Office spaces in 2022

The Commons, Muizenberg, has ocean facing work stations to perfectly fit the new mobile offices of 2022.

What can office spaces for 2022 offer employees returning to work? Ever wanted to work with a window to the ocean, have yoga and childcare available? Well, its now becoming possible.

Boxwood Property Fund CEO and chairperson of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), Rob Kane, said recreational venues are being designed with the workplace of the future in mind.

He said employees’ expectations have shifted and offices are now evolving into multi-functional spaces that welcome people back with communal hot spots; chill zones; and a focus on ideation and creativity.

Boxwood Property Fund has created two communal spaces in the once-staid Picbel Parkade building in the city centre.

Now renamed The Felix, the spaces sport spots for a braai, plug points for laptops, an indoor garden, open-air meeting area and a boxing gym.

Mr Kane said: “We are moving away from what a typical office looks and feels like, and what kind of facilities it might have offered to something that is designed more with workers’ needs in mind.”

With all the shifts the pandemic accelerated, much has been documented on what workers want right now. The prevailing themes? Flexibility, a diverse team, and outcomes-not-hours-based Key performance indicators (KPIs).

People are now prioritising lifestyle and family-time more than ever before. Hybrid seems to be the name of the current game, with workers balancing office time with work-from-home arrangements.

This should see more people returning to the office – albeit a different kind of office than before.

Tasso Evangelinos, CEO of the CCID, said: “We’re excited to see landlords interpreting trends and creating work spaces that encourage people to return to their CBD offices – even if it is part-time – as our stakeholders rely on office workers. These regulars are the lifeblood of the city centre. Their patronage and presence bring vibrancy and income to our CBD businesses, across all sectors.”

There are some emerging trends to look forward to.

A KPMG survey found 69% of CEOs are planning to downsize their office spaces. Offices will be re-imagined as places to come together to brainstorm and socialise. In essence, they’ll be stations for innovation, and meaningful conversation.

While offices may “shrink”, many companies are planning to widen their work ecosystems to include satellite houses, cafe’s and co-working spots. This is the hub and spoke approach, with a central office hub, surrounded by satellite workstations.

Others are redesigning the traditional office to be a one-stop-shop where people can stay, work and play. Starbucks, for example, is making its headquarters feel more like an informal “coffee shop“ to foster fewer silos and more cooperation.

Hybrid doesn’t just refer to a way of working. Offices are now hybrid spaces themselves, often incorporating green places, communal coffee shops, retail stores and more.

The revamped, renamed Atterbury House – now The Box -includes “hot desks” in private office arrangements along with a landscaped public environment and a food and beverage co-op, which has 11 food pods, live music and workstations with fast wi-fi.

This comes with the advantage of businesses revitalising surrounding areas. The revamping of traditional offices could have positive ripple effects for local neighbourhoods. For example, Mr Kane is chatting to other CBD building owners about creating lively public urban art spaces across the precinct.

The office of 2022 is also likely to continue to prioritise AI and automation.

McKinsey’s global survey of 800 senior executives saw two-thirds of polled professionals say they’re stepping up their automation spend.

In 2020, e-commerce share grew at two to five times the rate prior to the pandemic. That trend is likely to continue. And, with hybrid arrangements still happening, next year’s offices will undoubtedly include plenty of conferencing facilities for those endless Zoom calls. Some nifty drone delivery zones could also be quite useful.

2022’s offices will need to be places for real connection.

Ipsos’ study on the impact of work from home found productivity and morale may be suffering.

In fact, 55% of employees said their teams aren’t collaborating as well in work from home arrangements.

So, the focus next year will be on building flexible spaces that encourage informal interaction. A braai in the middle of the office, green spaces for midday yoga, creativity capsules for daydreaming, coffee shops for caffeine-fuelled collaboration, a boxing ring to let off steam. These could all be run-of-the-mill in the multifunctional spaces of tomorrow.

Mr Evangelinos says there is already an uptick in foot traffic and business dealings in the CBD: “We’re seeing more and more people return to the city centre, which has been wonderful for our stakeholders – small businesses especially. The return of office workers has positive ramifications for the whole area. They bring energy and income to the central city. We’re hoping the re-imagined office of 2022 will have a positive knock-on effect, with hybrid buildings creating attractive spaces for people to stay, work and play. These should have international appeal for ‘digital nomads’ as well.”