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Looking Forward in Office Design

Our goal for the future of office design must be to find ways that utilize and expand technology to enhance growth and protect the future of our companies, ourselves and our planet. For all of us, this goal is a challenge that, like work, we all must show up for.

The directives of the office of today and the office of the future remain the same. How do we reduce our footprint and costs while keeping employees motivated and productive? How do we streamline processes for maximum efficiency? How do we maintain accountability in a world where the office and work force that is “on the go” is here to stay.

When the concept of telecommuting was first introduced, there was initial push back from companies because they wanted to see “butts in seats.” The thought being: if they’re “here” they’re “working.” Our nine to five clock has significantly changed, we now have a 24/7 workforce without borders.

With the acceptance of telecommuting, and the plethora of new technologies, it seemed the office footprint might shrink and cost savings would grow with less people on premise. But this theory hasn’t proven true and keeps evolving.

People need people. The office needs to provide a place that fosters team building, innovation and collaboration but that also provides access for heads down work. Although our individual footprint for any one workstation may be reduced, “excess” space is filled with break out areas, video-conference rooms, huddle spaces, quiet rooms, etc.

The tired workplace with high and white cubicles has transformed into spaces where color is seen as a psychological “pop” of energy. These colorful spaces feature no-wall cubicles, open ceilings, and “living room” type lounges to foster a relaxed environment. Traditional design has given way to innovative design where the workforce measures success and prestige for a company by the size of the bandwidth not the size of the CEO’s office.

Today’s workplace needs to support the changing demographic of our workers and brace for the generational impact they’ve made. In supporting these generations, we’ll see a need for more tools that enhance workforce collaboration, such as Google Docs, BYOD, huddle rooms and similar platforms. The office of the future aims to keep employees entertained…and motivated. Companies will invest in spaces that help keep employees and provide a holistic approach to their health.

The office of the future will have a more transient workforce for collaboration. It will provide and enable access to Wi-Fi and other services or information while protecting information not for public consumption—not an easy task. The office of the future has bullet proof practices for BYOD that are SOP to avoid security breach. We must always be mindful of weighing access and convenience versus security.

The ability to “call in” and work from anywhere provides tremendous autonomy. But too much autonomy, or too little “face time,” may make your boss feel you’re not part of the team. The ability to jump on FaceTime, Skype, teleconference, telepresence and video conference, is an important part of staying connected.

The workforce of the future will have complete confidence in electronic documentation. This means less need for printers, copiers, scanners, etc. which equates to square footage savings. When every document that you could possibly need can be viewed, copied, converted to a pdf, emailed, faxed, scanned and translated without putting ink to paper, the hard part for reducing paper consumption is really just in your head. In addition, desktop computers will be gone as IT sees the value of one laptop per person. The fewer computers that need to be supported means more desk top space because of devices that are now integrated into the laptop or accessible in the cloud.

Perhaps the most impressive change for the office of the future is the mind shift that we’ve embraced. The ego and association that “bigger is better” is being replaced with a more mindful directive that, sometimes bigger is wasteful and time doesn’t always means money. Sometimes the exchange rate for time is time. There’s a higher consciousness of how we impact the planet and maintenance for the future. The generations that are moving up the corporate ladder believe in implementing sustainable practices in all aspects of their lives. We could resist, but why?

It’s time to assimilate. Resistance is futile.

Christopher Maione is a recognized leader in the AV industry with over 28 years of audiovisual experience, designing, facilitating, managing and implementing AV projects with a forward-thinking and progressive approach. [email protected]

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