Changing the work environment of an office worker is an ongoing process. It is difficult to predict the future and it is difficult to know in what order and in what timeframe the changes will take place, but here are a few drivers and a predictable outcome.
There has been a shift from static time card work environments and we are moving towards freer work environments. However, it isn’t yet common to work completely flexibly without a fixed location. Of course, there are already a few industries where this is possible, such as various teleservices and sales work. Some work is more difficult to transfer to a location-independent work environment due to an insufficient level of information security.
The first change in office work was a cautious shift to a few individual remote workdays at home offices. With the spread of Wi-Fi, work could also be done at cafés and other public spaces. However, the workstations of the offices were not forgotten, but their nature began to change. Multi-space offices and co-working spaces quickly rose in popularity. The corona epidemic that began in the spring of 2020 caused unprecedentedly rapid changes as offices emptied and work moved to homes and other more private spaces after the loss of popularity of public spaces and gatherings. Similar, unpredictable series of events will probably be seen more in the future.
In the development of work user interfaces, the big change is yet to come. For the past 30 years, the IT tools have been virtually the same: keyboard, mouse, and monitor. The growth curve for computing power follows Moore’s Law, but the biggest step forward in workstations has been the increased popularity of electric desks. I look forward to the moment when the virtual environment as an interface will start to enter the common market.
In the future, the personally designated workstations in the offices will be reduced and individual office rooms will be vanishing folklore. They are moving elsewhere, and photographs of children and grandchildren are no longer displayed on office desks. The nature of home offices and other remote workstations will change and they will become personalised, distinctive, small-scale work environments. At the same time, the time spent in them will increase, with more attention paid to ergonomics, technical features, and comfort. In the future, modern employers will also invest in the functionality of remote workstations.
Employers compete fiercely for talented people and experts. This has led to a jobseeker’s market in certain fields (e.g. IT). Employees have the opportunity to influence their work in ways they have never seen before, and employers have had to respond to this call. At their best, workplaces have been developed into dreamy environments with the best latte cookers, pool tables, and common areas you could imagine. At one site where I was a designer myself, they considered placing a daycare centre in the office so that top professionals would not have to spend time and energy on childcare problems. In the future, employees will demand better environments and the level of basic requirements will rise. This is a positive thing both for the employee and the employer. A good work environment improves work performance, provides space for better thinking, and increases physical activity as well as reduces employee absences. Also, less commuting saves time for increased leisure time, which can be added to the list of positives. A good solution for everyone, right?
So the change and trends are going in many directions and the employee can choose the most suitable option for themself. Due to the technological developments and the corona epidemic that continues to plague us, the focus in work environments is still shifting from time card offices to summer cottages – in other words, sparsely populated areas. But what this means structurally for the city plans is a topic for another blog post.
Henrik Simelius, architect, partner