The Office of the Future: Research 2022

28.10.2022 | 10 min read | Written by Davide S.

In June 2022, our team conducted desk-based research into architecture trends, regulations, policies and projections in 12 countries around the world. In this blog, we’ve summarised what these findings mean for the office design and management profession.

office of the future

The COVID-19 pandemic was a watershed moment for so many industries. And, if you work in the fields of office design, architecture, or facilities management, you will already be seeing its impacts on your profession. The ways that people use offices, their expectations for these spaces, and indeed their fundamental purpose, have all been questioned and re-evaluated in the last two years. But how far reaching are these developments, and what do they mean for your practise?

At PlanRadar, we work with numerous businesses worldwide that are active in the office design and management industry. And, in early 2022, we conducted extensive research into the ways architecture is changing to learn what experts believe are the key trends shaping the profession in different countries. The research revealed several fascinating trends that are particularly pertinent to the field of office design and management.

Staying on top of trends in your field is of course vital, so we invite you to download a free copy of our research analysis, where you can explore the findings from our survey in depth. For a summary of the research, its key findings, and significance for your specialism, read on.

The Office of the Future

Download the full research paper here.

About the research

In June 2022, our team conducted desk-based research into architecture trends, regulations, policies and projections in 12 countries around the world. We accessed the latest national policy updates, plans, regulations, guidance, and insights from respected professional bodies to ascertain how experts in different countries perceive the future of architecture.

You can view a full list of sources here, or read our in-depth analysis of the architecture of the future here. In this blog, we’ve summarised what these findings mean for the office design and management profession

What did our research reveal?

Our study provided fascinating insights into the similarities and discrepancies between different countries’ views on how the office will develop in the coming years. The results can be categorised into four themes: 

  • Physical changes to the office 
  • The changing purpose of the office 
  • Changes in office design  
  • Sustainability 

In our report, you can explore a full analysis of all these different trends and the discrepancies between countries. The following highlights will provide you with an overview of some of the biggest trends you need to be aware of as an office design or management professional. 

1. Physical changes to the office 

Throughout history, the layout and purpose of offices has continuously evolved, thanks to changes in global industry, ideas about management, and technological advances such as the arrival of the personal computer. Our research suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to significant shifts in the physical layout of offices (or, at the very least, an acceleration of pre-existing trends).  

INFOGRAPHIC: predicted trend of workspace allocated per worker

Perhaps the biggest shift is a stagnation in office size, with many countries expecting office spaces to remain at pre-pandemic size or decline, but very few countries predicting growth in commercial office space. This could be explained by several factors, but it is perhaps most closely linked to remote working. Many companies are discovering that they no longer need as much office space to do their work. If more of their employees are working remotely part of the time, it makes economic sense to downsize. 

We also noticed a growth in flexi desk working – this is now the dominant approach to desk allocation around the world. Office managers are asking people to follow hot desk models, and staff no longer have their own dedicated cubicle or desk. Once again, this is likely explained by the emergence of hybrid working. It would simply be inefficient to set aside in-office desks for individual staff if they’re only using them half the time. 

Infographic: percentage of people working remotely all or some of the time

2. The purpose of the office

Our findings also revealed that the fundamental purpose of the office appears to be going through a radical transformation. As noted in the previous section, hybrid work is now far more common than before – in several countries over a fifth of people now work from home most, if not all the time. The office is clearly no longer the place to do all kinds of work.  Instead, it’s somewhere that people do specific types of tasks or activity – where they learn company culture, build relationships, and participate in collaborative tasks that cannot be done remotely. For example, instead of using traditional, equipment-filled call centers, employers are now choosing to set up call centers virtually and allow their workers to make calls from anywhere.

This flexibility around the purpose of offices is mirrored in the massive growth in coworking spaces. Although coworking was already a growing trend prior to the pandemic, our research suggests that the number of such spaces will continue to balloon. The UK and US continue to lead the way in the adoption of co-working spaces, but there is certainly interest in much of Europe.  

Infographic: number of co-working spaces

Notably, our research revealed an interesting rise of such spaces in suburban and rural areas. This is, again, surely related hybrid working patterns. With more and more employees choosing not to travel to city centre HQ’s, they are turning to local co-working space to benefit from comfortable seating and reliable internet connections without always having to travel miles to access it.  

