What will the future work environment look like?

For many, it would seem the notion of a traditional fixed office space is dead. But what if it isn’t? What if hot desking is a short lived trend, and the current popularity of buzzwords like ‘flexibility’ and ‘movement’ are? As working culture across the world continues to change and develop, what does this mean for the future of office space, work environments and companies’ cultures?

The huge benefits that co-working spaces can offer, are now almost public knowledge, and isn’t anything new to most of us. Advantages like being able to rapidly build a valuable network of contacts, which often evolve into friends, clients, and mentors through such spaces are well known. As is the ability to work alongside like-minded people who share values, and ambitions that can lead to interesting avenues of collaboration, and opportunities. But can there be a downside to such set-ups? Through the emergence of hot desking, we have lost many of the traditional values that could be seen in offices during the earlier days of larger organisations in the 50s and 60s.

In the Surry Hills, of Sydney, Australia, a new shared environment that explores the parallels between the benefits of hot desking, and the lost values of traditional office spaces, has recently opened its doors. Paramount is a new shared space that offers the opportunity for a fixed space, that’s well designed and offers a homely, but productive atmosphere. It retains the often over-looked more traditional benefits of peace and quiet, privacy, and a space you can own, whilst combining them with the more modern benefits that hot desking can bring.

But, why are larger organisations making the shift to such spaces in more recent years? In the same way that a chef invests in a good set of knives, or a writer may double their rent to benefit from an inspiring view, it’s not unreasonable that a business may invest in a good working space as a way of improving the wellbeing and productivity of its staff.

How do we avoid the pitfalls of the throwaway era of hot desking and help create an atmosphere of homeliness, and a quality working environment? Often the answer to these things can be seen in the quality of furnishings chosen. A well made collection of furniture, promotes that sense of belonging, and longevity, which can only be beneficial for employee’s feeling of being valued, and a clients perception of an organisations commitment to longevity.

Conversely, a frequent occurrence with many offices of the 90s, 00s, and some of the early hot desking spaces is the feeling of everything being-throw away and temporary to promote change and flexibility. However, cheap furnishings can be detrimental to a feeling of belonging and it’s not unreasonable to draw the conclusion that these can only ultimately make staff feel equally disposable.

This initial approach of dipping toes in the water to see how things took off, whilst financially sensible during the early years, could well be looked upon as the reason why it’s taken so long for larger companies for come around to shared spaces with other organisations. The concept as a whole has taken some time to refine, and it’s only in recent years that spaces have begun to be built with more consideration for the challenges that surround these larger organisations when migrating to these spaces, in mind. Things like finding the balance between the cross-pollination of ideas through collaboration with other organisations and open spaces, versus the importance of privacy are now being revived from more traditional working spaces.

Given that most of us now spend a large portion of our life at these desks, a sense of ownership is often undervalued, and whilst hot desking traditionally has ignored this, the future of new workspaces must place a much higher value on it. The routine we all go through day to day is ultimately what helps us get into that elusive ‘zone’ we all strive to reach, where we become productivity gods. The familiarity of your own space combined with the subtle changes that your surrounding day-to-day ephemera offers as inspiration, is crucial to achieving a sense of routine that helps reach that fabled zone we all seek.

Ultimately for most of us, work is more than just you and a computer. It’s about a physical connection with your surroundings. People like to work with people, and if you’re constantly changing locations on a daily basis, your connections are never deep-routed. You have no contacts to work with, or bounce ideas off. Like it or not, a sense of belonging is what we all desire in one way or another. While change is good in many ways, if you desire a consistent productive mindset, for many, it doesn’t sit so well.

The future of workspaces then, and the culture that surrounds them will undoubtedly be set by larger organisations who will have a long term influence over everyone else’s working culture. I, for one, am glad to see the back of the throwaway era, in favour of combining the benefits the era brought with it, alongside more traditional, and conscious spacers, that value peace and quiet, a space that belongs to you, and the chance to create alongside like-minded individuals. Here’s to looking to words like ‘flexibility’ and ‘movement’ being replaced with ‘tangible’, ‘valued’ and ‘longevity’. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.Thumbnail from gettyimages.


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