People’s working environments, schedules, and methods have all changed drastically as a result of technological advancements. The price of commercial real estate is another contributing factor that isn’t as glamorous but is potentially just as important for the working world.
As the cost of conventional 10- to 15-year office leases has risen across the country, corporate tenants looking to scale quickly are opting for shorter, less expensive 1- to 5-year leases that enable them to add (or subtract) square footage much more quickly. As a result, flexible, co-working spaces and virtual offices in Dubai are now the most common office space category in commercial real estate. According to real estate firm JLL, they currently account for less than 5% of the market but are projected to account for 30% by 2030.
Focal Point Business Centre one of the providers of serviced office space in Dubai gives you what experts in the office design space spoke about what workers should expect in 2020 and beyond.
Pop-up Privacy Booths
The open office floor plan, which was once limited to secretary pools in the 1940s, has now become the standard. Companies argue that having open desk spaces encourages innovation and collaboration, as well as saving money by allocating less room per employee.
However, the majority of employees dislike open offices. Staff in open offices have more uncontrolled interactions, higher stress levels, and lower concentration and motivation, according to research.
Free-standing privacy booths, which include a desk, soundproof walls, power outlets, and ventilation, provide the conveniences of a single, private work station. Room, Zenbooth, Spaceworx, TalkBox, and Cubicall are only a few of the many players in this rapidly growing market.
In the increasingly popular open workplace, Room aims to solve the problem of providing employees with a tiny, private space to take a phone call or complete focused work. THE ROOM
“The problem we’re solving is such a human problem,” says Room co-founder Morten Meisner-Jensen. “We need peace and quiet to do focused work. The way companies have migrated from single private offices to open plan layouts has not been done in the right way.”
Workers may use these areas to take a phone call, finish a job on time, or hold a video conference in a private space away from their coworkers.
Companies, of course, have their advantages when it comes to building prefabricated privacy booths: These areas can boost employee productivity and, as a result, the company’s bottom line. Meanwhile, building them costs a fraction of the time and resources it would take to fully renovate an office. A phone booth from Space, for example, costs about 12,850 dirhams and takes a few hours to assemble.
Data-tracking Smart Campuses
Organizations will continue to rely on data-tracking applications to collect analytics about how people travel about and use an office as workers become more mobile than ever. These analytics will then be used to inform real-time changes that will help businesses make the most of their space and resources.
Through movement sensors and other digital tracking products, “we can adapt the space to the needs of the people who are in it at that time, rather than on a 10- to 15-year timeline,” Meisner-Jensen says.
An interior designer, Arjav Shah at the New York studio of architecture firm Perkins and Will, which recently renovated Unilever’s North American headquarters in New Jersey with “smart features” on the campus.
“Integrated smart technologies record energy data and automate energy use, enabling the building to learn from employee behaviors and remember their preferences,” Shah explains. “Rooms, even entire floors, can turn themselves off during periods of infrequent use, and staff can customize their personal lighting and audiovisual systems with custom apps and sensors that are deployed all throughout the interior space.”
The ‘smart campus’ technology at Unilever’s New Jersey headquarters automates lighting, temperature control, and conference room preferences based on where, when, and how employees use the facility. Perkins and Will
Other smart campus features include apps that help workers navigate large buildings (such as a GPS to locate a meeting room or a colleague’s desk), more control over office temperature, and even smart parking technology in the parking garage, where drivers of vehicles equipped with the necessary technology can send their vehicle to an available parking spot or retrieve it at the end of the day using their smartphone.
However, as these innovations progress, there are questions about how businesses can secure employee data, making the area of cybersecurity and legislation to protect individual data all the more relevant.
Experts predict that as more people migrate to flexible and co-working spaces, they will prioritize those that provide the sense of community that businesses historically provide. Companies like WeWork and The Wing promote a membership model in which participants can participate in networking activities, forums, seminars, and other professional development opportunities in addition to finding a place to work.
Another example is The Riveter, a coworking and community space created by Amy Nelson, a former lawyer. Although people of all backgrounds are welcome to participate, the spaces are particularly suited to the way women work. Nelson cites figures that show women start companies at five times the rate of men and that solo entrepreneurs account for more than three-quarters of small businesses as reasons for wanting to create a room for members of today’s flexible work economy. Members will network in The Riveter rooms, which are about 70% open floor plan, and attend activities focusing on leadership, diversity, activism, public participation, and other topics.
