The Great Refurb: why office remodelling is on the agenda

As more organisations set about redesigning their workplaces for the hybrid era, what are the key themes that are driving attention and investment?

The impact of hybrid is moving from reorganising patterns of working time to office design itself, leading to an emerging trend named ‘The Great Refurb’.

That’s the view of Julia Hobsbawm, Bloomberg columnist, author of The Nowhere Office and recent keynote at WORKTECH London. The way offices look and feel will be extensively remodelled this year. Three workplace aspects – safety, sustainability and social space – will be especially prominent in driving change.

‘Safety, sustainability and social space will be especially prominent in driving change…’

Safety: Threats in the workplace range from terrorist and cyber-attacks to airborne disease. That means, says Hobsbawm, there will be a safety-first approach. Airport-style security will address unwelcome guests entering buildings in an era when office populations are less routine and more unpredictable. Cyber security systems will be ramped up. Health-related innovations that minimise touching surfaces and improve indoor air quality will be extended.

Sustainability: According to a global Ipos Mori poll in November 2022, more than two-thirds of respondents want to see stricter climate change policies.  Employee expectations around good global citizenship is driving more companies to take sustainability seriously – and this concern is filtering through to office refurbs. We can expect more emphasis on reducing carbon and energy use.

Social space: More companies are inserting social settings into their offices because they recognise the importance of social bonding to building a cohesive culture, attracting and retaining talent, and creating a compelling reason to return to the office. At Lego’s new corporate HQ in Billund, Denmark, one third of the campus is devoted entirely to social space – the same percentage as space for focus work.

Julia Hobsbawm’s perspective on ‘The Great Refurb’ is reflected in other research reports; for example, Gensler’s latest U.S. workplace survey, based on a study of more than 2,000 workers, sets out an agenda for office redesign based on data showing changing priorities among employees.

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