Radical inclusion: the next frontier in reimagining the office

As the post-Covid-19 landscape begins to take shape, our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at how property developers and augmented technologies are set to reinvent office space

Company employees may be slow in returning to city-centre offices, their resistance stoked by fears about public transport and post-pandemic safety measures. But property developers pressing ahead with ambitious building projects have been quick off the mark to recalibrate what the office can become in the post-Covid-19 landscape of work.

Rising above the City of London is commercial skyscraper 22 Bishopsgate, developed by Lipton Rogers, which will be the tallest building in the financial district. It also aims to be the most progressive in terms of workplace design and amenities.

Expanded thinking

To help 22 Bishopsgate expand its thinking, five design firms were asked to explore ways in which its office space could be shaped and transformed. Each of the five studios was given a specific ‘big theme’ as a platform to explore new ideas in learning, creativity, wellbeing, inclusion and sustainability. The results have been captured in a series of Workplace Design Journals, produced with the support of WORKTECH Academy.

In the latest of our WORKTECH Kitchen Table Conversations, we bring together James Goldsmith, Leasing Director for 22 Bishopsgate, and Mijail Gutierrez, Principal Design Director of global architects Perkins and Will, to discuss the theme of ‘radical inclusion’. This was the big idea the Perkins and Will team was asked to explore.

Radical inclusion encompasses a growing diversity in the workforce in terms of age, physical and cognitive ability, gender, culture and technological literacy, as people with varying backgrounds and attitudes share the same office space. Gutierrez believes that many people are alienated by a conformist, process-driven environment when they really need a sense of belonging and a better experience that all can share. He explains: ‘So we asked the question – what is a workplace that is truly and radically inclusive? We found answers in personal choice, a series of activities and multi-generational collaboration.’

According James Goldsmith: ‘The approach was – here’s an idea, let’s try to stretch it. It’s far from prescriptive, it is all about maintaining the big picture around the future of office space. References by Perkins and Will to forum, allotment or marketplace are everyday terms – not real-estate speak.’

‘People are alienated by a process-driven environment when they really need a sense of belonging…’

At the core of all the Workplace Design Journals is the need for adaptability and flexibility as the office reinvents itself for the post-pandemic era. The message to occupiers is that, in order to lure back office workers, space planning and design cannot simply revert to standard.

You can download the journal on radical inclusion by Perkins and Wills here and view the WORKTECH Kitchen Table Conversation below.


Augmented work is arriving

Nobody disputes that Covid-19 is accelerating the adoption of new workplace technologies in a way that will transform the basic purpose of the office and the design of its workspaces. What is more open for argument is the impact that the rise of robots and machine intelligence will have on the future workforce.

According to Paul Edwards, who leads on workplace experience for Australian property developer Mirvac, many people think robots and AI are set to take jobs from humans. ‘In reality,’ he says, ‘our success depends on how humans and machines can work together to accomplish more.’ The story is therefore not about human jobs being automated but about human jobs being augmented.

Paul Edwards appeared in our latest WORKTECH Webinar to discuss a new Mirvac discussion paper, ‘Augmented Work: how new technologies are reshaping the global workplace’. Produced in partnership with WORKTECH Academy, this report highlights the evolution of humans and machines in the workplace, and how this is set to impact workspace design. Watch a recording of the WORKTECH webinar, a conversation between Edwards and WORKTECH Academy director Jeremy Myerson, below.

Paul Edwards believes that integrating more machine intelligence into office buildings will allow people to focus on human-centred skills such as creativity, collaboration, empathy, integrity and adaptive thinking, thus creating higher-quality jobs. If you’d like to learn more about how your workplace will be impacted by AI, automation and robotics, read more on the Mirvac report here and download it 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 live conference series paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. This edition is posted 2 September 2020.
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