Innovative office design that enhances productivity and collaboration will be the focus in the workplaces of 2030

Workplace 2030: Office design trends for the next decade

Workplace 2030: Office trends for the next decade

If the last decade is anything to go by, time sure does fly. But when it comes to the way workplaces are designed, ten years is a lifetime. Think about how work looked like when the 2010s were just beginning. There were a lot of Blackberrys to be seen around the workplace. The corner office was the ultimate sign of success. Boardrooms were a lot less diverse than they are today. And remote work was something you did only when you were down with a cold.

Today, remote working is the new normal, diversity is something that companies are actively focussing on, the corner office has been dismantled to make way for open plan workspaces, and the Blackberry has all but disappeared. Which makes us wonder — what will the workplace look like in 2030? Here’s what we think:

1. Hybrid workplaces

The early 2010s saw employees emerging from the 6’x8’ cubicle to embrace the open-plan workspace. By the end of the decade, everybody had strongly held opinions on whether open offices were a boon for collaboration or the bane of productivity. This will be the decade when companies realise that they don’t have to pick one or the other.

Over the next few years, we envision more firms opting for hybrid workplaces that will be strategically designed to include both traditional quiet spaces as well as buzzing common areas where impromptu collaboration can take place. Think acoustic pods, work nooks and phone booths — but also think airy atriums, chic step seating areas and work cafes flooded with natural sunlight. We’ve already started seeing this shift — we recently worked with TNG to create a hybrid workspace featuring workstations for the exclusive use of TNG employees as well as a coworking space that is open to professionals from across the fintech sector.

TNG, Hong Kong

2. Vertical workplaces

Traditionally, as populations increase, cities have spread outwards. But as we run out of space, it is up to architects, planners and designers to find innovative solutions to accommodate growth. Vertical urbanisation is already coming up as one potential response to overcrowding.

This could very well be translated to a workplace context. The vertical workplace of the future will not be about building taller offices — rather, it will be all about meeting social, human needs. People thrive in open, spacious environments, and given the space crunch we face, it becomes difficult to incorporate such environments within an office campus. However, a vertical workplace offers an agile, unique solution to this by smartly incorporating open cafes, glass-walled atriums, rooftop gardens or balcony lounges. The vertical campus concept can also be ideal for umbrella firms that have multiple brands under one parent company.

3. Office campuses and destination villages

Large tech companies — think Google and Facebook — have made office campuses de rigueur, converting the workplace into a more expansive space where employees come in not just to work, but also to engage in wellness activities, explore hobbies and socialise with colleagues, industry peers, and even friends and family. In the coming decade, this kind of destination village experience will extend beyond the IT sector and across smaller firms as well.

A key element of the destination village trend is a strong focus on resimercial design, which creates a distinctly neighbourhood-inspired vibe. We helped Piramal Group bring together its conglomerate of businesses into one unique 146,000 square feet space in Mumbai. The entire space is divided into self-sustaining clusters, complete with workstations, collaboration spaces and meeting rooms. Amidst these clusters are community spaces that can be used for informal meetings and mini town halls, or even as an open library. We see this micro-neighbourhood approach becoming more popular across Asia, as companies focus on offering better work-life balance to their employees.

Piramal, Mumbai

4. Intergenerational workplace

Over the last few years, Millennials have progressed up the career ladder to occupy managerial positions and Gen Z employees are now making their way into the workforce. Meanwhile, older employees are choosing to retire later than ever before. This has given rise to a unique situation where offices have multiple generations working side by side. 

For organisations, the need of the hour is inclusive, choice-led environments where people of all generations feel engaged. For instance, an activity-based workplace with bar stools, step seating and pouffes may have older employees feeling excluded. Likewise, being forced to work from one single spot everyday may get uninspiring for younger employees. And since generational preferences are not simply related to physical restrictions, these changes will go beyond just spatial design and start influencing workplace policies too. For example, a workplace led solely by the millennial hustle culture might alienate older employees, while a lack of transparency may put off young workers.

