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Future Trends In Workplace Design

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Deben Moza, Executive Director & Head - Project Management Services, Knight Frank Headquartered in London, Knight Frank is a global real estate consultant offering Residential Property, Office, Capital Markets, Valuation & Advisory, Commercial Property, Consultancy and many other services to its clients.

As the world transcended from the second to the third millennium nearly two decades ago, the biggest task for tech community seemed to be tackling the snazzy ‘Y2K problem’. It was a time that had just seen the massive boom and then a spectacular burst of the dotcom bubble. Mobile phones were about to become a necessity in a couple of years, from being a conspicuous consumption item, the smartphones were still a few years away. The millennium was born with a massive promise, already evident in the fast rolling tech-juggernaut. Naturally, the millennials of today – who were mostly primary or middle-school students then–were instinctively imbibing and internalizing the new codes of behavior of a world in which they would live as adults. Smart enough, the early stage workforce – those in their mid-20s or early 30s were adopting as well. A quick lifestyle shift was taking place, albeit the one that was not really punishing on anyone.

So, what exactly was being adopted at this time? Well, must remember that we often ‘decode’ a phenomenon only when it has announced itself in the most discerning manner. The seeds, however, are almost always sown long ago. The beginning of the millennium had sowed some seeds which have led to what is now referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. This phenomenon has a profound implication on how our work and workspaces would be in coming times. We need to grasp this firmly before we decoded our future workspaces: their utilities, their structures and design implications.

Today’s office spaces are massively impacted by changing patterns of working. Large office space volume dedicated to each headcount is increasingly becoming passé. With the advent of Datamining, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Automation, IoT, and others, the workspace (real estate) has changed from being a necessary evil,i.e. a‘cost to be managed downwards,’to a‘service-proposition’. Increasing use of tech-application in almost all aspects of work means that a large proportion of office real estate will no longer remain the supplier-dictated commodity that it had been. A supremely flexible, ready-to-use space –
augmented by best-in-class amenities – will require a paradigm shift on the part of supply creators in coming times. A lot of it is currently understood within the broad definition of 'coworking spaces'. However, it is important to remember that we are passing through that phase of time where hybridization or convergence between the traditional and the coworking is taking place.

" The fourth industrial revolution which began unveiling its power less than a decade ago, after drawing upon the turn of events at beginning of this millennium, has truly arrived now "

A large-scale global survey by Knight Frank indicates that, nearly 69 percent of global corporates plan to increase the utilization of such flexible workspaces over the next three years. Moreover, 44 percent of corporates indicate that such flexible workspaces will comprise almost a fifth of all corporate workspaces. Furthermore, about 80 percent expect to grow the amount of collaborative spaces they use over the next three years. It is evident that this is not an incremental progression by any past definition. Rather, this needs to beviewed as something that has grown at the other end of the spectrum – a completely novel set of norms for workspace and corresponding real estate utilization.

The biggest driver though is not tech enablement. Rather, it is a sharp focus on employee well-being and happiness. Technology has laid the foundation for some thing that is key to manpower productivity, increased retention and greater convenience at work. It can therefore be argued that this change is not yet another fad in the evolution of workspaces, instead it is a structural metamorphosis of the form itself.

This evidence or indication of demand-side patterns raises the question now, on the acceptability of the henomenon by the supply-side,i.e., the preparedness of developers and designers to deal with it. Through yet another dipstick in the Indian developer market, it has been estimated that approximately 90 percent of them acknowledge the need for designing and operating office spaces of future according to these changing needs. Moreover, 95 percent of the developers indicated that these changes in office design and operations will get implemented within the next 4-5 years.

The five key aspects to be noted from futuristic office spaces’ design perspective are:
• There is an impending rise in occupational densities leading to higher productivity push.
• New business models are emerging, driven by technology waves.
• Corporate structures are changing fast with focus on core competencies – resulting in broadening of supply chains, as well as accommodation of multi-generational workforces.
• Space is being treated as a 'service' instead of being a fixed and financially onerous physical product.
• Rise in mobility and M&A activity, with focus on movement of offices closer to the talent pool base.

Overall, the world is witnessing a crucial phase marked by a structural shift in the way office spaces are organized, designed and operated. As we move deeper into this interesting phase, the evidence will be more powerful and inputs for space creators and designers will be more concrete. It is pertinent, at this stage, to go beneath the surface and decode the underlying meanings of this phenomenon.

The fourth industrial revolution which began unveiling its power less than a decade ago, after drawing upon the turn of events at beginning of this millennium, has truly arrived now. We will not merely be conducting our lives in a markedly different manner, but the way we work and the places we work in, will be set for an intriguing and interesting reboot. Workforce across the world is apparently going to be the long awaited winner in this new world-order.