The Return to the office: How does the future look?

Rewatch our digital discussion exploring elements of the future of workplace design


Re-watch the full recording of our digital roundtable discussion now

17 June 2020

Extended Q&A with Niklas Madsen from Superlab & Ola Tjade from Flokk

Thank you to everyone who attended today's digital discussion on the future of the workplace. Unfortunately we didn't have time to answer everyone's questions during the discussion, but guest speakers Niklas Madsen & Ola Tjade have put together some answers to the questions and suggestions put forward. Enjoy, and hope to see you at our next talk!


List of Questions / Discussion points

I have an alternative to Niklas thoughts: meeting rooms may exist LESS in office design because almost everybody is now used to and liking virtual meetings. So meeting rooms will be required less. People will prefer to stay at their own desk (safety and security subconscious thinking) and have 'zoom' meetings. There is evidence that people will satisfy their need for contact through social work events.


Answer from Niklas: I am not 100% sure of we will see less meeting rooms. I think that our meeting rooms need to change to adapt to new our new needs. Maybe materials as to be bacteria proof and easily cleaned and ventilation that is approved sanitize the air? But one thing that is absolutely certain is that every company needs to find its own way of adapting to this new situation.

Answer from Ola: I think we will see less traditional meeting rooms, but more collaboration space with breakout spaces enabling remote and onsite team collaboration. Satisfying need for contact solely with social work events would require a significant culture change and much more curation by management for many businesses. In the short term, people who are highly concerned and/or in risk groups are likely to remain in the home office rather than staying at a private desk in the office in my view.



Office space needs a choice that reflects the employees and the organisational requirements. Person-centred planning: I agree with Niklas... If we provide choice, we can reduce the costs of workplace assessments and additional adaptations. Do you think this provides an opportunity to think more about the function of a space, closely informed by the employees' interaction with it?


Answer from Niklas: Absolutely, the minute we start looking at interior design as a tool for an employee to do a better job, that’s when things will change. Because if the function isn’t there, you can’t do your job in an optimal way. It will slow you down, interrupt or disturb you. More and more companies are working with property technology to collect data on how their offices are being used. Sensors that show heat maps over a floor plan can give a lot of new perspectives on how things really work in an office environment. Together with deep analysis surveys, one will get the bigger picture of the way one meeting room is not being used as it should and so on.

Answer from Ola: What I find interesting looking far ahead on the consequences of this remote work shift, is that spaces will to a much larger extent be competing for users. People have increasingly varied tasks and jobs, and as job complexity increases so does the need for variation in the workspace. It is much easier to see efficient solutions to this fact by giving people greater freedom to choose their workspace, (i.e co-working spaces specializing in facilitating certain types of work or just removing the commuting as a cost of socializing), than that every workspace must perfectly cater to every individual need, which is quite unachievable.



Also, a change in trust and culture... we all work to our optimum when we can choose how and where we complete tasks, cognitive differences in the way we process means traditional design often follows trends and omits to plan for all who use the space. With 15-20% believed to be within neuro-minorities, this pandemic has provided an insight into how colleagues with neurodiversity are forced to work in a way that does not suit them, and requires a high level of effort to simply be there, before any work is done. Do you think this will support a move towards systemic inclusion of all?


Answer from Niklas: Some managers will certainly exploit the situation and use it in the wrong way. I do believe that the main thing here is to acknowledge that it is all about the work culture. Some work cultures are built to ”control employees” and some are created to enhance each individual's strengths. Working remote has challenged the old school hierarchy work cultures in a way we couldn’t imagine. So I really hope that we are not going towards a systemic inclusion of all.

Answer from Ola: Agree with Niklas. This Shift could go either way for each company depending on the culture they have and the approach they take to transition into more remote work. You certainly enable much more autonomy and asynchronous work, but there are many opportunities to keep in strict control as well if a company follows that path.




Will companies give some workers a nice elevation table and a nice backboard for their private home - and skip tables at the Company itself?


Answer from Niklas: There will be some new needs absolutely when it comes to the physical aspects. We think that there will be a huge need for cheaper and simpler office chairs for your home office. Companies will come to a situation where they need to arrange a good ergonomic set-up for the employees at home. Maybe some will skip their workstation at the office and move it home, absolutely. But we have to remember that not everyone has the space at their home too. So there will be new products suited for these occasions.

Answer from Ola: Many companies will move from considering # seats in the office to a total picture # seats in the office and at home. Reducing the amount in the office and providing solutions for home office for employees wishing to take advantage of that.

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Next week we explore the impact the pandemic has had on the design of office furniture itself, with guest speakers BIG-GAME Design and Hunting & Narud, two design houses with a solid background in product design.

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