A@W Newsletter

What is the Future of the Office Workspace?

9 February 2021

Much has already been written about working in the office of the future. Even if the ideas have differed over the decades, the vision is the same for everyone: in the future, machines will make processes much easier, so employees will have more time for life. The fact that we are still a long way from reaching this point is currently being impressively demonstrated by the coronavirus crisis.


What has been reality for a good year now is something many could never have imagined. The streets are empty, there are nearly no business trips, no shaking hands, no digital trade fairs, no warm welcomes among colleagues or good friends - it is all in the past. The order of the day is 'social distancing', or more precisely physical distance. This alone is difficult. We are interactive creatures, who depend on cooperation and appreciation and who are reluctant to be separated. This is all the more true in times like these. Thus, those who are not allowed to meet physically, meet in virtual spaces. Digitization makes it possible. And suddenly it is possible to do what many companies have hitherto dismissed as impractical: the home office, in most cases, set up surprisingly quickly from a technical point of view. So, where there is a will, there now seems to be a way.



Even though the Johnson Wax Building in Racine (Wisconsin, USA), built by Frank Lloyd Wright at the end of the 1930s, is a modernist icon, one no longer imagines such a workplace today. 
©  Library of Congress / Unsplash

The question of meaning

While the office working world has changed fundamentally, quite a few people are wondering how they were able to work in the world before corona. Suddenly it seems like the Stone Age, to have been restless in multitasking mode and permanent jetlag, as a driven, stressed, rushed, and exhausted person. The forced standstill of the lockdown takes most office workers to another level and turns them into waiting people who persevere in the face of uncertainty. Ideally, you are thrown back on yourself and discover a way of life you only know from books or films. With time, fundamental questions of meaning creep in - at first timidly, then increasingly louder. Like: What makes a good life? 

A contemporary office has individual retreat possibilities.
In the picture: new office building ‘One Microsoft Place’ in Dublin, architecture by RKD Architects, Dublin; interior design by Gensler, London. 
©  Gareth Gardner

A new form of social proximity

Capitalism thrives on the compression of time. The territory of the restless lone fighter is developing from a high-performance economy to a biotope of philanthropy, humanity, charity, and also mindfulness. Colleagues can now participate in team meetings via a screen at their chosen workplace. Even though they can be muted with an unnoticed click, there is found joy in being connected in a videoconference, taking a look at the colleagues' home offices or the houseplants in the background. What is created in return is a completely new form of social proximity. The video conference provides a view of a world that has never existed before.



Small ‘phone rooms’ serve for undisturbed phone calls and discussions or simply as a space for undisturbed work.
In the picture: adidas World of Sports ARENA in Herzogenaurach; architecture by Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart. 
©  Behnisch Architekten / David Matthiessen


Cultural change in office work


The corona pandemic has what it takes to herald a cultural change in office work in the future. Today’s office space is much more differentiated in terms of furnishing. Employees now have a variety of spatial options at their disposal, from their own desk for general work, to the soundproofed cell for concentrated work, to the agile meeting room and the brainstorm corner with a ping-pong table or lounge chair. Behind all this, of course, is the recognition that it is not only important to do the work in the office, but also how and in what social and structural environment the work can take place.



The office is not just a workroom, but also an inspiring meeting place for the employees.
In the picture: adidas World of Sports ARENA in Herzogenaurach; architecture by Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart. 
©  Behnisch Architekten / David Matthiessen


Inspirational meeting point


Employees can only be motivated in the long term if they are able to determine their own working hours and time off themselves. For example, five-hour days and flexible working time models can contribute to higher motivation, better health, thus increasing productivity. In the future, office builders and planners will have to take all this into account. The office of the future will evolve from a pure workroom into a kind of creative meeting place where colleagues inspire each other before everyone withdraws to where they can best perform their tasks individually.



In the future, working in the office will have to be thought of more from the worker’s point of view and adjusted to his needs. 
In the picture: ‘Neue Arbeitswelt 205‘ in Schwäbisch Gmünd; interior design by Studio Alexander Fehre, Stuttgart.
© Zooey Braun

Living and working

In the future, work will have to be thought of even more from the point of view of the worker, who wants to integrate its tasks into its life as smoothly as possible. For the employee, it will be a matter of de-clocking and equalizing the day in favour of individual working time models. For self-fulfillment, people need work and money, but also appreciation, attention, and security. Many have already sensed this in the rapid acceleration and overheating of pre-corona times and have now had it impressively demonstrated to them. Those who recognize this development and take it to heart for the time after corona have already won.


Many people don’t find the right workplace in the office, but in a space where they can design it individually.
©  Roberto Nickson / Unsplash

Originally written by Thomas Geuder

What is the Future of the Office Workspace?
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