Everyone knows the world of work has changed radically. What does this mean for the office of 2022? Employees’ expectations have shifted. Now, offices are evolving into multifunctional spaces that lure people back with promises of communal hot spots (real human connection!); chill zones; and a focus on ideation and creation.

 One Cape Town CBD company that is taking this to heart is Boxwood Property Fund where two inviting, energising communal spaces have been created in the once-staid Picbel Parkade building. Now renamed The Felix, the spaces sport funky giant murals of a tiger and panda bear, plenty of spots for a lekker braai, plug points for laptops, an indoor garden, open-air meeting area and a boxing gym with champion boxer Sting … It doesn’t sound like ‘ye olde’ traditional office, does it?

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

Meeting Workers’ Evolving Expectations

 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 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.

 

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Tasso Evangelinos, CEO of the CCID, says, “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.”

 How will the office look next year? Here are some trends forecasts:

  Downsized offices but ‘upsized’ ecosystems? A KPMG survey found 69% of CEOs are planning to downsize their office spaces. Offices will be reimagined 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, cafes and coworking 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’ (appropriate) to foster fewer siloes and more cooperation.

  Built with (multi) purpose in mind: Hybrid doesn’t just refer to a way of working. Offices are now hybrid spaces themselves, often boasting green places, communal coffee shops, retail stores and more. The Box is the perfect example of this. Also owned by Boxwood Property Fund, the revamped, renamed Atterbury House now includes ‘hot desks’ in private office arrangements in ‘The Box Set’, along with a landscaped public environment and a food and beverage co-op called Salt. This has 11 food pods, live music and workstations with fast WiFi. Everything a hustler needs to succeed.

Revitalising surrounding areas: The revamping of traditional offices could have positive ripple effects for local neighbourhoods. For example, Kane is chatting to other CBD building owners about creating lively public urban art spaces across the precinct. The goal of enticing office workers back may have exciting upshots for everyone.

AI everything: The office of 2022 is 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…

Human-to-human: 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 WFH 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.

 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 reimagined 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.”

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