For decades, the office has been a mainstay of the workplace. While remote options have been available, they were few and far between; by and large, If you had a job, you went to work — period.
That all changed during and after the pandemic. Companies worldwide learned that they could, after all, function just fine without requiring workers to come into the office. In many cases, workers were happier and more productive than ever. So perhaps it’s no surprise that as restrictions continue to lift, many in the workforce have balked at going back into the office full-time. And their employers have listened.
But will the office go away completely? Or will it just change, becoming a space workers visit occasionally? I put the question to my list of Buildremote contributors. Here are 30 answers they provided about how the office of the future will look.
30 Predictions for the Future of the Office
Companies will not invest in decor
Offices are losing people by the day. To keep costs down, offices will reduce their aesthetic appeals simply because they’re not needed to keep employees motivated anymore.
– Stewart Dunlop of LinkBuilder.io
Offices will become flexible event spaces
Most offices will not exist in the future. Like malls, those spaces will likely be converted into condos or warehouses for e-commerce. For now, office spaces will need to be extremely flexible but geared mostly towards larger gatherings — think hotel event spaces vs. rows of cubicles. In between those large gatherings (e.g., quarterly company summits), there should be a bunch of tables and easily storable individual workstations for “hotdesking” and collaboration as needed.
– Trav Walkowski of Employmetrics
The office will be a collaborative social hub
The traditional office where employees come into work each day will be out, and a new hybrid model will take its place. When teams meet in person, it will be with renewed energy and a greater desire to collaborate. Employees will look at the office as a social hub and a space to share ideas and solve problems.
– Isaiah Henry of Seabreeze Management Company
Offices will not change all that much
The office is not going anywhere because it provides a central location for businesses to conduct their operations. The office allows businesses to have a physical space to meet with clients, store files and documents, and interact face-to-face with employees. The office also provides businesses with a place to display their brand and promote their products and services. The office is an essential part of the business world; it is not going anywhere.
– James Jason of Notta AI
Companies will share spaces
I think local, like-minded companies will begin using one office space for multiple teams. They can split the cost of rent and share resources but also have a place for their businesses to work from. As teams adopt a hybrid and/or remote work rule, they don’t need large office spaces all to themselves. Sharing offices is something more startups and tech companies will do in the future, and I believe it’s a great idea.
– Chris Salmon of Quittance Legal Services
Sustainable workplaces will be the norm
In my opinion, workplaces will adopt a more holistic approach toward sustainability. That’s because companies will try to align their moral values with social and environmental initiatives. The function of the office space will not only maximize worker density but also enhance the experience it delivers.
– Rashard Alomari of Fair Cash Deal
Offices will incorporate the play-at-work model
Gone are the days when offices could be a bore-fest, as office culture is now integral to employee performance. The office needs to be engaging and should be able to boost mood, provide motivation, and so on. The play-at-work model incorporates gamification techniques to improve satisfaction levels when completing projects and assignments. It also encourages individuals to invest as much time as possible into their work.
– Jason Ault of Element Home Buyers
The office will become more collaborative
The future of the office will be about collaboration, open-plan offices, and working remotely. As technology advances, we will see more and more people working from home. The future of the office is not just about what technology will be used in the workplace, but how we can use these technologies to create better work environments for employees.
– Michael Jan Baldicana of Dream Chasers
Employers will focus on mental health
Companies are starting to realize that employees are more productive when they’re happy and healthy, so we can expect to see a lot more focus on mental health and wellness in the workplace. There will also be a trend towards more hybrid or remote work arrangements as companies realize that employees appreciate flexibility. And last but not least, the office itself will become more human-centric, with comfortable furniture, plenty of natural light, and lots of green space.
– Mike Jackowski of Veautie
Offices will adopt flexible, private workspaces
The pandemic and the following remote work trend have ignited a desire for private space amongst office workers. They no longer want their coworkers sneaking up on them from behind or their managers keeping an eye on them from the side. But not everybody can get walls and a door. I believe future offices will accommodate flexible cubicles that leverage screens and paneling to give every worker a unique and separate space.
– Kurt Walker of Cream City Home Buyers
Virtual and augmented reality will be the new normal
Augmented and virtual reality may play a significant part in how we communicate with clients. Devices, gadgets, and the internet have all become an integral part of our daily life. I believe that because businesses will increasingly be tech-related, office buildings will need to reflect this. Community hubs will become a standard in many firms, allowing employees to feel like they belong and have a collective body behind them rather than a corporate company observing them. Overall, I believe it is safe to predict that technology will dominate how our offices look in the near future.
