The office 50 years from now. But who will be there?

With hybrid and remote working now an established part of the business landscape, it’s interesting to ponder the office of the future and what it may look like.

After an extended period of home working, companies struggling to persuade staff to return, compromises are often being made, along with a new approach to what constitutes a viable office environment.

Fve years: collaborative social spaces

A new report has revealed that the UK’s service offices market is set to grow by 17 per cent this year, an encouraging sign for the sector but one that recognises a growing acceptance of remote working.

Meanwhile, a European alliance of workplace experts, have examined pre-pandemic working practices and compared them to today to help them predict the top 10 office trends for the future. As a result, Studio Alliance were able to create an AI mock-up of what these spaces will look like in the next 5,10, 25 and even 50 years.   

A lot of companies are focussing on workplace experience to attract people back to the office,” said Alliance member, Guenaelle Watson, 360 Workplace.

“Companies are choosing to embrace activity-based working with a particular focus on collaborative spaces, social spaces, and wellbeing areas. We are seeing dedicated ‘workplace experience’ roles within organisations to curate a programme of events and initiatives that give a sense of community.”

As for short-term predictions, Mattijs Kaak of Studio Alliance, said:  “Collaborative and social spaces will become increasingly important. Where do you meet, where do you interact with co-workers and where do you find the brand identity and values of your employer.

“Also, in connection with this it will be increasingly more important to make these spaces inclusive, does everybody feel at home here, safe and supported with more and more ‘gender neutral’ spaces are being introduced.”

There is a big difference between a fixed four-day work week in which an entire company is closed  or a hybrid-style in which each employee has a different day off

As for the serviced sector – those defined as fully furnished and fully operational spaces leased to businesses on a short or long-term basis – the date showed generated a revenue of £961 million in 2013 before growing significantly year-on-year until reaching a peak of £2.6 billion in 2020.

This period of sustained growth was, in no small part, driven by WeWork’s entry to the UK market in 2014 which inspired a nationwide boom in co-working, according to Sirius Property Finance.

The pandemic in 2021 saw service offices revenue decline by -20.1 per cent before falling by a further -21.8 per cent in 2022 when revenue totalled £1.6 billion.

It is now estimated that by year-end, sector revenue is forecast to hit £1.9 billion, marking annual growth of 16.8 per cent.

Twenty-five years: unrecognisable 

Head of Corporate Partnerships Kimberley Gates, said: “Serviced offices have suffered the same fate as the wider office market in that the pandemic has decimated profits. Lots of businesses have realised that huge savings can be made by dumping the overheads of office space, and this is especially true for bootstrapped SME businesses that served as the core customer base for serviced and co-working spaces.

“Can the sector recover? Can it one day reach its pre-pandemic peak? Without undergoing some significant changes, the answer is probably ‘no’. Serviced offices need to take a leaf out of the book of forward-thinking retailers who have realised that highstreet shopping will only survive if it offers an experience that is impossible to match online.”

Other research from Banner indicates that, while the four-day week may be the future of work, it will only apply successfully to specific industries and it will take an intelligent approach to be successful.

Trials in the UK and abroad testing its viability have generally been successful: 92 per sent of those in the UK trial are continuing after seeing revenue increases of 35 per cent on average, and the number of staff leaving falling by 57 per cent over a six-month period ending in Dec 2022.

And data shows interest in the concept of a four-day work week remains extremely high to this day among employees searching on Google and posting on social media.

But it may not be the right solution for every business, and even if it could work in theory, its success may depend on the type of four-day work week you adopt, according to Alex Winstanley, Head of New Busines. He said: “There is a big difference between a fixed four-day work week in which an entire company is closed on, say, a Friday, or a hybrid-style four-day work week in which each employee has a different day of the traditional working week off. Both approaches have merit, and equally won’t be appropriate for everyone.

“Either way, businesses need to consider it very carefully because one issue with the four-day work week is that, once implemented, it will be very hard to undo without negatively impacting morale. It needs an intelligent approach.”


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