Changing places: are offices and healthcare centres set to swap?

Our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing discusses a new design forecast for 2021 from Gensler which suggests a creative exchange in function between workplace and wellbeing spaces

In the post-pandemic re-set, are offices set to become more like healthcare spaces while healthcare facilities adopt characteristics of the workplace sector? Experts at global architectural practice Gensler certainly think that could be the case. Janet Pogue McLaurin, who heads Gensler’s workplace research, and the practice’s healthcare lead Scot Latimer told Fast Company that a complementary process of evolution is underway.

Offices shaping up for a hybrid working model are placing more emphasis on health, wellbeing, choice and flexibility. That might translate some workspaces into rooms that can easily be subdivided or expanded to accommodate different uses with adaptations achieved with the type of rolling dividers and easily movable wall that are typically seen in healthcare consulting rooms. More practical use will also be made of outdoor space, with open façades and retrofitted rooftops providing additional work settings.

‘Rolling dividers more typically seen in healthcare consulting rooms will subdivide office space …’

Meanwhile, the rise of video-care and virtual hospital visits is leading to a rethink of traditional hospital real estate, described by Latimer as ‘network TV in an age of streaming’. This could see more distributed healthcare facilities in community spaces and repurposed retail stores, emulating the rise of flexible workspace.

Lab space in the life sciences sector is also blending with general office and start-up space as part of an overall shifting of the boundaries prompted by Covid-19, as predicted in WORKTECH Academy’s 2020 report with Genentech, The Changing Life Science Workplace.

These trends form part of Gensler’s 2021 Design Forecast, which has four key themes.

First, work and place have become uncoupled, redefining the office as the best place to bring people together — especially for those whose jobs rely on in-person collaboration or specific spaces or shared resources.  Second, culture, community, and collaboration will be at the core of the new work experience as the fundamental role the office shifts to bring people together to build personal and professional relationships, and to connect with a company’s mission and purpose.

The third message centres on choice, autonomy, health and wellbeing as paramount for individuals and teams to perform at their best. From health checks and touchless security to improved air quality systems, occupiers and developers will focus on healthy buildings and experiences.

Finally, a new hybrid workforce working both in the workplace and remotely will require office buildings will increasingly get smarter to enable office-to-home connectivity and anticipate evolving tenant needs.

In this context, is it any wonder that office and healthcare space might be starting to swap roles?

Reviewing the latest in tech

The emerging digital workplace is a daunting vista for most organisations looking to start their transformation journey to a more hybrid and flexible future. There are so many solutions claiming to revolutionise the future of work that the truly forward-thinking innovations can sometimes get lost in the mix.

That’s why WORKTECH Academy has introduced a new monthly technology round-up column by UnWork analyst Arraz Makhzani, exclusive to the Innovation Zone . Its purpose is to survey the latest and most leading-edge technologies surfacing in the world of work. Makhzani’s first column explores interactive virtual collaboration, the digital and analogue blend, and the intriguing insights of Microsoft Analytics.

Workplace Innovation takes stage

WORKTECH Events is launching its inaugural WORKTECH Innovation virtual event on 9-10 March 2021. The two-day virtual conference and exhibition will explore the latest innovations and technologies that can help organisations adopt a position at the forefront of workplace transformation. At a time where innovative thinking is the critical ingredient for workplace competitiveness, this conference calls upon experts such as Gillian Tett, Editor-at-Large of the Financial Times and Brian David Johnson, best-selling author and futurologist in residence at Arizona State University, to explore new organisational thinking.

The WORKTECH Guide to Workplace Innovation will be launched at the event – this guide surveys the key players in workplace technology innovation and presents a masterguide for organisations looking to start their digital transformation. The event will also share new global case studies and offer insight into the latest thinking around cutting-edge technologies such as robotics, AR and VR, data analytics and AI. Find out more and register for the event here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our virtual platforms. This edition is posted 3 March 2021.
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