“If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.” — Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter & Square
“When we’re able to return to our offices, the physical space of offices will change…They will be more collaborative, more social, and more open.” — Scott Farquhar, Co-CEO & Founder, Atlassian
“Can I see a future where part of every week, certainly part of every month, a lot of our employees will be at home? Absolutely” — James Gorman, CEO, Morgan Stanley
“Office centricity is over.” — Tobias Lutke, CEO and Founder, Shopify
Photo by Annie Spratt
In recent weeks, a growing list of dot-com giants and global corporations have announced that work-from-home is here to stay. Many are taking the rest of 2020 to “rethink” their office footprints for a more socially-distanced, safety-fixated workforce. When they do reopen, how will these spaces be transformed, and in what ways will those changes impact the working world beyond them?
We took a stab at answering these questions. Here are some Future Thoughts for your consideration.
Future Thought 1: Open plans give way to collaboration-quarters.
When companies reopen their office doors, corporate headquarters will be sanctuaries for creativity. Gone are the rows of desks and cramped conference rooms. In their place we’ll find roomy breakout spaces, perfectly equipped for workshopping-while-distanced: plenty of windows and ample single-occupant bathrooms, remote access-optimized screens and, of course, advanced ventilation systems to ensure clean air (hey, we can dream, right?). In places where weather permits, open-air workrooms will be all the rage.
Future Thought 2: Introducing the portable “home office.”
One of the biggest obstacles of work-from-home is limited workspace. We’ve found ways to makeshift and make do, but nowhere that feels quite right for long term use…Enter the Portable Office, a pop-up desk toolkit strategically designed to plug into an apartment or home of (almost) any size. This kit-of-parts workstation provides users everything they’ll need to work efficiently—a comfortable desk chair, the proper storage, and an adjustable-height desk. Plus, it’s not too bad to look at.
Future Thought 3: Office culture ➜ Membership culture
In our cities, a new kind of membership club flourishes. These future clubs will bring new meaning to the term “like-minded community,” leveraging recent trends toward more common interests-based institutions—like The Wing—that promote diversity and industry growth. Future clubs will be even more niche, with heavy social calendars and impassioned philanthropic missions; creating tight-knit support systems and seamlessly blending co-working and community. Whereas claims of exclusivity once only served for bragging rights, now future clubs boast member caps and spacious facilities to assuage safety concerns. Brand partnerships and private corporate relationships reign, as future clubs become extensions of members’ homes and personal identities.
Future Thought 4: Neighborhood cafés and food halls are the new breakrooms.
A quick coffee break or lunch out-of-office can offer crucial relief from the daily grind. With no shared breakrooms or impromptu kitchen chats, your neighborhood café might become the only place to fill this need. In the future, local restaurants will bring their a-game at midday, with bigger, better lunch menus, seating that spills out onto the sidewalk, company specials and discounts, etc. Food halls prosper because of their sprawling footprints and open-air environments, popping up with renewed zeal across the country.
Future Thought 5: Remote “bonding” is the new hospitality frontier.
We’ve all been on an awkward zoom call—this weird new world is filled with a seemingly endless list of new etiquette snafus and professional hiccups to navigate. The nuanced social graces that make an in-person meeting flow smoothly are no longer relevant. That’s why, in the future, we’ll spend lots and lots of time ideating around digital hospitality. How do you make a virtual “room” feel warm and comfy? What bonding activities best break the ice via screen? Experience mapping has entered a whole new realm of reality, and planning the virtual company retreat is a thing. We can’t wait.
These are only a few of the many, many potential scenarios for what the near future holds. And while much is still uncertain about the future of workspace, the conversation has already led us to some new and inspiring places. Without a doubt, the road ahead will be challenging. Still, it’s comforting to imagine that some good may come from our new circumstances. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.