Architects Soini & Horto

What will the future of office buildings and office work look like? Part 2

25.02.2021

In January, our architect office moved into new premises situated in Punavuori in the city centre of Helsinki. This has allowed a front row view to make observations of changes in office spaces. These findings and experiences about the future support the general, publicised opinions.

Most of our staff would like to work remotely two days a week in the future, but there are also those who want to work in the office on a daily basis. Naturally, those commuting from further (over 50 km) work remotely more often. The number of people working in the office needs to be rhythmised with the introduction of a workstation booking calendar, as the office is likely to be congested on the most popular days, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Personal designated workstations were no longer seen as necessary. Especially within the COVID restrictions, the number of people coming to the office must be limited anyway. Remote working requires more detailed guidance in order to maintain a work culture, things need to be repeated and their importance needs to be reminded. It takes some time to learn new ways, but they quickly become routines nonetheless.

During the move was a fitting time to change the loose furniture to better serve future use. In the future, our company will no longer own loose furniture. The flexibility of the workspaces has created a new business opportunity for companies supplying office furniture: office furniture as a service. As operations evolve and work habits change, loose furniture can be changed flexibly, even on a monthly basis, if needed. There is a demand in the secondary market for high-quality office furniture.

The change in work has happened rapidly, and the models for work environments of the near future are still somewhat conjecture. At the workplace, tasks that don’t necessarily require a desk in the traditional sense are performed, the number of fixed workstations is decreasing, and the number of creative workstations is increasing. With some exaggeration, it can be suggested that offices become social meeting places and work that requires concentration is done remotely. The content of the work in different professions is of course different, so too much generalisation shouldn’t be made. Offices are used for meeting clients, for holding team meetings and workshops – emphasising community spirit in line with the company’s brand. Traditional ideas about ways of working are beginning to blur and take on new forms.

The number of gig workers in companies is growing and people will change jobs more often in the future – or, more accurately, the employer in this context. Indeed, the number of start-ups has been clearly on the rise in recent years, some of which offer their services as sub-consultants or as freelancers. Due to its flexibility, there is a demand for this model, which contributes to changing the familiar roles of employee and employer in organisations. Technological developments will create more variations in the future, but the basic need for a sense of community has not changed.

Quickly calculated, it can be concluded that the number of employees working at our office will decrease by 40% in the future. However, the space efficiency gained with the new working culture is lost when work stations are sized according to the COVID restrictions, as pandemics must also be prepared for in the future. The effects of sizing workstations can be speculated on, but a major change was already underway before the virus. There was a shift from open-plan offices to multi-space offices due to the need for work efficiency and uninterrupted operations. With an optimised design, the need for workspaces in a multi-space office can be reduced by a quarter or even more. As remote working is becoming more common it’s greatly accelerating this change, a pandemic has created a sudden and global need for it. The culture is changing in terms of work content, but also in terms of the physical work environment.

Henrik Simelius
Architect SAFA, partner