The fixed desk – heading towards obsolescence?
Fixed, personal workspaces in conventional offices – perhaps even in the form of single-person offices – are something of an anachronism when the focus is on creative, networked and interdisciplinary work in modern working environments. Hardly contemporary by today’s standards, the very notion already seems slightly antiquated. Technical developments – and digital transformation is the buzzword here – increasingly mean that we no longer require fixed, individual desks. Thanks to advances in modern techno- logy, we are able to, want to and, in some cases, are expected to work anytime, anywhere. Many companies no longer assign fixed workstations, a trend seen across all industries. In certain areas, this development is even more pronounced, with start-ups a particular case in point.
In everyday practice, this means that employees can no longer take it for granted that they will be assigned their own desk or workstation. Each morning, or every few hours if they are in special project teams, employees decide where they are going to work that day, depending on what they have to do next and what space is best suited to the task at hand. There are virtually no restrictions when it comes to individual interiors and finishes, as shown by companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Cisco and Google. Modern working environments now offer a wide range of layout and design options, starting with quiet, closed single-person offices, practical conference rooms and comfortable lounges for creative work, all the way though to spacious meeting rooms, cafés and bars and many other add-ons, all of which come with cutting-edge technology and video systems. All courtesy of the multifunctional office 4.0.
Desksharing – the new desktop?
PCs and landlines are increasingly being consigned to the history books as mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets take their place as part of any standard office set-up. If employees no longer have fixed desks, the right technology has to be put in place. This is essential if people are to have the option of working on a comfortable couch in the lounge area before moving to the conference room later in the day, and eventually focusing on creative tasks in the open-plan kitchen space over coffee and snacks. Devices are mobile and can be taken and used anywhere. According to a recent study by Eurostat, around 75% of workers in Austria have already been given portable end user devices by their employers, compared with around 65% in Germany.
Modular approach the answer?
But how are companies, property developers, architects and office equipment suppliers responding to the new landscape and challenges? With a simple and logical method based on a kind of modular approach, giving them the flexi- bility to put up partition walls in open-plan offices. Depending on requirements, the entire space can be subdivided into individual offices or remodelled to create various layouts for different purposes. Aligned to the new requirements, the working environment takes on an increasingly homely character to create a “living office”, as seen at the AUSTRIA CAMPUS. The new offices are adapted to personal requirements and circumstances through the use of furniture and items that until now were more commonly found in people’s living rooms.
What do the users of the office of tomorrow have to say?
International property advisor Savills has published a comprehensive and highly interesting study entitled “Office of the future?“. The study surveyed 1,250 people in Germany, including 250 students and 1,000 employees under the age of 35. Among the areas it looked at were questions such as: how flexible and individualised should employees’ future workstations be? How important is an urban location? What influence will digitalisation have on the way we work today?
Businesses, architects, property developers, office planners and equipment suppliers, and investors will all have to adapt to the demands of the next generation of workers. In that all-important search for the best and most suitable talents for companies looking to retain their competitive edge, the office building is one of the central factors that define the attractiveness of a prospective employer.
Changing society and the office of the future
Study participants cared most about flexibility, increased mobi- lity, an attractive urban setting and the need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. They indicated a preference for urban office locations with access to retail, residential, eating-out and leisure facilities. However, they also stated that a fixed work- station with a desk and chair is still important.
Almost 60% of those surveyed said that they would like to spend around half of their time working from home. The desk-sharing options promoted in modern working environments, which appeal to employers for space-saving reasons, went down less well with respondents. Interestingly, only a fraction of those asked expressed a preference for desksharing.
By contrast, there was a strong interest in influencing the configuration of office space: more than 60% said that they would like to be involved in selecting furniture and other office equipment, as well as other factors such as lighting and temperature regulation. Just under half of respondents indicated that they would like to configure their workplace environment to reflect their personal tastes.
As far as the wider location is concerned, around two-thirds of people contacted in the survey said that parks and green spaces were very important. In view of the fact that contemporary working models are no longer tied to fixed hours and structures, the unanimous verdict was that modern office environments need to be fluid, flexible and adaptable.
The future: the living office
The study confirms that the contemporary infrastructure available in new working environments and modern development projects opens up a wide variety of options for harmonising professional and private lives, business and leisure as a general trend. This often takes the form of a city within a city, with multiple retail and eating-out options, comprehensive amenities and an appealing yet functional office environment that combines the utmost efficiency and flexibility with intelligent sustainability. Innovative office concepts are helping to redefine the idea of a liveable working environment: high-quality, dynamic, forward-looking and with a broad range of options for employees to balance their professional and private lives.
Individual constellations are becoming established in different industries – from single-person offices to open-plan developments, modern working environments and much more besides. A key feature is the level of individual design and flexibility made possible by the project developer and office designer.
Definition: the living office
Modern office environments are based on a new, contemporary approach to the notion of work: the office work of today and tomorrow is flexible, mobile, networked and focused on communication. And, above all, the office environment creates a positive atmosphere, which increases productivity and promotes success, both for the team and individual employees. The decisive ingredient is a new and enduring definition of the working environment that is not fenced off from all other aspects of life, but represents an essential, fulfilling part of life that is integrated seamlessly into people’s day-to-day routines.
Modern developments are also characterised by exceptional quality architecture, intelligent building and office concepts, optimal transport connections and accessibility, as well as attractive local amenities. This means the availability of high-value service facilities in the immediate vicinity, such as child care and medical treatment. Modern office developments also feature environmentally friendly, sustainable building service concepts that help to keep operating costs down. The increa- sing numbers of office buildings with geothermal connections har- ness energy from below ground for heating and cooling. Another decisive factor that determines exceptional office quality or a con- temporary working environment is a central location within easy reach of a city’s major transport hubs.
In summary: the office, the working environment of the future, needs to be centrally located and multifunctional, offer the necessary infrastructure, have good transport links and be close to local amenities and eating-out options. Anyone who satisfies these criteria in their projects is set for success and is in a posi- tion to provide businesses with the modern working environments of the future.