The Office of Tomorrow: Where Will You Choose to Work in Five Years?

Metropolis and Staples Business Advantage launch a design competition to address the dramatic changes in our approaches to workspace.

The office of Harry’s, a start-up dealing in shaving products, is typical of the new generation of workplaces.

Courtesy Harry’s, Georgie Wood

A typical office of today might be considering whether or not to open up its plan. A startup might entertain the idea of artificial grass or ping pong tables. But the dramatic changes in our approaches to workspaces, as technology becomes more pervasive and the lines between work and home increasingly blur, require a more practical reconsideration. What’s more, concerns of sustainability and human-centered design have come to the forefront. Coming up with a holistic vision of the new workspace requires developing creative design solutions that help resolve these tensions.

Since 2013, Metropolis and Staples Business Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, have sponsored a competition that aims to provide a vision for what the future of work might look like. While the previous two editions of the competition, Workplace of the Future and Workplace of the Future 2.0, placed the focus on the far future, this new iteration, named Tomorrow’s Workplace Design Competition, asks designers to envision offices that could be executed within the next five years.

The call for entries for Metropolis and Staples Business Advantage’s Tomorrow’s Workplace Design Competition

Courtesy Danielle Morris

The entries will seek to answer some common workspace questions, such as, how can an office help workers balance work and life; how can it facilitate individual work and collaboration; and how can an office be a natural environment? These questions will cover the contest’s five major themes, which include collaboration, wellness and productivity, office culture, and sustainability. The fifth theme asks the entrants to provide their own vision of what they believe will make workplaces in 2021 effective and productive. In this way, the competition will challenge designers to imagine spaces that will foster productivity while investing in the well-being of workers.

When asked about the most pressing issues facing the contemporary workspace, Kelly Funk, workplace strategist at IA Interior Architects, cites the lack of flexibility. “The workspace needs to flex within minutes or seconds as those are our new measurements of time,” Funk says. “If it doesn’t, we move on.” Flexibility can be achieved through mobile modular furniture, removable partitions, pop-up environments, and adaptable building systems.

Kelly Funk, workplace strategist at IA Interior Architects

Courtesy Kelly Funk

And then there’s technology, which has indelibly changed how we live and work, but whose trajectories have been notoriously fast and unpredictable. “A lot of technology and supporting infrastructure invested in is no longer being used, so the future will be less about spaces adapting to technology and more about spaces dovetailing with technology,” Funk says. “This doesn’t necessarily mean heavy infrastructure integrated with space design, but surfaces and furniture becoming an extension of our mobile devices for use. I think companies will lean more towards a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.”

Tomorrow’s Workplace Design Competition will seek to address these concerns as it launches on June 13, 2016. The contest challenges architects, interior designers, product designers, and design students to imagine what our work lives will be in the next five years, and submit holistic designs that will usher in the next phase of the ongoing workplace revolution.

Categories: Sponsored, Workplace Architecture