• Office trends in our time: How our office landscape has changed over the decades

        • The first offices, rooms that were intended exclusively for working at desks, emerged around 1800 as work spaces for merchants, government officials and tradesmen. Marc Nicolaisen, Director of Customer Experience at Steelcase discusses four of the latest office trends that are emerging in today’s office.

          Trend 1: Open-plan offices and the desire for low cost space

          With origins in the middle of the 20th century, organisations continue to invest in open-plan offices, since they are supposed to be the best way to support collaborative and communicative work as well as shared learning.

          Today almost half of UK offices are open plan, more than double the global average of 23 per cent, according to Steelcase’s Engagement and the Global Workplace report. A reason for this lies in cost control with the UK, especially London, experiencing high real estate prices. However, the attempt to drive down costs comes at a price as workplaces can become overcrowded. The UK has more than double the number of nomadic workers at 17 per cent, and falls short of the global average for having sufficient meeting rooms. 

          Trend 2: Prestigious executive offices

          There is a misconception that all individual offices, and thus also the prestigious executive office, gradually gave way to the growing trend toward the open-plan format.

          Marc said, "the executive office still exists in companies around the world, and an executive's status is usually defined by the size of his/her office. In 1996, our management team moved from individual offices into open spaces, which was quite unthinkable at the time. All executives have supported the decision to the present day."

          For Generation X and Y Millennials, status and traditional hierarchies tend to take a back seat, while network-based structures and information communication on an equal footing is becoming more and more important. 

          Trend 3: Well-being at the office 

          At the beginning of the 21st century, employees began to focus more attention on ergonomic aspects. To attract the best talent and develop loyalty, companies emphasised the idea of well-being more than ever before in the way they organised their workspace.

          The UK has led the charge for well-being spaces. 71 per cent of UK workers said their workplace has a relaxation area – the highest score in the Engagement in the Global Workplace study, and way above the global average of 45 per cent. The UK also has more private space at work than the rest of the world. 

          Trend 4: The home office as a result of digitalisation

          As technological aids such as smart phones and laptops made it increasingly more possible to work on the go, more and more employees demanded this freedom and flexibility. The result was the home office. Over time, the UK adopted this idea, and last year it was reported that 1.5million people, a quarter of a million more than 10 years ago, were shunning the office for more flexible working lives. 

          What will the office of the future look like? 

          In the years to come, the use of technologies in the office of the future will go far beyond current possibilities. Marc said, "people, workplaces and technology will become even more closely networked, thanks to sensors and the Internet of Things. At some point, the entire company will be linked and networked—from appointment calendars, furniture and the room booking system to individual employees and even the conference room."

          Steelcase has observed a fundamental change even in the way managers and their staff interact with each other. Marc added, "managers are increasingly taking on the role of coaches and are not calling the shots as much functionally and in terms of content.” The disappearing hierarchical executive offices, combined with more open areas where employees can talk and work together without complications, is what makes network-based collaboration with flat hierarchies possible. A variety of different rooms and work options is necessary for this purpose, the kind that Steelcase has been introducing within its own company since 2005 and among many customers since that time.

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