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It is imperative that progressive companies – those chasing added productivity and returns while attracting the most talented staff – look to the future when designing workplaces, in order to reflect the needs of a constantly changing workforce.
Nick Travers, co-founder and director at Technē Architecture and Interior Design, says a modern office is now a key part of every competitive company’s offering.
“Quality workplace design is now a non-negotiable. To attract new talent, any business needs to ensure its offices are a place that empowers workers and creates a sense of personality that reflects company philosophy,” Travers says.
“Workplaces of the future will have to satisfy the increasing need for spaces that encourage wellness and innovation, as well as changing work styles. Because the modern worker is mobile rather than confined to their desk, design plays an important role in creating flexible spaces that can be used in multiple ways.”
Technē itself recently relocated to a new studio and wanted the new space to be a clear reflection of the practice’s expertise and philosophy.
“We were motivated by the idea of creating a unique warehouse-feeling space as a bold expression of our personality. There had to be an assertion of confident creativity within an environment that was totally fit for purpose,” says Travers.
Travers is joined on the panel by Anneke Thompson of Colliers International, CoreLogic commercial research analyst Eliza Owen, Des Smith of Deakin University and Tim Philips from industrial designers TILT.
Thompson is national director of research at Colliers International and manages the production of the company’s Research and Forecast Reports, which includes an incisive annual report on commercial property trends.
Colliers has identified five major trends shaping office design in 2018: flexible fitouts (including coworking spaces and serviced offices) will see wider adoption; high-end security and safety measures including biometric identification; the rise of smart buildings that respond to their occupants’ needs; a continuing shift to activity-based working for more mobile workforces; and an emphasis on placemaking to make workspaces more attractive to employees.
Intriguingly, coworking is about to broaden out from the hipster enclaves it’s so far been limited to, Colliers predict.
“We expect to see coworking providers starting to target major corporates, rather than focusing on start-ups,” Thompson says.
“We have seen this start to happen in the USA, where large coworking providers have begun competing with traditional landlords for major tenant leases. We expect that, if not in 2018, this trend will hit Australian shores sometime soon.”
As flexible spaces go mainstream they are also moving towards more traditional longterm office leases, providing greater stability for both design and business planning.
Since 2013 the average term for these types of space has already doubled, to 24 months.
Smart-building technology, which will allow workplaces to monitor and adjust energy usage, lighting levels and air quality, is another emerging trend. Travers says integrating technological shifts will be an important challenge for designers working in the next few years.
“Design improves the workplace by allowing for new technologies and multiple modes of communication. Spaces need to be highly functional to support both collaborative and solo work modes,” he says.
Placemaking is another important trend expected to gain momentum in the next few years, one meaning that workers now need to be actively enticed to come to work.
“Given the rise in mobile technology, people now have a choice of working in a physical place of work, a coworking space, working at home or other third spaces. There will need to be a compelling reason for people to come to a workplace to physically perform their work duties,” Thompson says.
“Placemaking has a strong role to play here. Building owners are using programmed cultural activities, wellness amenities, improved ground-plane experiences and partnerships with occupiers, retailers and service providers to make a place that attracts and connects with the new hyper-mobile workforce.”
Given all this change in the workplace, it’s critical that architectural practitioners and workforce consultants consider how to future-proof any office they help design.
“Design has to be intelligent, functional and engineered to stand the test of time,” Travers says.
“In the best possible way, you need to make every square metre work its hardest, and at Technē we love the challenge that brings in the commercial space.”