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Offices of the Future: 5 key workplace trends that are on the up

The office is changing. Best-in-class spaces, open-plan design and commute-worthy offices with perks. Expect smart tech and biophilic design to optimise workflow and wellbeing.

By Making Moves London

While you might think the office space is a constant, it’s always changing. Here our West End Director of Agency, Tom Warren, shares the biggest workspace trends set to dominate the workplace, and how business leaders can get ahead of the curve.

The office was a regular part of everyday life just a few years ago, but is it still relevant to today’s workplace? While more companies have turned to flexible and hybrid working policies in the wake of the pandemic, Google Trends data[i] shows that the office is just as popular as it ever was. June 2023 searches for ‘office space’ were almost on par with the number of searches back in 2019, a good nine months before the pandemic even began. But that’s not to say that we’re still looking for the same kind of office as we were back in 2019.

Over the past couple of years, the way we think about work has shifted and that means our office spaces have altered too. Here, I’ll share the five office trends that are shaping the future of the workplace.

Fewer workers mean smaller spaces

The rise of hybrid working means many businesses have found that their existing office space is simply too big for their needs. Companies are now looking to reduce their square footage to find smaller but better workspaces for their team. According to data from insurance and risk management firm Gallagher, 63% of business leaders are re-evaluating their office space, with 21% cutting back on their useable space. As of June 2023, Google searches for ‘small office spaces for rent near me’ and other relative terms receive a combined 7,500 searches per month (according to search data from Ahrefs).

Moving to a smaller workspace has a whole range of benefits for business leaders, from saving money to reducing energy usage. The money saved also allows brands to find better workspaces that more closely suit their needs, such as more central locations or better parking.

If you’re thinking of downsizing your office but want to make sure you still have enough space to suit your team and their way of working, then take some time to analyse the use of your current space. What’s the maximum number of people at any given time? You’ll need at least 95 square feet per person, but you may want a little more.

You’ll also want to consider if your team prefers co-working areas or individual desk spaces. If people prefer to work individually, you can cut down on shared meeting rooms, instead looking for a co-working space that offers bookable meeting rooms. You can also use an office space calculator to help you decide how big (or small) your new office needs to be.

More shared co-working spaces

The rise of hybrid working models and the desire to downsize has opened up the opportunity for more co-working spaces. Co-working spaces existed pre-pandemic but are now more popular than ever as the need for smaller, more flexible spaces grows. In fact, by June 2023, Google UK searches for ‘shared office space’ were up 129% from the same date in 2019 (Google Trends). In the previous research from Gallagher, 37% of business leaders say they have plans to switch to a shared office.

If you’re thinking of relocating to a co-working space, then you’ll want to consider exactly what you need from your new office. Alongside space, think about what amenities you’ll need, such as meeting rooms, a reception area and mail handling service, a kitchen or cafeteria, and parking. You’ll also want to consider what level of privacy you’d like. Do you need private workspaces and quiet hours? Alongside the facilities on offer, it’s worth researching what other companies you’ll be sharing your space with. Try to look for a community of like-minded brands that can offer ideas, resources, and networking opportunities.

The need for adaptable working spaces extends beyond shared offices, too, with more companies and business owners looking for flexible rental options such as daily rates. Whether it’s to book a quiet meeting space or rent a desk now and then, more accommodating letting options are entering the rental sphere, so it’s worth asking what rates are available to you.

Commute-worthy offices

In 2023 and beyond, a healthy work-life balance will be a major focus, which means the office space needs to become more than just a place to work. Employers are now looking for ways to maintain morale and ensure staff feel excited about coming into the office each day by offering extra amenities such as a gym, game room, or yoga studio.

In March 2023, Google searches for ‘office with gym’ reached their highest point in the last five years (Google Trends) as workers look for a place to unwind during their lunch break or at the end of the day. Some businesses are transforming their spare space into sociable or wellness areas, while others are choosing their office location more carefully — it’s all about making the office worth the commute.

These amenities aren’t just superfluous perks either. Having the space to relax and enjoy hobbies at the office can improve workplace wellbeing, efficiency, and staff retention, as well as being a magnet for new talent, which is incredibly useful in a tight labour market. However, it’s important to offer the right amenities to your team. According to data from instantprint, food and drink-related benefits are the most desirable — including free fruit and snacks, a coffee machine, and a fridge — while almost a quarter of Brits say they’d enjoy an office with a garden or yard area to spend time outside. If you’re not sure what perks your staff would like, ask them using a company-wide poll or questionnaire.

Smart offices

The future is AI — even in the office. Smart offices use innovative technology to optimise and improve the workflow and experience in an office space, and although we’re only just starting to see this trend emerge, it’s growing in popularity as tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Zers start to dominate the workplace. In fact, Google UK searches for ‘smart office’ were up 85% from June 2019 to 2023 (Google Trends) as the trend begins to take hold.

Expect to see more smart tech enter the work sphere in the coming years, with solutions like interactive office maps, QR code keycards, desk booking apps, and colleague-finding software. These technologies will help to streamline small tasks in the working day, helping to make staff more efficient and productive, and the rise of smart workplace analytics means business leaders can analyse how their office is being used to further optimise the space.

Again, if you’re thinking about how you can inject more smart tech into your space, it’s important not to get too carried away and invest in every possibility. Consider the options available to you and which ones align with your way of working and your company values. For instance, colleague-finding software may not be the best use of resources for small businesses, but a smart meeting room, complete with video conferencing technology and even 360° video coverage, will help you connect to remote workers in real time. Meanwhile, eco-conscious brands may benefit from smart lighting and heating controls.

Biophilic workspaces

While today’s offices may have a few small desk plants here and there, the future of the office space will inject even more greenery into the workplace. Google UK searches for ‘biophilic design’ generally receive around 1,800 searches per month, according to Ahrefs data, as designers look for more ways to bring the outside in.

The benefits of indoor plants include increased happiness and reduced stress levels, which can boost productivity, creativity, and concentration (Journal of Physiological Anthropology). So, it’s natural that biophilic architecture and design was going to enter the workplace. Office designers are already becoming more interested in aspects such as green walls, indoor trees, and even garden spaces, to make the office feel less clinical and more organic.

But what do workers think? According to the instaprint study, real plants are among one of the most desirable office aspects, with 27% of respondents voting for it as a top feature. It seems real beats faux too, with just 7% voting for faux-flower walls and artificial grass. Biophilic design isn’t just limited to greenery either, as 18% of respondents said they’d like to see a pond or water feature in their workplace, while 16% would like to see floor to ceiling windows to let in more natural light.

When looking for a new office space, it’s important to consider the sustainability credentials of the building as well. Choosing a space with energy efficient design and operations can help reduce your environmental impact. It’s also worth looking for an office space with biophilic elements built in, such as large windows and organic materials. However, if you’re staying put, or you’d like to add more natural elements, you can add some extra greenery in the form of houseplants. Look for low-maintenance plants like monsteras, spider plants, ZZ plants, philodendrons, and bamboo. These don’t need a lot of light or water to thrive, so you won’t need to worry about them if you have a hybrid working model.

The workplace is undoubtedly changing, but by embracing these new trends and technologies, offices can remain vibrant hubs where company culture thrives. For even more articles on the future of the workplace, take a look at the workplace evolution news at Future of Work

[i] All data was accurate as of 22/06/23