How research says you should design your office in 2024

What should office designers be doing in 2024, to satisfy a workforce that demands flexibility? We look at what the research tells us.

Abbi Melville • 
How research says you should design your office in 2024

We were at The Workplace Event last week, and there were some pretty impressive office-space designs on show. And it got me thinking – once upon a time, the set-up, layout, and design of the average office was a predominantly administrative task: desk, tables, chairs, windows, lights, and aircon, all within a context of health and safety and headcount parameters. But that’s not the case now.

A few years back, Google changed everything. At least, they’re the folk who I blame, anyway. For pioneering a cutting-edge, lifestyle-driven working environment full of bells and whistles which boosted engagement and productivity, and created a magnetic global employer brand.

And the rest of the world followed suit, for a few blissful years. But then, the pandemic turned everything on its head, yielding enforced home-working. And overnight, these often half-empty, high-powered, lifestyle-driven offices suddenly looked overblown and surplus to requirements. They also didn’t seem to make complete sense in the legacy hybrid working culture that immediately followed the pandemic. 

2024 office design must embrace and facilitate flexible working to maximise engagement.

But, with clear blue water between us and the pandemic, what should office designers be doing now? We should still be designing our office around what people want if we want high productivity and especially employer brand magnetism. But what exactly do people want today?

CIPD research showed that 6% of employees changed jobs last year due to a lack of flexible working options and 12% changed sector altogether for this reason. This is even though 60% of employees now have flexible working arrangements, (which is a sustained increase from the previous year), showing flexible working needs are still not being adequately met by people managers.

With the flexible working laws taking effect on the 6th of April meaning employees have the right to request flexible working from day one rather than 26 weeks, we can expect further increases in flexible working requests this year.

Therefore, 2024 office design practice must further embrace and facilitate flexible working, to maximise employee engagement and productivity but how?

Research shows that 4 specific gaps still remain in the flexible working offering

People managers should review data around our era-defining flexible working sentiment when designing their offices in 2024 to ensure they deliver what’s needed.

For example, while there is undoubtedly a lot of flexible working happening, some needs are still not being met. The CIPD research showed that when people were asked what flexible work arrangements they would like to be able to access they answered:

  • 46% would like to make use of a four-day week.
  • 40% would like informal flexibility
  • Flexi-time (39%)
  • Working from home on an ad-hoc regular basis

Agile workspaces are the future

We were not surprised to see in this consultative article from Knight Frank on 2024 office planning trends that employers are now using agile workspaces to proactively support flexible working demands.

Agile workspaces are more than just a catchphrase. If used correctly, soft research suggests that agile layouts allow employers to use their space more cost-effectively and flexibly. For example, if unused workspaces accounted for say 70% of your office, then an agile workplace would bring this down to 50%. This remaining space can be filled with breakout spaces, kitchen and eating areas, social zones, quiet spots, and collaboration zones, catering to a range of needs.

(And of course, if you want help monitoring indoor space utilisation, then you can head over to our sister website Sense for some cool hardware and software that helps you do this. Anyway, that’s enough shameless plugging of our products for one day.)

As well as being structurally flexible, agile workspaces must be engaging and designed to foster a high-performance culture. With hybrid work being the norm, the employers of choice will be able to offer both a well-connected and supported home-working environment and an innovative agile in-house workspace.

2024 design is not just about layout and aesthetics but technology

Agile workspace allows businesses to maximise occupancy and space utilisation so they are not paying money to maintain empty desks. By using motion sensors and occupancy tracking technology and equipping office areas with adaptive energy resources, (such as motion sensor lights and motion sensor heating which turn off when there is no activity), employers can further minimise wastage and optimise the use of energy based on real-time attendance. 2024’s flexible office design is not just about layout and aesthetics but technology.

Smart office solutions that allow employees secure but automated physical access to the workspace (24 / 7) could provide employees with flexible access to their workspace.

Combine this with smart scheduling and time/attendance tracking technology, and even officed-based employees will be able to access flexi-time and informal flexible working, a valued perk that may have previously been denied to them.

Research tells us that office design in 2024 must reflect the worker’s need for all-around flexibility by supporting seamless remote working capability but also delivering a highly engaging in-house environment with advanced onsite flexible working capabilities to appease on-site workers. This can be achieved by the deployment of agile workspaces and the innovative use of smart office and scheduling solutions.