In the US city of Seattle, the Amazon Spheres houses thousands of plants from over 30 countries, in a work environment controlled by a complex matrix of sensors. It is the latest showcase of the integration of advanced materials and IoT-driven systems, creating a tranquil and efficient environment for the masses.
The integration of advanced materials like sound-absorbing fabrics and biodegradable construction components; adaptable layouts using modular furniture systems; and IoT-driven systems for predictive maintenance — will allow for dynamic workspace configurations, according to the developers.
According to architect Sudhir Thorat, Managing Director, APICES Studio (India): “JLL recently noted that that nearly 80% of companies it polled had plans to incorporate more than 10 technologies, including workplace apps, virtual reality (VR), and remote-work technology, into their organizations by 2025.”
In the realm of architecture, VR holds immense potential, Thorat noted. Architects can leverage the technology to create immersive walkthroughs of office designs, enabling clients to experience the space before construction. Within office premises, VR can facilitate remote collaboration, enabling teams to engage in virtual meetings within shared digital environments. Virtual workspaces like Spatial allow remote teams to collaborate in a virtual office, fostering a sense of presence and enhancing the overall teamwork experience.
The next era in office tech
Architects and developers are also predicting that office spaces will be seeing holographic receptionists, robots and even tea-delivering drones in the next twenty years. How will these sci-fi-sounding developments in work spaces make sense in a work-from-home era, and what benefits will the people working inside these spaces enjoy?
Said Thorat: “Envisioning holographic receptionists, robots, and tea-delivering drones within office spaces calls for a paradigm shift in workplace experience design. Technological advancements are wafting across industries. In Japan, the Henn-na Hotel showcases the potential integration of robots in hospitality. For these innovations to succeed, architects must prioritize the harmonious coexistence of humans and technology considering the spaces, proportions, acoustic considerations, and visual aesthetics. These innovations could enhance efficiency by automating routine tasks, while also contributing to a novel and stimulating work environment, ultimately enhancing employee morale and well-being.”
It appears that implementing technology in the workplace is actually a response to the dictates and trends of hybrid-work: current research is showing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and organizations will need to implement tailored tools and processes that work for their particular cohorts of employees, clients and business models.
Another important aspect shaping how technology will be incorporated into office spaces is: the urgency to focus on the health and resilience of the employees to fulminant climate and crisis scenarios. “The altered perspectives on employee health post-pandemic have substantially influenced architectural and interior design decisions. Architects are focusing on optimizing indoor air quality through advanced ventilation systems — like those utilizing UV-C light for disinfection. One real estate firm has introduced an air purification system that reduces pollutants in indoor environments. Workspaces are being designed to accommodate social distancing without compromising collaboration. The Apple Park campus features outdoor workspaces in the courtyards and along walking paths, promoting both collaboration and employee well-being. The work dialogs between indoor and outdoor workspaces have been more productive in businesses — eliciting fresh perspectives by the employees,” Thorat explained.
Climate and sustainability
With the global increased focus on sustainability and the recent record-setting climate changes, office spaces will incorporate more “green spaces”, Thorat noted.
“Embracing sustainability in office architecture entails a holistic approach. Incorporating green spaces requires careful selection of indigenous plant species. The One Central Park building in Sydney, with its vertical gardens, serves as an example of innovative biophilic space incorporation. Architects are amalgamating design spaces that facilitate easy access to these green elements, possibly through vertical gardens, atriums, or indoor courtyards. Sustainable materials with low environmental impact — such as the use of reclaimed wood or recycled metals — will find their way into office design palettes.” This sustainable approach not only aligns with environmental goals but also creates a healthier and more inspiring work environment for employees, concluded Thorat.