The Office Of the Future – Are we there yet?

by Bill Coons, President, Office Interiors

Wow, there is a lot of information out there on what the office was, is, and will be. 32 years ago I was in college, studying the new trend of – the open office – and apparently, I still am! Looking at current and future trends (the high performance office), I am continually reminded of things I learned in the past. From the Quickborner team’s radically open office layouts of the 1950’s to the previous decades rows of desks and private offices, I think we are still embracing some very historical methodologies. The core idea, both then and now, is to provide an economical and productive environment for the workforce. Today, however, the effects of technological advancements and the varying work styles of a multi-generational workforce are also influencing that idea. Today’s interior design and architectural firms are embracing multiple new workplace trends, moving us from the last 30 years of Dilbert’s cubical world to a more flexible world of work. See Scott Adams Dilbert’s world


8 significant workplace trends* affecting today’s office environments include:

  • Four Generations in the workforce – Traditionalist, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials
  • Working outside of the box -workers spending less time in their offices
  • Shrinking Workspaces -less panels and obstructions, less dedicated square foot /person
  • Working with a view -more natural day lighting
  • Collaboration -sharing productive information in the moment
  • Corporate nomads – the mobile workforce, telecommuting
  • Spaces defined by style not status
  • Sustainability

*See Teknion’s Workplace One for more details

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Cubicles aren’t gone and probably never will be, but they are less predominant, and are different, incorporating lower panels and glass to improve visibility and encourage information sharing. Since workers sit in their primary space only about 40% of the time, more collaborative spaces are being added while the amount of dedicated square foot per person is reduced.

Of course, staffers who require more “heads-down activities” will need more privacy, while others can work effectively with few panels or no dedicated workspace at all. Dedicated private offices will be based more on the need for acoustical privacy and function versus status. Features such as demountable glass walls are being used to provide visual connectivity and promote a feeling of accessibility.

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Accenture in Houston provides an interesting case study.

  • 66,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet
  • People work anywhere due to technology, so the space is a place to learn, collaborate and work.
  • Most spaces are multi-use, cafes are meeting spaces, and offices are conference rooms.
  • Benching workstations provide a place to work as well as collaborate.

(See you-tube Accenture Houston for a 5 minute video) So if people are working in more places than the office, what does the new office look like?



Old Planning ModelNew Planning Model
Most of the space to staffVSMost of the space to multi-use by all
Small places to gatherVSLarge and many places to gather
A focus on individual real estateVSA focus on bring individuals together
Discourage of visual connectionVSEncourage visual connection
Work in one place (Permanent office or station)VSWork in best place (In or out of the office)

So what does it all mean? The office will not go away, but it will continue to evolve as technological advancements change our work styles, and the resulting form and function required from our workspaces. More productive environments are on their way – be ready to embrace them!