A while back I did a presentation at the Office Business Center Association's annual conference on the future of office space. I thought it would be a good time to revisit parts of it since it does have options and opportunity in today's turbulent market place. The question of where is office space headed during the 21st Century is the million dollar question if you want to stay competitive in the office rental market! Having a clear understanding of the factors that are affecting change in the office market will help us all make better business decisions about how to position ourselves for success over the next 15 - 20 years.
According to Jeremy Myerson and Phillip Ross in their book “the 21st century office,” there are four major architectural and interior schemes and ideas in office design and use.
- Narrative office
- Nodal office
- Neighborly office
- Nomadic office
The first of these, the Narrative office -- the office as a brand experience. It brings the brand alive within the office and tells the story about the company. In the service oriented economy of the 21st century, some of the biggest global brand names are using their own office environment as a branding tool for employees, visitors, suppliers and investors. A growing number of business leaders see this as good motivational sense. They are treating office space as an opportunity to express what their brand really stands for, instead of just a place to do business like everyone else's.
In the competitive service-oriented economy of the 21st Century, companies no longer want the place where their employees spend the vast majority of their time to look and feel exactly like everyone else's office. They want the environment to be uniquely loaded with the company's own brand signifier.
The Nodal office is a digital technology-driven, knowledge-connecting workplace for the mobile “knowledge worker” of the 21st Century. It is a place for sharing knowledge, networking, coaching and training. The goal is to incubate ideas by providing a variety of space to generate and share them.
It is designed to provide virtual workers with a home base. It is the hub for business of a mobile workforce. This is similar to the 20th Century versions of hoteling, hot desking or other forms of flexible work.
One of the benefits, other than technology, is that the Nodal office counteracts the tendency of offices to operate at only a 50% utilization rate, as is the case in most 20th Century offices
In the people-centered service economy of the 21st Century, new schemes of office design are appearing to encourage social interaction rather than to discourage it. The Neighborly office looks more like a community center with town squares, garden fences, quiet places and entertainment zones. It encourages chance encounters from which good ideas flow and helps create a sense of community by encouraging social activity and interaction. The central design principle is to maximize social interaction, as contrasted to the command and control design of the 20th Century office. The focus is on comfort, congeniality, sociability and community.
The Nomadic office is an office that is no longer place dependent. Much work now takes place outside of the traditional workplace and work day. The technology driven 21st Century work takes place 24/7. Technology has liberated work from the workplace.
The Nomadic office can be located at home, in airports and serviced locations. They are geographically dispersed to meet the needs of the workforce, and offer real choices in the balance between work and the rest of life.
The 21st Century is going to bring about many changes in how office space is designed and used. These changes will come about from advances in technology and demographic changes in the workforce. Keeping up with the fast changing demands of 21st Century will take attention to detail. While the changes we see will not be immediate, they will be continuous. With the long occupancy cycle of lease terms, the changes will take place over a longer period of time. Understanding the trends will position you to take advantage of new opportunities presented by a changing environment.