5. Employee engagement 

When it comes to employee engagement, there is one major tool that still holds a lot of untapped potential —technology. Ten years back, technology was used only to enable people to do their jobs well. Today, it can be used to nurture, surprise and motivate people and make their workdays that much more exciting.

This is something we tested out for ourselves, in our own offices. For instance, at our Workplace Innovation Lab in Bangalore, employee engagement begins right at the entrance, with facial recognition software that recognises our designers and lets them through immediately. And that’s just the beginning. Inside, smart HVAC systems optimise indoor temperatures, a pantry ordering system gets snacks and beverages delivered right to the desks and a meeting room booking system reserves collaboration spaces as needed. Over the next ten years, we foresee such tech-enabled design solutions being widely adopted to activate positive transformation. 

Space Matrix Innovation Lab, Bangalore

6. Sustainability

Over the years, sustainability has moved from being seen as just a CSR initiative separate from the company’s corporate strategy, to being imbued into the organisation’s core values. In the coming decade, we predict it will become a guiding force in the way workplaces are designed.

The Nutanix office in Singapore is a great example of how sustainability is already spearheading a company’s entire workplace strategy. Nutanix’s open plan workspace is designed to make maximum use of natural sunlight, thereby reducing dependence on electricity. Energy efficient LED lights are used across the office, and there are occupancy sensors to ensure that wastage is minimised. Waste is segregated at source, and low-flow water fixtures are used across the office to reduce water wastage.

7. Biophilia 

People who work long hours spend much of their day in three major environments — work, commute and home. Over time, this has a negative impact on people’s health and mental well-being, resulting in low productivity and higher absenteeism. Many companies are working to minimise these negative impacts with biophilic design. Tech giants are already buying into this concept and are using it to solve real issues like indoor pollution. Massive glass domes, multi-storied atriums and biomorphic furniture are already common features at large corporate offices. But now, innovations in the field will make it more cost effective for smaller firms and startups to opt for biophilic design concepts too.

8. Smart cities

The accessibility afforded by smart cities like Shanghai and Singapore is poised to spill over in the next decade into human-centred workplace strategies that foster employee engagement and a sense of community. Businesses are already exploring AI , IOT and cloud to design more comfortable, collaborative and productive work environments. In the future, we’ll see more innovation exchange between organisations and governments to bring better security, convenience, work-life balance and quality of life to the employee-resident, and more efficient use of workspaces as well as public spaces. 

Polestar, Shanghai

Agile workspaces like the Polestar Shanghai office are already making optimum use of advanced technology. For instance, employees enjoy improved security and privacy, on account of the tech-enabled lockers that can only be opened through a keycode on their smartphones.

9. Smarter offices

Most organisations have already got onto the workplace technology bandwagon, incorporating digital solutions that foster collaboration and improve employee efficiency. The next decade will see an increased adoption of technology that improves the efficiency of the workplace itself. 

By using smart workplace systems that collect real-time information and offer data-based insights, companies can make modifications that remember user preferences, enable energy efficiency and improve space utilisation. Further into the future, offices will even be able to create individualised micro-environments, personalised to each user. 

10. Hospitality-inspired workplaces

With Millennials bringing wanderlust into the workplace, hospitality trends are finding their way into the workplace too. This translates into an experience-led design that weaves comfort and convenience in every corner.

Hilton, Singapore

The infusion of hospitality elements in the traditional office is no accident. Large tech organisations have been at the forefront of this trend, seeing it as an effective strategy in the fight to retain talent. However, beyond the tech sector, companies like Hilton and TNG have also seen the value of a more ‘hospitable’ work experience in increasing employee engagement and sparking innovation.

The changing trends thus predict that workplaces will go through a massive shift — from places solely of productivity and focus to spaces that take care of broader social needs. With some of these shifts already in motion, the workplace of 2030 promises to be an exciting place indeed. Let's talk to see how your workplace can be transformed in the coming decade.