Envisioning the urban workspaces of 2033

Wybo Wijnbergen, CEO of infinitSpace, looks at how urban workspaces will evolve over the next decade and what the industry must do do future-proof them.

Related topics:  Property,  Commercial,  Offices
Wybo Wijnbergen | infinitSpace
4th September 2023
modern office 824
"As environmental concerns become more pressing, it is essential that lower carbon-emitting development solutions like retrofitting must be increasingly embraced over new builds – future-proofing not only our offices but our planet as well"

Once steadfast bastions of commercial real estate, traditional office spaces are facing a reckoning. Macroeconomic headwinds, characterised by soaring interest rates and shifting business paradigms, have shaken the market to its core.

Historically buoyed by towering edifices of glass and steel, the office market now must navigate treacherous waters. High-interest rates have cast a shadow over the industry, rendering buildings purchased or financed with substantial debt – likely the majority – vulnerable to hefty and sometimes unmanageable loan repayments.

Compounding matters, a newly transformed working culture has resulted in shorter leases and occupancy rates falling to decade lows, leading to dwindling confidence and therefore major devaluations across the traditional office market.

Yet while their allure may have dimmed, hope is not lost for traditional offices; with diligent evolution, workspaces can future-proof themselves to remain a core tenet of the business world of tomorrow, adapting to better align with the progressive working patterns and ideals.

So, what exactly will the urban workspace of the future look like – and how can traditional offices get in on the action?

Seismic shifts in the world of work

Before envisioning the future of workspaces, it is critical to understand the changes that we must respond to.

The pandemic catapulted working culture into a new age. Lockdowns led to hybrid and remote working becoming irrevocably widespread, with many reprioritising their work/life balance. In the years since, sky-high inflation has also created higher commuting costs, further dissuading urban workers from coming into the office as regularly.

Meanwhile, businesses have learned lessons about the value of flexibility amid the economic uncertainty during and following the pandemic. Between this and the hybrid working movement, they began seeking out flexible office solutions like never before, with flexible workspace occupancy rates soaring to record levels of 83%.

This seismic cultural shift in a matter of three years has already ingrained itself deeply into the working culture and is a key consideration for the workspaces of the future.

Creating future-proof workspaces

So, it becomes evident that a new benchmark for workspaces, one that is intrinsically woven into the fabric of contemporary life, must be developed. Future workspaces must therefore be attractive, convenient and accessible, and allow us to slip seamlessly between our professional and personal lives.

To achieve this, we must consider the visionary concept of the "15-minute city."

A pragmatic response to the transforming landscape, this innovative urban philosophy posits that essential amenities, workspaces, and leisure facilities should be within a convenient and accessible 15-minute radius of someone’s home. It envisions a vibrant tapestry of mixed-use developments where people can live, work, and play harmoniously.

Imagine a towering skyscraper where the ground floor houses a bustling marketplace, the middle floors are abuzz with flexible workspaces hosting innovative startups, and the upper echelons offer havens for contemporary living. This convergence is more than a distant dream; it's a blueprint for the future that offers a win-win solution for landlords and tenants alike.

Such developments will be instrumental to landlords drawing in tenants and boosting occupancy rates – and will only be rendered possible through the repurposing and refitting of traditional offices into vibrant hubs of community and professional interaction.

Indeed, as environmental concerns become more pressing, it is essential that lower carbon-emitting development solutions like retrofitting must be increasingly embraced over new builds – future-proofing not only our offices but our planet as well.

The workspaces also need to be primed for evolution. Working patterns have demonstrated their ability to change at the drop of a hat, and so workspaces must be optimally redesigned to be continuously responsive to change. One solution is replacing some traditional offices with flexible workspaces, where, as mentioned already, occupancy rates have only increased. This would also enable landlords to adapt to the rapidly shifting demands of prospective occupants as they change over the course of the future, creating greater occupant longevity.

Naturally, such a major transformation may appear daunting to landlords. However, working with a third-party flexible workspace provider, which would manage tenant procurement, implementation of infrastructure and operations where desired, streamlines an otherwise challenging transition for commercial landlords. Crucially, it enables them to keep up with the rapidly shifting needs of the modern workforce, including new office trends and cutting-edge workspace tech – an essential facet of what will shape the urban workspaces of the future.

Looking ahead...

When we think of the urban workspaces of the future, we envisage spaces that seamlessly respond to the professional needs of the day – static traditional office models therefore risk being left behind. In the coming years, spaces must evolve to become flexible, attractive and thoroughly accessible, making concepts like the ‘15-minute city’ core philosophies where the workspace of the future will thrive.

Naturally, creating these futuristic and flexible workspaces will take work, but flex space providers are available to help facilitate this transition. Ultimately, with a new age of working culture must come a new age of workspaces to guide us into the future.

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