Office spaces to change their faces

by 13 Oct 2009

A bland work environment only adds to the boredom of a bland work day. But workspaces of the future, writes Dan Cox, might change all that by providing vital spaces for telepresence, telepods and flexi-desking – surely enough to stimulate any tech-savvy workforce

Over the last two decades the development of instant messaging such as email has seen majority share of communication shift from verbal to written. Our switching from the telephone to the computer has not only fuelled productivity but facilitated our rapid move from enclosed offices to open-plan environments.

With the benefits of face-to-face communication still clear, our need to work in teams has seen the development of new spaces for tasks previously accommodated by enclosed offices.

As commercial rents increase, so will the need for space-efficient facilities that provide flexible structures to support autonomous to collaborative tasks. As a result, a multitude of spatial types for working may be “reserved” as a project cost. Sophisticated task planning software may have space management capacities as the phenomenon of flexi-desking moves to a hotelling approach where different spatial types are booked based on the duration of cases. This process will help the practice control rising office infrastructure costs.

These future spaces may include:

“Intercomm Project Rooms” (inter- communication space) with the ability to acoustically isolate from open working areas with interactive display and recording of information.

“Telepod” (telecommunications) booths for individual or small groups with advanced telepresence capacity to allow us to connect instantly with colleagues in another location.

“Touchdown”: a basic workstation set up for short-term work in desirable locations, for example adjacent to a view or natural light for workers who generally work remotely from the office.

Advances in telepresence video- conferencing will heavily increase as carbon restrictions limit travel while our need to connect to the global network grows. We may even see the physical space start to merge with the virtual. Will we join global conferences in virtual spaces such as “second life”? Will our design focus transfer to these virtual environments?

As systems develop to monitor productivity, we may see a continued growth in remote working. Portability of our virtual desktop will enable increased flexibility for our choice of working environments. Will we be invoicing our employer for working from home or sacrifice salary for our Aeron chair at the city office?

RFID (Radio-frequency identification) or “one” security that is truly your own will enable future environment to adjust to your personal preferences. It will also allow free movement when accessing virtual environments.

“The Magic Room” – or staff services – will liberate the time-poor by centralising the personal assistant role to accommodate a wider group of team members – for example, personal shoppers, dry cleaning services and event planners.

Dan Cox is an associate at Carr Design