3. Changes in office design 

Our research highlighted several key trends in office design. The way offices are laid out, the type of equipment used, and tastes in décor are all expected to undergo significant shifts.  

Infographic: top 5 office design trends

In most countries, there is growing interest in flexible spaces. This refers to the use of moveable partitions, desks and other equipment that let staff quickly change their workplace layout for changing needs. 

A similar trend is the growing appetite for collaborative environments in the office. With people travelling to work to do more face-to-face collaborative tasks, it makes sense to set aside more room for meetings or creative ideation sessions. 

There was also a rise in interest for design elements that made office space more human centric. Office design experts around the world appears to be taking a more nature-inspired approach to office design, with interest in things like natural light, improved water purity and air cleansing. The goal is to ensure people feel safe and comfortable at work. 

4. Sustainability

With a global climate crisis becoming ever more visible, office designers and other professionals are increasingly prioritising sustainability. According to our research, professionals in half of countries are looking at ways to make offices more eco-friendly.  

On a related note, there is growing interest in biophilic office design. Many countries in our research reported rising demand for the use of plants, natural water features, and other design choices to make the interiors and exterior of offices greener. 

Illustration of a future office 

So, what might the office of the future look like? Based on our research findings, read the story of Julius, a 45-year old German IT worker as he spends a day at work in Bonn in the year 2030.  

It is Tuesday morning, and Julius is cycling into his office for the first time this week (Monday and Thursday are his home working days). 

On arriving at his company’s HQ, he admires the small rewilded forest growing near the building entrance – part of the office management firm’s strategy to encourage biodiversity. It is a nice touch, and it helps Julius feel more connected with the natural world. He wheels his bicycle into the building’s basement which is now fitted out with secure bicycle hoops – the space used to be exclusively reserved for cars.  

He gets the lift to his company’s floor, and uses a smartphone app to find an available desk. His business operates under a hybrid working model, so they now have a slightly smaller office than they did in 2020 – yet the space still feels airy since many people are working from home today. Julius sits at a desk and docks his laptop to a charging station and monitor. After half an hour, he meets his team for their weekly in-person meeting in one of the large collaboration rooms. 

After a healthy lunch that uses vegetables grown on the office roof garden, Julius has a meeting where he and a colleague work on creative ideas. Since they will be talking and writing on the digital whiteboard, they move some office partitions around to create a focus area to work without irritating other colleagues.  

For the rest of the afternoon, Julius works at his desk. From his seat by the window, he really appreciates the amount of natural light flooding the office. He can also look out and see solar panels on other roofs in the office park which provide almost all of the building’s energy supply. It feels good to be working somewhere that does more good than harm to the world.

How can you use our research findings 

Our research has illustrated a future office that is somewhat smaller yet more flexible, greener, and more responsive to the needs of users. So how can your company use these findings? 

Office architects 

If you design office buildings, our research can inform your design methods: 

  • Tomorrow’s offices should make greater use of natural light, passive building design and sustainable construction materials 
  • You should consider introducing biophilic elements 
  • Focus on open plan design to allow more flexible office space usage 

Office interior designer 

If you work in an office interior design firm, our research indicates: 

  • You need to choose furniture, equipment and partitions which are highly flexible 
  • Use smart technology and adaptive lighting to ensure that offices respond to people’s natural bodily rhythms 
  • People increasingly value sustainable and eco-friendly design, so prioritise the use of natural materials, natural colours in décor, and the use of office plants 

Facilities managers 

If you manage office spaces, then our research indicates: 

  • You could consider repurposing some of your existing floorspace as coworking areas where people can rent out desks on a daily, weekly or monthly basis 
  • Some customers will be downsizing, so maximise the opportunity by offering more space for hybrid workers and co-working companies
  • Develop strategies to use renewable energy, plant more trees around the office, and facilitate the use of more sustainable modes of transport by providing secure bicycle and scooter storage 

Thinking about the future office 

Offices have always evolved, so keeping a finger on the pulse of change and remaining aware of emerging trends in office design and management is absolutely vital for anyone in this industry. As our research shows, office size, layout, design and use are currently going through a period of flux. By keeping an eye on the future, you can be sure that you will be delivering offices that truly meet people’s needs.  

The Office of the Future

Download the full research paper here.

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