Will we soon simply work from home all the time? Or will offices be designed to suit individual employees? Interior architect Siska D’hondt from Het Kantoor van Morgen and top designer and trendwatcher Alain Gilles share their views on the office of the future.
We cannot begin to discuss the office of the future without mentioning activity-based working, a concept that has already been applied by companies like Microsoft for years. This allows employees to choose between different working environments, depending on the task in hand or the space they require at a particular moment. The idea is that employees are not only more productive, but also that they have the appropriate space available to do their job. An office as a living organism, ‘on demand’ for employees. What is this like exactly?
Plan tailored to the company
“The era of open-plan offices is long gone. Yet neither are we returning to the cubicles used in the 80’s”, begins Siska D’hondt. “We are now promoting a blended spirit, the ‘semi-open-plan office’ or activity-based working. This involves dividing up your open space into a number of areas, depending on the needs of the company. We start by assessing the types of job in the company: are they mainly office jobs or are many people out in the field? Can the majority of people work from home, or not? Do they need to make lots of phone calls, or have tasks requiring high levels of concentration? Then, depending on the type of jobs and assignments, and the average number of people effectively present in the workplace we create a plan. For example, including a combination of flexible work areas and permanent workstations, focus areas for when you need to concentrate in your work or calls, meeting rooms, a lounge area, ... All to perfectly suit the needs of the company and its employees. In new offices you’ll find few or no corridors. The ‘empty zones’ are now used for circulation, as ‘open space’ between the different areas.”
My office, my second home
Another remarkable feature is that the office feels like home. A well-equipped kitchen, pleasant dining area or seats in which to relax are already quite commonplace, but it doesn’t stop there in the office of the future. When decorating the office and office furniture we choose real materials, with real character. Alain: “For example, marble, wood and other natural materials with a visible texture. This brings us closer to nature and you can feel that it’s genuine. Such materials show authenticity and respect, and also to those in the workplace. In this way, as a company, you implicitly pass on the message that you care about people and that you take them seriously.”
Siska agrees: “Nowadays, the well-being of employees plays a much more important role. This means there is a growing focus on a pleasant and cosy interior. One style that remains popular is the minimalistic, Scandinavian style: light materials and colours. For example, light wood or white and atmospheric lighting. However, we are also seeing the return of earthy, pure tints along with blue and black. In (re)branding assignments we try to seek a balance between the individual style and colour of the brand and a timeless character.”
When choosing materials the acoustic element is also a key factor, according to a trend report by Arch Daily. The office of the future is made of materials which provide plenty of soundproofing yet without isolating employees from each other. In this way productivity can be boosted without compromising the attractive look of the interior.
Looking for more inspiration for the office of the future? Download our trend report containing the most innovative cases.
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