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April 01
Part 1: Trends Reshaping Today's Workplace

Cisco Color Wash installation.jpg
 Designed by O+A, the Cisco headquarters in San Francisco highlight many workplace trends in today's offices.

It’s nothing new to suggest that the workplace is in a state of flux. Yet, while the underlying drivers of change remain largely the same, what does change each year is the focus on different aspects of the revolution in the places we work. Some are new and some represent a more informed and sophisticated take on things we were already aware of.

1. Co-working

Primarily a way for the new generation of small businesses, freelancers and contractors to share space, the co-working phenomenon is also influencing ideas about office design and property management for larger organizations. It has even prompted the British Government to pilot a program that would see nearly all of its vast portfolio established as shared space for all public sector departments. 

​The growth in the use of co-working spaces is rapid. A report from real estate trade association NAIOP estimates there are now around 800 of them in the U.S. compared to just one in 2005, increasing by 83 percent last year alone. They are often found in tech hubs serving start-ups and freelancers, but are increasingly applicable to the larger corporate workforce.

2. The multi-generational office

While there is a great deal of talk about the influence of Gen Y in the office, it turns out that the workplace is increasingly multigenerational. According to data from the U.K.’s Department of Work and Pensions, there have never been more over 50s in work in the U.K. There are now 2 million more over-50s in jobs than there were 15 years ago and they will form a third of the workforce by 2020.

The workplace will not be dominated by one specific generation, but shared by everybody. This will mean finding ways of balancing the needs, attitudes and skills of different generations. It also means challenging stereotypes. For example, research published last year by the Max Planck Institute in Berlin found that older workers perform more consistently in memory tests than younger people and that there is a great deal of variability between the performance of individuals within age groups.

3. Focus

The challenge of providing a degree of solitude, peace and quiet in an office is an issue that most people in A&D deem very important. Yet it has proved to be one of those intractable issues that suffers both from and to need to balance it against other factors, including the shift to open plan working. Hence why there has been so much talk over recent years about acoustics in the workplace. But the debate is now moving on as more research emerges to suggest that what we need is not silence, but an ability to focus.

A recent survey of 90,000 people by architects Gensler found that ‘the most significant factor in workplace effectiveness is not collaboration, it is individual focus work’ and that ‘focus is also the workplace environment’s least effectively supported activity.’ The idea is backed up by researchers  at the University of Sydney who found in a survey of 43,000 U.S. office workers site lack of privacy as the top frustration.

In practice this means that designers and facilities managers not only have to manage levels of noise at work but also offer staff choices about where they work, so they can strike the right balance between working with colleagues and staying focused on specific tasks.

Stay tuned as we continue to discuss relevant trends reshaping today's workplace and their involvement within architecture and design conversations.