Everyone knows the world of work has changed radically. What does this mean for the office of 2022? We look at the trends and how Cape Town CBD commercial landlords are meeting these new challenges.
Employees’ expectations have shifted since Covid-19 disrupted our lives. In the world of work, offices are being forced to evolve into multifunctional spaces that are able to lure people back with promises of communal hot spots (real human connection!); chill zones; and a focus on ideation and creation.
One Cape Town CBD company that is taking this to heart is Boxwood Property Fund, where two inviting, energising communal spaces have been created in the once-staid Picbel Parkade building.
Now renamed The Felix, the spaces sport funky giant murals of a tiger and panda bear, plenty of spots for a braai, plug points for laptops, an indoor garden, an open-air meeting area, and a boxing gym with champion boxer Sting … It doesn’t sound like "ye olde" traditional office, does it?
Boxwood Property Fund CEO and chairperson of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), Rob Kane, says the recreational venues were designed with the workplace of the future in mind. “We are moving away from what a typical office looks and feels like, and what kind of facilities it might have offered to something that is designed more with workers’ needs in mind.”
One of two open-air courtyards in The Felix, formerly Picbel Parkade.
MEETING EVOLVING EXPECTATIONS
With all the shifts accelerated by the pandemic, much has been documented on what workers want right now. The prevailing themes? Flexibility, a diverse team, and outcomes-not-hours-based KPIs. People are now prioritising lifestyle and family time more than ever before. Hybrid seems to be the name of the current game, with workers balancing office time with work-from-home arrangements. This should see more people returning to the office – albeit a different kind of office than before.
CCID CEO Tasso Evangelinos says, “We’re excited to see landlords interpreting trends and creating workspaces that encourage people to return to their CBD offices – even if it is part-time – as our stakeholders rely on office workers. These regulars are the lifeblood of the city centre. Their patronage and presence bring vibrancy and income to our CBD businesses, across all sectors.”
The Box Office co-working space at The Box, formerly Atterbury House.
HERE’S THE NEW-LOOK OFFICE
- Downsized offices but upsized ecosystems: A KPMG survey found that 69 % of CEOs are planning to downsize their office spaces. Offices will be reimagined as places to come together to brainstorm and socialise. In essence, they’ll be stations for innovation and meaningful conversation.
While offices may "shrink", many companies are planning to widen their work ecosystems to include satellite houses, cafés, and co-working spots. This is the hub-and-spoke approach, with a central office hub, surrounded by satellite workstations.
Others are redesigning the traditional office to be a one-stop-shop where people can stay, work, and play. Starbucks, for example, is making its headquarters feel more like an informal "coffee shop" (appropriate) to foster fewer siloes and more cooperation.
- Built with (multi) purpose in mind: Hybrid doesn’t just refer to a way of working. Offices are now hybrid spaces themselves, often boasting green places, communal coffee shops, retail stores, and more. The Box is the perfect example of this. Also owned by Boxwood Property Fund, the revamped, renamed Atterbury House now includes "hot desks" in private office arrangements in The Box Set, along with a landscaped public environment and a food and beverage co-op called Salt. This has food pods, live music, and workstations with fast WiFi. Everything a hustler needs to succeed.
- Revitalising surrounding areas: The revamping of traditional offices could have positive ripple effects for local neighbourhoods. For example, Kane is chatting to other CBD building owners about creating lively public urban art spaces across the precinct. The goal of enticing office workers back may have exciting upshots for everyone.
- AI everything: The office of 2022 is likely to continue to prioritise AI and automation. McKinsey’s global survey of 800 senior executives saw two-thirds of polled professionals say they’re stepping up their automation spend. In 2020, e-commerce share grew at two to five times the rate prior to the pandemic. That trend is likely to continue. And, with hybrid arrangements still happening, next year’s offices will undoubtedly include plenty of conferencing facilities for those endless Zoom calls. Some nifty drone delivery zones could also be quite useful …
- Human-to-human: 2022’s offices will need to be places for real connection. Ipsos’ study on the impact of Work from Home found productivity and morale may be suffering. In fact, 55 % of employees said their teams aren’t collaborating as well in WFH arrangements. So, the focus next year will be on building flexible spaces that encourage informal interaction. A braai at the office, green spaces for midday yoga, creativity capsules for daydreaming, coffee shops for caffeine-fuelled collaboration, a boxing ring to let off steam … These could all be run-of-the-mill in the multifunctional spaces of tomorrow.
Co-working spaces offer flexibility to workers who no longer need to be in the office.
Evangelinos says there is a definite uptick in foot traffic and business dealings in the Cape Town CBD: “We’re seeing more and more people return to the city centre, which has been wonderful for our stakeholders – small businesses especially.
“The return of office workers will have positive ramifications for the whole area. They bring energy and income to the Central City. We’re hoping the reimagined office of 2022 will have a positive knock-on effect, with hybrid buildings creating attractive spaces for people to stay, work, and play. These should have international appeal for ‘digital nomads’ as well.”
IMAGES: CCID, Boxwood Property Fund