What’s happening to office spaces?

Offices and workspaces have always evolved alongside changing human needs and collective structures—and following the pandemic, the idea of the office space has splintered and spiraled into new realms. While the trend was once all about debating between private cubicles and open floor plans, the rise of remote work has changed the whole game. Out of the rubble of frequently-changing policies and experimental company setups, what is the future of office spaces?

Dedicated home workspaces

Well, the answer to that question begins at home. Across industries, especially creative, work has significantly decentralized, leading to a higher demand in home office space. Residences with additional bedrooms for office space and even lock-off studios within larger units are part of the larger image we will begin to see, according to California real estate developers. We’re also seeing the rising trend of “resi-mercial” spaces—design considerations that bring the comfort and flexibility of home to contemporary workspaces.

Office vacancy rates. Chart courtesy Cushman & Wakefield.

The meaning of the word ‘workspace’ has even transformed from the idea of a physical location to a series of tools necessary to work virtually — nowadays, workspace refers less so to a cubicle and more so to a virtual console tailored to your role. Even teams that have fully transitioned to 100% remote have to consider factors of residential workspaces, hardware and software provision, and virtual coordination. 

Coworking spaces

Prior to the pandemic, coworking spaces had already been on the rise via startups like WeWork, and they’ve found renewed purpose in a growing gig economy. The essential idea is to have a flexible, short-term-friendly space that different individuals and businesses can share. It’s a prime way to interact with a variety of different people or work remotely without renting out an entire office. 

There are coworking spaces all over Los Angeles these days, and more keep popping up all over the world. The key here is flexibility: meeting the needs of freelancers who simply require quiet workspaces and high-speed internet, as well as servicing larger businesses that may need meeting rooms and more communal amenities. In a desire to recapture a semblance of office culture, virtual coworking spaces have also been on the rise.

Embracing hybridity

Reality is always less clear-cut than idealistic projections. Modern workers and managers have had to adapt to the concept of flexibility. While some of your team may be more anchored to their bedroom hardware setups, other coworkers only need a laptop at the nearest coworking space. 

Our changing concept of physical office spaces has also affected our idea of office culture. By being forced to confront both the limitations and possibilities of decentralized work, we’re reconsidering what it takes to effectively produce and collaborate. Not everyone wants rigidly scheduled days, cramped pods, and mandatory mask wearing while they return to work — and likewise, not everyone wants to stay home forever without a work-life delineation. While we will definitely keep seeing a splinter between specific industry preferences, the proverbial “office space” is no longer what it once was, and it never will be just one monolithic concept ever again.

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