– Adam Fard of Adam Fard’ UX Agency
Companies will embrace hybrid work
The new office will look much like the old one, although it will probably be a bit nicer. Companies are improving their office spaces to allow for more collaborative work and technology that will make hybrid work smoother. Major markets will rebound but need less space; what space they do have will need to be more conducive to different types of work. Functionality will be important to entice workers to use the space.
– Paul Moody of Pro Mover Reviews
See Also: Every Company Going Hybrid
Demand for flexible office space will outstrip supply
The long-lease commercial property continues to dominate the UK market, with flex space such as co-working offices and serviced workplaces accounting for only 6% of the overall market share. I am convinced this will change as the versatile trend expands. After COVID, more businesses will be hesitant to take on the cost of a long-term lease or the risk that accompanies it. Because more firms are choosing greater agility, the UK may face a demand and supply mismatch that will significantly impact the market unless conventional office suppliers change their offerings.
– Daniel C. Foley of Perspective Pictures
Digital productivity tools will surge in use
From where I see it, technology that provides workers with productivity-enhancing capabilities, such as smart calendar planning and project managing, will see a significant increase in use, whether in the office or online. Some of these technologies will take the role of conventional management duties like time monitoring. Internal communication networks like Microsoft Teams and Slack will become more common. Long into the future, these technological productivity tools will be at the heart of team cooperation.
– David Morgan of Snorkel-Mart
Health and safety technology will evolve
The markets for safety and health point solutions have been saturated in recent years, and touchless devices such as infrared thermometers are ubiquitous. The future workplace will combine more advanced forms of this technology within the physical structure. This will go far beyond the HVAC and sustainable building technology of today. Real-time feedback on health and well-being best practices will be available at desks and meeting spaces. They could, for example, recommend that you take a breather from gazing at a screen. Wearable technology will improve to alert individuals when they are sick, allowing them to stay home. If a worker becomes unwell at work, their gadgets will advise them to leave. These devices will also change the employees’ calendars to reflect WFH or sick days.
– Henry Ford of Skilled Golf
Working from home will continue
The urge for remote work is (and has been) increasing. Organizations are preparing to fulfill this need, and future talent battlegrounds will include flexible work rules and assistance, including stipends, home office equipment, and technologies. Remote employees will need organizations to focus on sustaining and improving their culture.
– Sasha Quail of Claims UK
“We space” will take priority over “me space”
To persuade employees to utilize the office, occupants must reconsider what their workplaces offer. The new mission of the office will be to foster community, culture, and collaboration. When employees are on-site, they will spend less time on individual/focused activities and more time cooperating, networking, and socializing. The office’s composition will change to reflect this shift.
– Daniel Carter of IVA Advice
Conferencing will accommodate collaboration with “mixed presence”
In conference rooms, technology that connects on-site personnel with remote colleagues will become standard. I believe that virtual whiteboarding software, smartboards, synchronous and asynchronous communication platforms, and large-format telepresence devices will help mitigate the drawbacks of virtually attending an in-person meeting.
– Daniel Foley of UNAGI Scooters
The future office will be fully decentralized
The proliferation of mobile devices has allowed users to travel outside the corporate network’s boundaries. People use Evernote and other similar apps to keep their thoughts and ideas available at all times. Other products, such as Box (my old job), give multi-point data access, allowing business to be conducted from anywhere at any time. Users will be able to connect all of their favorite productivity tools to become even more effective as mobility advances, whether they’re at their workstations or on the road.
– Adam Crossling of Zenzero
Email-based contact will give way to stream-based interaction
The march toward mobility has made it possible for distributed workforces to create virtual offices. On a daily basis, I believe that I span numerous time zones, languages, and cultures. In essence, our work can be done at any time. I don’t believe the workplace as a concept will ever go away; rather, it will continue to evolve across time zones and cultures. After all, human interaction will always be required. Technology will increasingly play the role of enabler, assisting in improving efficiency and interactivity to maintain continuous workflow around the world and around the clock, allowing us to operate how we choose.
– Steve Rose of MoneyTransfers.com
Offices will only be used for crucial meetings
Until the pandemic hit and changed how we did things, office spaces were considered an integral part of the work process. Except for the handful of remote jobs in select industries, no one ever thought of giving up the physical workspace in favor of a remote desk. Today, more and more employees and employers are giving remote work the priority it deserves. Going by current trends, the next few decades will witness the company office evolving into a space that, instead of acting as a primary workspace, will function as a collaborative space that will only be used for crucial meetings and brainstorming sessions. Other than that, the remote office space is where most of the work will happen.
