Talks about mobile information work is heating up as the pandemic situation is slowly improving, thanks to the vaccination. My social media and news feed is flooded with speculation about the death of office, but also posts by people who suffer from a burnout under the cross-pressures of working from the home. How does the future look like, viewed through the eyes of a property developer?
I joined in the speculation in the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat article RIP office (in Finnish) while at the same time other equally shocking headlines appeared in international media. Business Insider wrote 'The office - as we knew it - is dead', Forbes went after clicks establishing '9-To-5 Workday Is Dead' and Wall Street Journal declared 'The Death of Office Desk Is Upon Us'. However, CBRE’s Joonas Nyman commented quite aptly on LinkedIn that none of these articles were actually foreseeing a definite death of the office, but speculated on how the office would transform instead.
Reliable studies have been made on the subject along the way, including JLL’s global workplace survey, Leesman Index’ Home stretch - materials and surveys of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health to which Virpi Ruohomäki refers in her report (in Finnish). The extensive survey materials shed a light on how different people experienced remote work and how they thought their work would continue after the pandemic.
We contributed to the surveys by arranging a questionnaire in connection with the Savonkatu placemaking project located in the Alppila district of Helsinki, asking the city dwellers how they worked at the moment and how they anticipated their working would evolve in the next 5-10 years to come. The results (in Finnish) were quite similar to those received from the above-mentioned studies. In the future, work will be done by all more versatile methods from an increasing number of places. It seems probable working time will continue beyond the home or office hours spent solely at the office to anywhere between the home, the office and shared workspaces, even in third locations, always depending on each employee’s individual needs which vary from time to time.
Four tenets of future office solutions
The only thing we know for sure is that nobody knows what will happen after the pandemic slows down. We will most likely see a varied mixture of many different solutions as the corporate cultures transform, shaped by the choices to be made by the individuals while everyone picks the practices most suited to their own activity.
In my vision I have tried to boil the future of the office down to four tenets which I think will be relevant to corporate decision-making concerning office spaces:
- The individual will be gaining all more control over the methods, place and time of working, which will cause the choices to become less predictable.
- Employee behaviour will start to define the corporate culture, the services and practices which, in their turn, will become definitive of the space demands.
- The demand for flexibility will increase. The change will require flexibility with regard to the spaces, the contracts and the ways of working.
- Sustainability themes will become more emphasised. Companies will not allow spaces to remain vacant, occupancy rates will be maximised to save the environment and money.
Space-sharing services to support mobile work
We in NCC’s property development team believe that the companies’ demands will diversify which is why we want to offer new models to the clients who are pondering over their space solutions. We have joined forces with the Finnish start-up Spacent which is the forefront of development work in technologies to enable sharing and utilising spaces irrespective of their tenant, owner or operator. Spacent has such a compelling idea and business logic that it was chosen by the Finnish business periodical Talouselämä among the 10 most promising start-ups in Finland.
Most companies will still want to have a home base of their own, only it will have a different character. In addition, part of the spaces can be taken to use depending on the demand while shared spaces in the surrounding city structure can be used as a satellite office, or part of the company’s own spaces can be leased out for a while, since the number and intensity of projects will vary over time.
A platform by Spacent is being tested and offered to all tenants at our office site , and in WeLand we encourage the clients to use Spacent’s offering. We are also collaborating on the development of other office sites such as Savonkatu, OOPS and Cleantech Garden to optimise the size of cosy space available for the clients based on the highest possible utilisation rate. This way the energy-efficient buildings will generate a higher value to their users and reduce the burden on the environment per user. In addition to providing flexible contract arrangements, co-operation holds potential for pursuing a higher carbon neutrality in the long run, when a wide network of spaces can be taken to efficient use through a smart application whenever an individual employee or a team need them, wherever the need may occur.
Thanks to co-operation, the space demand of user organisations can also be modelled based on the employees’ addresses, locations of shared spaces and estimated number of days worked remotely.
The simulations to be carried out for the tenants will allow to clearly visualise the savings in euros and as lowered carbon dioxide emissions and time saved by the employees while maintaining a hybrid working mode.
We strive to create the logic of flexibility in the office properties we are developing which applies both to the contracts and the space arrangements to ensure that the spaces will respond to changes as flexibly as possible. This way we can jointly build a workable solution for any company where their individual corporate culture can flourish, no matter where the personnel work, be it from the home, at the head office or from third places.
Fasten your seatbelt and contact us if these thoughts resonate with you – the journey towards tomorrow of mobile information work can continue!
Eelis Rytkönen, Urban Developer-hippie, NCC PD
Eelis Rytkönen, firstname.lastname@example.org, Urban Developer-hippie, NCC PD
Eetu Ristaniemi, email@example.com, CDO, Spacent Oy