As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to keep many of us out of the office, it's natural to assume that video calls and home working will be the future of our workplaces. In fact, the work environment was becoming a more complex case even before COVID; the introduction of digitalisation saw a shift in consumer behaviour and subsequently created new paths for businesses to take, in the race to stay ahead of their competitors.

Here, we're going to take a look at the office design beyond COVID; more specifically, the effect that technology will have. By understanding these changes, any business will be able to save time, money and effort by installing the foundations of their future office now, rather than waiting later.

How technology will affect future office design

While wireless internet is pretty-much commonplace in workplaces today, there are more disruptive technologies currently flooding in that will need catering for. This includes artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things. There has also been a growing demand for employees to work in environments that cater to health and wellbeing, with remote working capabilities thrown in (obviously something that has come more to the fore, what with COVID!)

So with all that in mind, here are the changes in the workplace environment you should expect in the coming years:

Activity-based work environments.

An 'activity-based' office design is one that mixes existing and emerging hardware to create flexible workplaces, designed specifically to enhance work performance or ambience. As an example; Wi-Fi, laptops and mobile devices allow employees to move around and access everything they need from the server wherever they need to. Such flexibility can provide the business with ideas on different ways they can 'zone' their office; providing quiet spaces for solo working, a massive roundtable for people to collaborate,and everything else in between.

The health and wellbeing aspect can be catered for too; a 'relaxation area' can be included in the zoned office spaces to give people somewhere to take a break from their desk to recharge. Today, many firms include a dedicated break out room in their office designs; these can be fitted with anything from soft furnishings, televisions, games…anything that can help hardworking employees to refocus their minds.

Dynamic working spaces.

A dynamic working space is multifunctional; meeting the needs of a multidisciplinary business world by shifting itself towards work-centric objectives and pushing its collaborative and innovative aspects. Such examples include repurposing space that is not intended for office use or expanding unused areas into ones that could do with the extra space (such as knocking through the walls of underused meeting room).

Incorporating dynamism into an office space doesn't have to mean such drastic changes, however. Dynamism can be achieved by installing multiple power points and sockets that support an array of cable types for a multitude of devices. Using lightweight, moveable furniture helps too; chairs on wheels and step-style seating makes it possible for teams to arrange their working spaces as they see fit. Speaking of which, sliding walls can also expand (or condense) workspace so it's more conducive. If anyone is undertaking a meeting, be a private one-to-one or something less private with a large number of people, sliding walls can adjust the space accordingly.

Health and wellness in the office.

The effect on our health and wellness that working in the same environment every day has cannot be overlooked. Stress,anxiety and physical injury cause disruption, absence from, and even resentment of, a business. According to the World Health Organisation's 'Healthy Workplace Framework' report, some 160 million new cases of work-related illnesses are estimated to occur every year; an issue that affects economic growth globally.

Many hours of productivity are already lost every year due to ill health, so when employees are present in the physical office, businesses must do everything it can to lessen distractions. At work, noise pollution, poor air quality and stress are cited by employees as being the biggest barriers to heightened productivity.

Distractions are a regular feature of an open-plan office design; while working in open space certainly aids the flow of communication, those who'd like to concentrate will become a victim to the noise pollution; causing a lack of concentration and inducing stress and frustration.

Apt for the times we live in, poor air quality is also responsible for circulating bacteria and viruses that cause illness. This is commonly known as 'sickbuilding syndrome'; causing symptoms such as headaches, blocked/running noses, dry skin, coughing, rashes and tiredness.

This can all be remedied by the installation of air ventilation systems, acoustic partitions and standalone soundproof pods; all of which cater to each aspect of working experience. Some firms go one further by creating specialised working environments within their zoned office; creating new, safe environments for people to choose to work from whenever they need it.

Incorporating the remote workforce.

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, many businesses were weighing up whether or not to incorporate remote working into their office set-ups; those that did offer flexible working generally gave mixed reviews of its success. As social distancing may mean that not all employee scan return to the physical office, remote working is a useful means to keep the rate of productivity at the same, consistent levels. Combining the physical and remote workplace requires the office design to have the right technologies and workspace in place.

A key issue for remote workers is the isolation and disconnect they feel by being 'out' of the office; not only affecting their general mood but also meaning they'll struggle to integrate with the culture the business has created.

Culture and a sense of community can be created through intelligent workplace design; to cater for remote workers who can't be in the meeting room in person, TV screens can be used in conjunction with video conference technologies, combining the physical with the virtual. Even in the future, the growing trend of virtual reality meetings may make it possible for workers to connect with their teams and actually feel like they are in the same space; so redesigning the office to cater for both types of worker is very much in the business' best interest going forwards

Think smart with your workplace design

The situation with COVID has brought into focus the realisation that the modern office needs to support innovation, collaboration, productivity, creativity and of course, the general wellbeing of employees. As more of these technologies continue to emerge, there will be an immediate need for firms to create office spaces that are able to foster an exchange of information, networking collaboration, problem-solving, space allocation,additional on-the-job resources and much more. In short, all businesses must think smarter with their office designs.

And this is where we can help.

As an office design company that has been operating for the best part of three decades, our strive to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technological and stylistic change has allowed us to establish a leading service in the South East. Throughout our time in the industry, we have assisted all manner of business operations; regardless of their own industry, the size of their company or the layout of their buildings.We have proven experience of adapting our designs to suit whatever their requirements dictate. Have a look at our dedicated case study section to see some great examples.

Our service comes with a completely FREE,no-obligation consultancy – this includes a full surveyance and 2/3-D presentations of what your preferred workplace design would look like. Why not get in touch with us today to learn more?

Call us on 034521 86955 or alternatively, send an e-mail to hello@oaktreeoffice.com and we'll be in touch as soon as possible.

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