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Designing the workplaces of the future

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In a four-part series, experts from Area, the UK and Europe’s leading workplace design and fit-out specialist, discuss what makes a great workplace.

When it comes to the modern workplace, one size does not fit all – and what makes a great workplace for one organisation or team won’t necessarily do so for another.


There are key elements, and some common trends, but the overall theme is one of community, flexibility and good leadership – as without managers and team leaders who understand the importance of a sense of space, a workplace will not live up to expectations and people will not be happy, engaged and productive.


So the workplace of the future has to be a happy place. Measuring this is not straightforward, but Area chairman Aki Stamatis, design director Kathryn O’Callaghan-Mills and director Georgia Elliott-Smith have been involved with the strategy, design and delivery of hundreds of successful workplace projects across the UK and Europe, and they have learned from a wealth of ideas and opinions.


Stamatis points to five influential trends in the modern office: automation and AI, big data, community and culture, work as a destination, and engagement. O’Callaghan-Mills and Elliot-Smith add that the coworking movement has changed how we approach the workspace, but that coworking still reflects these trends. What’s more, that sense of fun, community and engagement is there as coworking spaces aim to act as a home from home for users.


This idea of “home” has filtered down into corporate working environments. Like any home, a great workspace is now flexible – no single area fulfils one function anymore. The one-size-fits-all solution isn’t the right approach. Instead, workplaces should be tailored to people working within them and the tasks being carried out. People, space and technology come together to form a functioning environment but are bound together by leadership, an idea that’s championed by the coworking movement, now is such a big part of the property and workplace sector. No matter the design of the space, it must reflect the vision, values and culture of the organisation using it. This is driven by the leaders of the team or business.


Work is no longer just where we go but something that we do, and therefore it crosses over into different parts of day-to-day life. Area’s film series looks at how smart ways of working need to blend, not push, the people element of work. The workplace of the future will be dynamic, and that means issues such as health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally, are hugely important. Workplaces need to be agile, flexible and create a strong sense of community, allowing people to not just interact but feel empowered to go further, and introduce social value and links with local, surrounding communities.


Great workplaces are all about creating the right spaces, where people can prosper. Aki, O’Callaghan-Mills and Elliot-Smith argue that you know if it is working if staff morale and motivation are high. Churn rates will drop, productivity will go up and engagement survey feedback will rise. What’s more, you’ll start to see happier people. 


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