We sat down with Kevin McIntosh, our Head of Design to discuss his thoughts on returning to the office.
You have worked in commercial interior design for over 20 years and worked on countless projects, how have you seen the office space change over time?
KM: There has been a massive change in office spaces since the start of my career. At the start of my career, Approved Document M had only just been introduced which started to make workspaces more accessible for everyone, so a lot of my initial designing was spent making workspaces more accessible for people. There was the transition into businesses opting for open plan office spaces which involved a lot of removing walls and providing a new contemporary feel to the office through design. However, we soon saw the downfall of the open plan office with businesses experiencing difficulties with noise control and privacy which then naturally led onto to the more cellularised offices that we see today. These involve sort of broken up areas that flow into one another all with their own purpose such as closed off meeting rooms, flexi-working desks, collaboration spaces and so on. There’s definitely been a lesson to learn about the functionality of office spaces.
Is the office still important?
KM: Massively important. While there is never a one size fits all approach to this and that’s what makes my job so interesting, I still believe for the majority that the office is vital for successful operations. If anything, almost two years of remote working has shown us that the office is more important than ever to provide collaboration, sociability and innovation which both we need and businesses need to survive. I think we will see further changes to office spaces as a result of the new purpose of the office with things like the use of breakout rooms as a necessity not a luxury unlike before.
How can design be used to encourage employees to return to the office and the attract and retain new talent?
KM: There’s definitely been a move towards what we in the industry call a destination office which is essentially a hub for employees that provides them with a reason to come to the office and a location where everything is. Essentially, the office is now being used for collaboration and innovation and remote working is being used for the more solo tasks that require focus and time. It is important that the office provides the correct facilities for employees that enable and encourage collaboration and innovation which can be done through elements such as meeting spaces for various group sizes.
What do you see the office space like in the future?
KM: The office is becoming ever more employee-centric. The pandemic has demonstrated how we can work remotely which has led to the office needing to cater to what employees need and want from the office in order to facilitate their return. I feel a lot of trends have accelerated as a result of the pandemic and it is likely that we will see an increase in cellularised office spaces featuring flexi-working spaces, breakout spaces, comfort areas, collaboration area, meeting rooms and kitchenettes with coffee facilities.