What Is the Office of the Future? |

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Once upon a time, a person asked to envision the workspace of the future might have detailed the trappings of a space-age utopia: robots, flying pods and out-of-this-world architecture. But ask today's architects about tomorrow's office, and the conversation is more likely to include touchpoints such as communication, collaboration and integration.

Instead of being out of this world, the next wave of offices is down to earth--and, to a greater extent, designed around employees' needs and specific company cultures.

"Design is one of the great leveraging tools companies have at their behest--and it's not just furniture," says Barry Svigals of Svigals + Partners in New Haven, Conn.

One size does not fit all. Increasingly, Svigals says, his architecture firm helps companies understand who they are and how to preserve that identity through effectively designed space and use of resources. "There's a branding aspect that's important to innovative companies. It's not only for the outside world, but for them--to remind them of who they are."

Firms like Svigals' see themselves as collaborators with clients, mirroring a trend that's shaping the office of the future by deconstructing relationships and reinventing them. Formalities between clients and companies have relaxed, as have corporate hierarchies. The corner office is isolating, not coveted. Cubicles are relics; walls have come down. Instead of the impressive conference room, the must-haves for new offices are communal multipurpose spaces designed to stimulate conversation, cooperation and inspiration.

"Companies are [considering] how you cultivate community in a context that gives people connections to one another--and you see the design of space following suit," says Georgia Collins, who specializes in workplace strategy as a managing director in the San Francisco office of commercial real-estate giant CBRE.