Change of Address:
The Hybrid Workplace

20 Nov 2017
Change of Address:<br>The Hybrid Workplace

Now, “step into my office” can mean a lot of things. As the business world changes, so do professional roles, workplace expectations and the workspaces themselves.

This is part 1 in a three-part series on trends and foresight in the future of architecture and environmental design. Read part 2 here, and part 3 here.

It used to be a fairly predictable formula: a consistent commute to and from your workplace, where you’d typically be from 9 to 5. But these constructs are disappearing for some—especially for the younger generations.

Younger generations are interviewing, starting their careers and slowly wading into the housing market. Their vision of home looks different: it should happily flex to the needs of both work and life—two components that are more fluid and symbiotic than ever. It’s a “work anywhere/anytime” lifestyle, but it’s not about nonstop devotion; it’s about freedom to work when and where it makes sense.

Converging Environments, Enhanced Creativity

In the US, today’s economy is innovation starved and disruption wary. Work is less linear, less specialized and more ambiguous—and that puts greater demands on the creative capacity of an organization’s workforce. The idea of an office is changing rapidly, and organizations everywhere are putting new efforts into motion: to be more creative, think differently, manage complexities and be increasingly innovative.

In his influential 1989 book, The Great Good Place, sociologist Ray Oldenburg distinguished the three social environments in which we live, work and play. Our “first place” is the home. Our office is the “second place.” And the third? Anything that merges the first two—think libraries, coffee shops, or coworking spaces.

As workspaces like Google Café Collector continue to merge these three types of physical spaces and technologies like AR and VR come into play, it seems logical that consumers of the future will value a melding of home, work and community. But we also need to understand how these spaces can facilitate stronger creative thinking and social interaction.

A recent Adobe survey found that when executives and leaders were asked about their organizations’ creative capacity, 61% said that they had a creative gap. Further, a 2017 joint study between Microsoft and Steelcase found that 72% of today’s workforce identifies their future success as being dependent on their ability to be creative.

In his 2000 release of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, political scientist Robert D. Putnam described how technology and new work methods have contributed to the decline of all forms of in-person social interaction. Putnam was critical of the impact of technology on social psychology. He asserted, “People divorced from community, occupation, and association are first and foremost among the supporters of extremism.” Further, a 2010 Pew study found that fewer than half of Americans know most or all of their neighbors. These findings suggest that living spaces of the future have the opportunity to be more conducive to social interaction, creative exchange and increasingly flexible lifestyles.

A Change of Scenery—and Values

Despite the benefits of increasing automated technologies, the demand for flexible lifestyles has arisen from the requirements of highly fluctuating, time-consuming work styles. It means the homes of the future will need to meet the multitasking needs of an increasingly freelance nation.

It’s a style of living that trades the stability of the 9-to-5 safety net for autonomy and flexibility.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “In 1973, 6% of Americans said they worked excessive hours; in 2016, 26% said they worked more than 48 hours a week.” The demands of tomorrow’s work styles will put new demands on the home. Tomorrow’s home will need to accommodate the stresses of these new work styles—meeting the requirements of future consumer needs that toggle between technological immersion and intentional abstention. It’s a style of living that trades the stability of the 9-to-5 safety net for autonomy and flexibility. We need to reimagine the kinds of spaces needed to foster the integration of technology in a way that maximizes creative and innovative potential.

This article appears as it was originally published on

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