Office space design continues changing. The rabbit warren of private offices gave way to the cubicle farm which gave way to the trading floor-style open workspace. The future of office space, though, is much more creative and much less hierarchical.
Multiple trends in both business and society are converging in how office spaces will be built out. As society gets flatter, more collaborative, more connected and more individualized, the future of office space is to mirror those trends in design and configuration.
A Flatter Future
Once, corporate hierarchies were physically built into office spaces. The executive penthouse managed the corner office, which managed the window office, which managed the interior office, all of the way down to the people in small open cubes or without assigned spaces. In the future, people get the spaces they need to do their jobs when they need them. Natural light, which enhances employee health, satisfaction and productivity, will be an amenity shared by all thanks to open work spaces, window-facing common areas, and glass walls that transmit -- instead of block -- light.
Collaborative Office Space
The office of the future is built for collaboration. As workers become more specialized and work becomes more complicated, more and more tasks are requiring teams to attack them. Small cubes and private offices don't facilitate this. Moving forward, every office (not just tech and creative space) will have more and more flexible spaces, small and mid-size team and conference rooms and general purpose areas designed to facilitate casual communication and collaboration as well.
Connection and Connectivity
Part of what enables the collaborative working environment that will become de rigueur in the future is a highly connected workplace. A combination of extensive wiring for power and for, when appropriate, wired network usage and a strong wireless network allows people to work anywhere at any time. Support for other technologies like video conferencing, interactive white boards and the like, help allow on-site workers to do more while also more tightly integrating off-site workers into the team.
Not Another Brick in the Wall
Between a large quantity the shared space and team focus coupled with a lack of assigned spaces where people can leave personal items, the office space of the future might seem a bit sterile and non-personalized. However, personalization is also a key part of designing for the future. Spaces should be designed with many more zones for lighting and HVAC, allowing workers to customize their temperature, light level and color to their needs. Having many different types of working areas also allows people to find areas that feel like home to them, giving them a greater sense of comfort than simply letting them put a plant and a framed photo in a cookie-cutter cubicle.
A Dash of Retro
Finally, the future will bring office space that has learned from the mistakes of the past. It's possible to build spaces that are too open and too collaborative. As such, while modern spaces are being built to foster collaboration, the offices of the future will also have non-collaborative spaces. Some workers will get private offices -- when their jobs call for them -- while others will have access to hot-desked private offices on an as-needed basis or to small calling rooms for a bit of privacy.
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