Cubicles, corner offices and cigarette smoke

March 24, 2014 / By  

When watching the comedy cult classic ‘Office Space’ for the umpteenth time the other week, the property researcher in me came out in all its ‘geekiness’. Aside from the hilarious ‘fax machine scene’, the dated work environment of cubicles, lavish corner offices and even the acceptance of staff smoking indoors at this fictional IT company made me chuckle out loud. I caught myself thinking: ‘I can’t believe that we used to work in this environment … how depressing’. However, I also quickly realised this was only just over a decade ago!

The workplace has transformed at a lightning speed over the last few decades, and it seems ignorant to think this trend will be any less pronounced looking out to 2020 and further. Indeed, a recent survey among real estate professionals indicated that nine out of ten agreed that the next decade will see far greater change than the last.

The evolution of the workplace was one of the hot topics debated during the Offices 2020 Research campaign. During round table discussions with developers, landlords and corporate occupiers in six major cities, we explored what the office would be for and how technology will radically impact on fit-outs and space utilisation.

Figure 1: Evolution of computer technology has significantly changed the office design brief

Source: JLL Research

Much has been written about the obsolescence of some workplace concepts, and sensationalist headlines have predicted ‘the death of the office’. However, from our discussions with clients, we expect that in reality, most white-collar workers will still find themselves working with others in an office building in 2020. Offices have a coordinating, sharing, controlling, creating, socialising and even celebrating role; these qualities are not going away anytime soon.

However, this does not imply a lack of change. There will be an increasing emphasis on collaborative ‘social’ working environments, mobile working, cultural diversity within the workforce and the need for workplaces built around employee work-life priorities. Also, companies increasingly look to the workplace for (business) productivity gains. This shift will move at very different speeds in Asia Pacific and often with a very distinct local flavour. Nevertheless, it will have a profound impact on what gets built. It will be crucial for landlords to understand these drivers of change, ensuring offices are spatially efficient, connected, environmentally sensitive, enabling flexibility, enhancing productivity and generally an inspirational place to be.

The workplace is just one of the six big-picture questions that make up JLL’s Offices 2020 Research. The campaign paints a big-picture outlook for six Asia Pacific cities, tackling fundamental issues (identified by our clients themselves) that will shape the future of offices in the next decade. It examines, for example, what will drive growth, where tomorrow’s office hotspots will be and the impact of strata ownership structures.

Essentially, Offices 2020 is about helping landlords and occupiers prepare for change by identifying key issues and starting the conversation now to outperform in the future.

For more information on Offices 2020 and to download a copy of the reports, please visit JLL’s Offices 2020 website.

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