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The Future Office Will Be 'Dynamic And Elastic,' According To WeWork’s New Global Office Trends Report


Hybrid work has become the most common work style in the country. A 2023 study from Gallup said that 50% of companies had implemented a hybrid work schedule for employees, while only 20% still had employees working fully on-site.

This is a stark contrast from 2019, when it was estimated that 60% of companies were working fully on-site. However, employees often report higher satisfaction in the workplace with hybrid work schedules.

The rise of hybrid work has also brought about changes in employee expectations. Employees now want their workplaces to foster a greater sense of community, culture and well-being. According to Ebbie Wisecarver, chief design officer at WeWork, office space needs to be more “dynamic and elastic” to cater to these needs. 

But what does a dynamic and elastic office look like?

“The pandemic propelled companies into a new way of thinking about the office’s purpose and function,” Wisecarver said. “The idea of a more dynamic and elastic office boils down to the desire for increased social interaction and collaboration. It should act as a hub that not only sparks these moments of connection and innovation, but that has been designed to adapt and change as expectations evolve.”

Before the pandemic, offices were typically densely packed and lacking in personality. Workers went to the office to get their job done, nothing more. 

After analyzing data from more than 3,000 enterprise members over the last four years, WeWork’s global office trends report found that having an open floor plan, offering nontraditional workspaces including focus rooms, food and beverage options, more lounge space and linear lighting are how forward-thinking employers are reconfiguring their floor plans.

“It’s become clear that there are a lot of aspects to work that are bigger than just sitting down and working,” Wisecarver said. “Quality of space has become a top priority because workers, who have grown accustomed to flexibility over their workweeks, want to come back to the office and feel that energy and vibrancy.”

According to the report, lounge space now makes up 19.3% of total office space, compared to 12% before the pandemic. Wisecarver said that companies are now repurposing private offices into lounges for employees to work together and/or socialize, reaffirming that the office has a social currency that was not there prior to the pandemic. 

There has also been an 80% decrease in requests for executive office spaces since 2018, an indication that in this new era of work, employees are placing more value on transparency and connection than ever before.

Other design elements have made notable gains since the start of the pandemic including breakout rooms, education spaces, personalized board rooms and “focus pods,” all of which are centered on increasing employee efficiency, according to WeWork. 

In particular, WeWork said requests for focus pods, or small spaces where employees can pop in and out of to solely focus on work or make important business calls, have seen a 50% uptick since the beginning of the pandemic. As much as employees yearn for more social interaction with their peers, having a space to talk to clients and get work done quietly is of utmost importance in today’s workplace. 

“Incorporating these new features will bring a renewed sense of comfort and coziness that employees are requiring nowadays,” she said. “What we’ve noticed to be the most common request from our enterprise members, however, is customization and activation of the space.”

Customizing an office can involve a wide array of features, such as implementing company branding and logos, purchasing unique lounge furniture or theming the office with company colors. WeWork's latest research found that 90% of member companies chose to include company branding in their space, most likely to help bolster culture and a sense of belonging. Members are also implementing plants and additional artwork throughout their spaces, with 70% adding plants and more than 80% incorporating artwork to create a vibrant environment.

Activating an office space, however, slightly differs from customization. This involves hosting programmed events where employees can socialize with each other, whether it’s through networking events, education workshops, company-wide meetups or health and wellness group activities like yoga classes. The office now acts as a more meaningful place to gather as a community, Wisecarver said. 

“It’s difficult to get people committed and invested in the company if the environment they’re working in is sterile and unmotivating,” she said. 

The office is a representation of how a company feels about their employees, Wisecarver said. Therefore, the space should convey a company’s values thoughtfully and honestly.

The future of office spaces will have to continue to be dynamic and elastic since it’s evident that hybrid work is here to stay, she said. Companies will have to get comfortable with the concept of hybrid work and that the office and the home are two places that can live together in harmony. The workplace can no longer be a one-size-fits-all approach and must be designed in a way that can be reconfigured easily as expectations and work habits continue to evolve.

"WeWork is in a unique position where we can analyze thousands of data points from companies across the globe to really understand what the future of work looks like," she said.

Workspaces that can shapeshift to accommodate a variety of work-related needs will be table stakes for any company in this new era, not limited to providing what workers want from the office today but having the ability to adapt to what is needed from the workplace in years to come, Wisecarver said.

“This is a trend that companies are going to have to embrace now and well into the future,” she said.

This article was produced in collaboration between WeWork and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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