The spaces are architecturally designed by women for women. Unlike conventional offices, which are designed to fit the average American man’s strength, height, and metabolic rate, The Riveter spaces make use of clear, natural light, plant life to help circulate air, gender-neutral color schemes, and customizable desks, chairs, and armrests.
“How spaces are designed tell us whose voices belong there,” Nelson says.
In addition to catering to women, these membership spaces are likely to become more niche over time, according to XandroAventajado, co-founder of design firm Current.
“Toward the end of last year we started to see more co-working spaces for specific trades,” Aventajado says. He gives an example of a co-working space in Brooklyn, New York, that gives artists access to wood shops, laser printers, spaces to photograph and promote their work, and a library of books related to their industry.
A Strong Emphasis on Health and Wellbeing
According to the Society for Human Resources Management, health insurance coverage is the most desired employee benefit. Employers are responding in kind, with one-fifth of businesses announcing that their health and wellness benefits packages improved between 2018 and 2019.
According to design experts, this emphasis on fitness is spilling over into the workplace. In October 2019, for example, Room collaborated with the meditation app Calm to create a meditation booth for use in the workplace. Other wellness areas, such as nap pods, have become commonplace in modern workplaces.
This also applies to providing health resources at various stages of life, especially for working mothers. Shah says he’s been working on a growing number of offices that have mother’s rooms that are more than just a dark, isolated space for pumping breast milk every few hours.
“Providing well-designed accommodations for new mothers should be recognized as a crucial component of every inclusive workplace, and as designers, that’s a right we need to defend,” Shah says.
Employers are required by federal law to provide a fully private space for mothers to pump that is not a bathroom. However, the space does not have to be permanent, so unused closets or even enclosed cubicles of a certain height can be used as a pump room on a temporary basis. This setting isn’t suitable for many women.
Social changes, especially conversations about workers seeking better work-life balance, are also making a difference, according to current co-founder Rachel Kane.
“It’s the ethos of this generation,” Kane says of office design that promotes wellness. “This wellness that’s 360 degrees shouldn’t be just at home; it should extend to the workplace. When companies set these trends, others will follow, because they see that people are happy to work there.”
The Appearance and Feel of a Home
Organizations of all sizes, according to designers Kane and Aventajado, are attempting to create spaces that feel like a home away from home.
“We find that our clients want those layers of a residential space, whether it’s throw pillows on a sofa or interesting wallpaper,” Kane says. “You want to create an office space where people don’t want to run home at 5 o’clock.”
Companies with multiple offices, according to Aventajado, are increasingly focusing on giving each room its own design identity. Current worked for a consulting company with offices in New York City, Boston, Seattle, and Austin a year and a half ago. They wanted each campus to represent its geographic location while still maintaining the firm’s industrial-chic aesthetic. For example, its Austin office features locally sourced custom millwork, wallpaper, rugs, and artwork that pays homage to the rodeo tradition in Texas.
“Keeping things local goes a long way in terms of design sustainability,” says Aventajado, who adds that sourcing furniture from local suppliers will reduce the office’s carbon footprint by reducing shipping, support the local economy, and organically tap into the location’s look and feel.
As a retention tool, design is essential.
Hiring and retention are top of mind in virtually every sector in today’s tight labor market, with historically low unemployment and record numbers of workers leaving work. According to Jonathan Webb, vice president of workplace strategy at global furniture manufacturer KI, thoughtful office design is only one tactic companies can use to attract employees and keep them happy enough to stay.
Webb’s recent research looks at the behaviors of incoming Gen Z staff and finds that they value mobile work spaces, private spaces when appropriate, open areas to interact, and face-to-face communication. He believes that businesses will benefit from taking these considerations into account, and that creating a work environment and a workforce go hand in hand.
“At the end of the day,” Webb says, “organizations are attempting to plan for a society that represents their culture.” “And this concept of using community as a design strategy has an effect on organizational culture, health, efficiency, and retention,” says the author.
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