– Eva Taylor of WP Buffs
AI will have a greater role in office work
Artificial intelligence will continue to revolutionize the way we work. We’re already seeing AI being used to automate tasks, from customer service to data entry. And as AI gets more sophisticated, we can expect it to take on even more complex tasks. In the future, AI will play an important role in knowledge work, helping us research and write documents, make decisions, and plan projects. AI will also change the way we interact with colleagues and customers. For example, chatbots are already being used to handle customer inquiries, and AI-powered virtual assistants can schedule meetings and manage email inboxes.
– Danielle Bedford of Coople
We will change the way we use existing space
The death of the traditional office has been greatly exaggerated. Even with the rise of remote work, there are still plenty of people who appreciate and need the structure and social interaction that an office provides. We’re not going to see abandoned buildings anytime soon. In fact, the commercial real estate industry is still growing, albeit at a slower pace than in previous years. That said, the way we use office space is changing. We’re seeing a move away from traditional cubicle farms and towards more open, collaborative spaces. And as more companies adopt remote work policies, we’re also seeing a trend towards smaller satellite offices in suburban and rural areas.
– Demi Yilmaz of Colonist
New rules will apply
I believe the look and feel of the office would be or less the same, but I envision some policy changes influenced by the pandemic. For example, 10-minute transitions in conference rooms between meetings to let the fresh air in, or employees only using disposable utensils, etc.
– Tom Greenspan of Vs Mattress
Offices will be fully remote
I believe a door has been opened to remote work now. I think we get our best work done when we feel our best, and now that we have been shown that working from home (or working from anywhere) is possible, I think it will be hard to close that door again. The future is remote. The future is digital. The future is working from wherever you want.
– Jeremy Scott Foster of TravelFreak
The workplace will shift to the metaverse
Right now, “the metaverse” may appear to be simply more jargon, especially as internet companies like Meta unveil their plans to create virtual worlds. However, these virtual worlds, in which users can work, play, and socialize, will become an important element of the future of work. Most virtual meetings, I expect, will shift from 2D camera image grids to the metaverse, a 3D realm with digital avatars, within the next two or three years. The concept is that you’ll eventually use your avatar to meet up with folks in a virtual setting that seems like you’re in the same room as them.
– Zaeem Chaudhary of AC Design Solutions
Workspaces will be divided up differently
Offices will be divided into smaller suites or “focus rooms” for work that requires extended attention, and dedicated video meeting areas, among other things. Some employers will encourage their employees to take ownership of the place in the hopes that they will return more frequently. For example, the Zappos headquarters purposefully left plenty of room for employees to decorate their corridors and desks.
– Andrew Priobrazhenskyi of DiscountReactor
Workplaces will lean in to comfort
Offices of the future will increasingly have workspaces that offer a pleasant and nurturing experience that helps employees feel inspired about their work — and avoid burnout. Despite COVID-related limitations, we will see more non-restrictive furniture and soundproof meeting rooms in the workplace. As companies embrace that comfort does not necessarily equate to being unproductive, collaborative office space design will continue to be the norm.
– Shine Colcol of SafetyCulture
Freelance and contract hiring will increase
The future of the office no longer will look like it does now, with multiple employees who are trained to do their specific tasks. Instead, we will see increased use of freelancers and contract workers, as these people tend to have the expertise we are looking for. This type of work is cheaper than hiring a full-time employee for something you only need every now and then. Freelancers and contract workers also tend to work from home, and rarely need to be in contact with a manager unless they talk about specific work-related tasks. This means business leaders will have more time to focus on their own work, and can be confident that the people they have hired will get the job done.
– Jesse Foster of Hover Patrol
Office space will be optional for non-essential staff
The pandemic proved to us that physical office space isn’t necessary for productivity. On the contrary, some employees’ performance improved with the distance away from in-office gossip, daily micro-aggressions, and typical work stress. We shouldn’t be surprised to see only essential staff — those needed for technical maintenance at headquarters — being the only ones obligated to show up at the building every day. Of course, there’ll still be industries like emergency healthcare that may not have the luxury of remote work even as patient care advances into the future.
– Stephan Baldwin of Assisted Living Center