How co-working spaces will transform the office environment

 
Anne Marie Ginn
Businesses are finding new ways to utilise their office space. (Source: Getty)

Four years ago, the right to request flexible working became UK law. Since then, flexible working has become more prevalent, to the point that half of the UK workforce is predicted to work remotely by 2020.


At the same time a growing number of businesses are embracing the gig economy and turning to freelance workers for project-based work. According to new research commissioned by Upwork, nearly half (46 per cent) of Generation Z workers (individuals born after 1997) are freelancers, and this number is only projected to grow in the next five years.

This huge shift in working culture has also meant office design trends are changing. With more employees working remotely or on a project basis, businesses are finding new ways to utilise their office space to facilitate modern working practices, such as hot desking, virtual meetings and co-working spaces.

Spaces are evolving

As more employees want to be able to work away from their desks, companies are investing in transforming different areas of their offices into breakout areas suitable for both work and meetings. For example, UBS recently commissioned WeWork to redesign their New Jersey office, as the banking giant looks to move away from the usual aesthetic that financial institutions tend to adopt. London-based fund managers are also starting to move to more open, collaborative spaces to facilitate agile working, accompanied by music rooms and restaurants.

This flexibility has enabled businesses to make changes to how they manage their workforce and maximise the use of office space. Research from Gensler has shown that due to the introduction of flexible working individual workstations are only occupied 55 per cent of the time. Businesses now need to actively plan for a reduced desk to employee ratio, looking for smaller spaces that can facilitate flexible working practices or repurposing non-working areas in the office for work. For instance, Alphabet’s offices in London use its reception area as a workspace, with the large reception desk doubling up as a desk for workers in the building, with other large tables and chairs available for use.


The impact of technology on office design

Advancements in technology are driving a lot of the changes in today’s working practices. The advent of cloud technology has enabled workers to access their files online from virtually anywhere, while collaboration software has made communication between employees effortless, regardless of where they are based.

One key example of changing spaces in modern offices facilitated by technology are meeting rooms, due to the shift to video calls. According to a recent survey by research firm Frost & Sullivan, most C-level executives prefer video calls to audio-only, finding that they boost productivity, accelerate decision making, and improve customer experience. Video meetings are becoming increasingly common, and so companies are investing in huddle rooms optimised for video calls rather than just large meeting rooms designed for face-to-face meetings.

Portable peripherals are having a big impact on how we work too. For example, a customer of ours in the financial sector replaced all desktop PCs with tablets on their customer service floor, so that their consultants could better interact with customers when talking about loan or mortgage applications.

The benefits of new office design

To be able to keep up with the changes in the jobs market, businesses need to evolve how they use office space. Open plan offices and break out areas can encourage collaboration between workers, while rooms designed specifically for video calls can boost productivity in meetings.

A well-designed office is not only key for encouraging productivity and collaboration, but it also plays an important role in employee recruitment. Sometimes a great office can be the difference between hiring an outstanding candidate and losing them to a competitor.

This article was submitted via Dropbox Paper: a collaborative workspace for teams. Read more at cityam.com/workinflow.

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