Flexible Futures

As an office manager for the Sydney branch of a multinational company, I’m often asked to comment on where I think work-spaces are headed. I take this to be a question about how people use the spaces provided for them to work in, what features these spaces offer and how they might be changing alongside developments in technology and science.

Those developments could be anything from enhanced conferencing software that enables one to instantly project themselves into a meeting anywhere in the world, to new research on how the body responds to that technology. It’s endless, really – there’s always something new on the horizon, and who knows what the next ten to twenty years will hold for this sort of thing?

With all that in mind, it’s worth keeping track of the end goal, and taking what’s useful from how we’ve done things in the past without being wedded to it. Here in Sydney, office fitouts may be getting ahead of themselves. For example, I’m inclined to think that there’s something to be said for the basic concept of the traditional office cubicle. Controversial, I know.

I simply feel there’s not a lot of room for independent work to take place uninterrupted in standard contemporary office interiors. Sydney has embraced the trend for increasingly open plan and collaborative work environments, which is fantastic in many ways, but we don’t always need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The fact is that, while many people do their best work in an open, sociable layout, many others work better in an enclosed workstation that offers more privacy and seclusion.

I think a key insight here is that everybody’s different, and there’s no one formula that will work perfectly across the board. Given that perspective, the main comment I have to offer on the future of work-spaces is as follows. Offices will offer a multitude of options that workers can select from based on their individual preferences, strengths and weaknesses. In doing this, offices will support people to work more effectively across a variety of productivity, health and lifestyle variables.