The most significant innovations of the last century have a couple of common elements: They solved simple problems in the lives of everyday people, and almost nobody recognized that these problems needed to be solved.
Legend has it that Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Modern transportation, internet you can take with you, the ability to easily connect with someone on the other side of the planet — no one really wanted these things before they were invented. But soon after these innovations became widely available, people could not imagine life without them. Chances are, you never knew you needed a smartphone. But now, imagine giving it up for a day and being without directions in your pocket or the answer to any question at your fingertips. There’s simply no going back.
But despite such large shifts, one daily environment has remained stubbornly unchanged for decades: the office.
Despite a tight labor market putting pressure on employers to attract talent, the vast majority of the corporate workforce still works in dull, cubicle-laden office buildings, designed solely for space efficiency and with no regard for human-centered design. Yet we know environments can have a profound impact on our mental health and work output, and we know that experience matters more and more for the next generation of leaders. The office of today is not very conducive to the innovative thinking needed to create the products of tomorrow.
As the co-founder of a workplace hospitality platform, I’ve consistently heard from the 250,000 people who walk through our doors each year that they want their own offices to look and feel more like the ones shared and alternative workspaces provide on a short-term basis, replete with more flexibility, choice and experience in their office environment.
That means that we need to forget “office” and start thinking in terms of “workplace” — a mindset shift that will help commercial real estate professionals understand the trends that will challenge our industry’s most fundamental assumptions in the coming years.