needs to become a destination for people. It has a resemblance to the state of high streets and retail. There needs to be a destination to entice people to visit. With the rise of technology so much is easier to do now away from these venues. The choice available of where people can work is ever growing. Although legal jurisdictions means the prospect of working from an overseas beach are limited there is nothing stopping someone spending a week on a barge in the Norfolk Broads or tucked away in a cottage in the Cotswolds. 

Supporting this transformation is an ever growing list of barriers for people coming to office. The office is not a place where work happens. This is no longer sufficient as work can happen in a lot of places. It needs to be a place that people want to visit. A commute is usually long and not enjoyable – whether stuck in traffic or squashed onto public transport. The cost of being in the office is greater than working from home. Is the office too distracting as well for what you need to achieve? 

Over the last 15 months we have all experienced the positives and negatives of remote working. Let’s be clear though for most it wasn’t just working from home. You may have had children at home. You would have been worried about loved ones. The future of remote working will not incorporate all of what we experienced. It has given us both sides to determine what would work better going forward. The “business” end of this are property landlords and managers. There is no denying that remote working will feature now and in the future and therefore relooking at the asset will be key. How do you attract and retain high-value customers? The first step is to listen to them. Listen to what they need. 

The same logic applies whether you own the building or lease the building. Whether you are the operator as well. You need to understand what your customers/employees need – this will help to navigate the next 6-12 months building a roadmap to the future of working. Individual users of buildings have multiple drivers behind where they choose to work. Think about:

  • What do the users want; 
  • What is their demographic of the users; and
  • What is the function of their role? 

The overarching aim is to create a destination for employees (and customers if you’re an operator/landlord). The above, particularly “the function” lends itself to accepting that some tasks can be performed better remotely. So how does this factor into future building? 

Many people will need an experience. A reason to return to the office means an office will become more “hospitality” focused. Thinking about the design of a building to reflect this is now on the minds of developers. A building needs to satisfy a population that has a great selection to choose from and want shorter leases. A great example is how Nuveen Real Estate has launched an operating platform providing innovative and flexible solutions for their tenants such as concierge services, improved food and beverage offerings and more. This is clearly before any tenants own personal branding & experience they will give their employees. 

There will be a significant reduction in traditional workstations as the focused to-do list will continue to be undertaken at home. Why head to the office to simply get your head down. The space will remain to an extent for those who can’t work home. There will be an increase in floor space allocated to multi-purposed activity based working. The office of the future will continue to bring humans and machines closer together. The online tools we use today will continue to evolve (they have alot of data now to use) that will create better experiences. Visitor management systems will adopt contactless facial, voice and iris recognition technology for tracking and thermal imaging cameras to gauge body temperature. And UV light will blitz after-hours workspaces, eradicating invisible enemies. Technology will now shine. 

The office space used needs to allow for productivity and collaboration. It also needs to accommodate those who will use it like an office – simply to sit at a desk and work. There needs to be a choice. Space that is designed with data. Understanding what the customers/employees want and need and building the experience around them. This is the time for the office to emerge from its cocoon and really make us go wow! 

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