The Chinese publisher HI-DESIGN asked us to write something about the future of working environments design.

Preface for the book »Global Creative & Modern Office IV«

Book will be published in Fall 2015

Changing conditions

It has become an inescapable reality: The profound digital, structural change of our world calls for a reinvention of how we organise and design our working environments. The miniaturisation of our digital working tools leads to a multitude of consequences: Work stations become smaller, our work more mobile. Today many of us are no longer bound to our desks. Instead we can work in different places – in the department, the building, in a coffee shop, at the airport. Moreover the ubiquity of telecommuting and the home office have made the workday much more flexible. Some companies have responded to these changing conditions by doing away with the traditional allocation of individual work stations in favour of a non-territorial desk system. And because not every employee is physically present in the office at all times, a reduced number of work stations will suffice. Actual space requirements are reduced further still as technology continues to shrink in size and employees limit the amount of physical things they require to ensure greater mobility. Spaces are thus employed in a much more efficient way. At the same time, designing the work station to cater to each respective user in an individually adaptable and scalable way is an important challenge here. All this changes how we conceive the built environment of work. On one hand space can be used more efficiently, which results in many fantastic responses from the real estate side. On the other hand we need to develop new typologies that suit the changing demands of our work.

»Interior design plays a pivotal role, which can initiate significant developments.«

Our new work organisation means the transparent linking of knowledge with people, computers, machines and the respective environment – across departments, companies or even work places. Cross-departmental projects require much greater exchange and organisation. Creative interdisciplinary setups, with team members coming from different disciplines, departments, locations, agencies or working with external specialists are designed to concentrate specialist knowledge from different contexts. This ceases to be easily feasible at one location and on predetermined dates.

In this respect, interior layout and design plays a pivotal role, which can initiate significant developments. So instead of thinking about organising desks, the task now shifts to creating opportunities for chance encounters. Generous tea kitchens, the design of seating niches around circulation areas and the expansion of large offices with multi-functional zones are spatial answers that are currently being employed. The activity of a knowledge worker varies between focused work, empathic customer meetings, creative solution finding, provisional prototyping, regenerative relaxation, as well as reaping the possibilities of inspiration. To meet these different demands on his way of working and thinking, the knowledge worker will look for rooms that best put him in the desired work attitude.

In future we need less standardised and more varied environments for flexible ways of working.

So in future we need less standardised and more varied environments for flexible ways of working – rooms that associatively and emotionally transfer us into the respective working mode.
Above and beyond that, working environments are a part of Corporate Identity. They represent a company’s culture and identity to the outside and inside world. This is even more the case as most companies are fighting hard to acquire the best talents on the market. So the environment becomes a critical asset in the acquisition of human resources. With such changes to the working environment, it becomes more important than ever to respect the sensitivities of employees. Because ultimately, employee satisfaction is one of the key assets of any company. Offering communication and recreation landscapes is one thing, but factors such as light, indoor climate, acoustics and discretion are also important comfort criteria. The real challenge in interior design is to respond to changing working conditions as well as to the increased expectations of employees, and to transform modern working environments into places that shape identity. This book takes you on a voyage of discovery to some of the most stunning office concepts from all around the world.

Drees & Sommer StuttgartDrees & Sommer Stuttgartschlaich bergermann und partnerschlaich bergermann und partnerschlaich bergermann und partnerInnocean Headquarters Europe