From automation and AI to flexible hours and mood-matched offices, workplaces are evolving rapidly. How does an industry that builds to last keep up? We asked Future Directions members for their insights.
- Agile, flexible, mobile
Advancing communication, cloud and digital data transfer tools mean fewer people are fixed to their desks, says Pratik Shrestha, Aurecon’s senior structural engineer.
“Instead they move seamlessly between collaboration spaces, and from project to project. And as they do, we are beginning to question our definition of ‘place of work’ and the traditional idea of a central business district,” Shrestha says.
How do we plan for a mobile office when designing the next commercial tower? Will we need car parks if Millennials ride-share to work? These are the questions we must grapple with, Shrestha says.
Freya Mulvey, an associate with Squire Patton Boggs, agrees.
“As workplaces become increasingly optional spaces and sitting becomes the disease of the decade, surpassing smoking as the most preventable illness burdening our economy, workplaces must be positively manipulated to enable mobility and interactivity,” Mulvey explains.
Mulvey says many “permutations” are ahead, “but certainly we will see a change in spatial management, more business parks and satellite CBDs, and greater emphasis on shared outdoor and interactive corporate spaces”.
The new world of work will be good for night owls and early birds alike. “Night owls may start later in the day and work into the early hours and the early birds may finish their days around lunch,” adds Emily Allen, a project planner with Barr Property and Planning.
“We have more of an understanding of our body clocks now and the standard 9-5 is not naturally suitable for a lot of people. More flexible work environments can provide better health and wellbeing outcomes by allowing people to adjust their work to suit their natural sleep schedule, which in turn can produce workers who are much more alert and efficient.”
- Wellness beyond the buzzword
Wellness has become a “bit of a buzzword” says PDS Group project manager Eamon McErvale. “But given the amount of time we spend working, addressing how people approach their health and its relationship with their working lives is critical.”
Wellness will become a central talent and attraction tool, he says, “through workplace policies, such as flexible working and financial assistance with exercise programs, as well as physical environments which provide a platform for health and happiness”.
Expect end-of-trip facilities to evolve into a suite of services beyond showers and lockers. London’s White Collar Factory, an awe-inspiring stop on the Property Council’s upcoming London Study Tour, points towards the future. Home to a rooftop running track, two floors of change rooms, showers and lockers, as well as bicycle maintenance services, the workplace removes every excuse for avoiding exercise.
- Smart technology triumphs
Deloitte says we’ll have more than 1.3 billion Internet of Things devices in the commercial real estate space by 2020 alone. These devices will uncover actionable insights, enhancing workplace productivity and building performance.
“Traditionally, building services – like heating, ventilation, airconditioning and lighting – have been reactive, which leads to significant inefficiencies and unsustainable solutions,” says Aurecon’s Pratik Shrestha.
“With the rise of smart buildings and smart technology, we are already seeing on-demand building services that react instantaneously to building occupancy levels.” The result? Greater efficiencies and more sustainable solutions, Shrestha says.
Despite the digital advancements, Shrestha emphasises the importance of a people-centred approach to smart tech investment.
“The only way our industry can prepare is to maintain our focus on the needs and expectations of our clients, and the end users of the buildings and precincts we design and develop. Only then will we successfully navigate the changes we are seeing in our industry.”