Redefining office development: spaces for a new work era

The traditional office model, characterised by cubicles and enclosed offices, is no longer adequate. Picture: Supplied

The traditional office model, characterised by cubicles and enclosed offices, is no longer adequate. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 9, 2024


By Bryce ODonnell

From both a global and local standpoint, offices will continue to remain a key and critical aspect of an individual’s professional life and career. However, what is poised for transformation is the functionality, layout and design of offices in the future.

This change is primarily driven by the evolving demands of businesses.

The traditional office model, characterised by cubicles and enclosed offices, is no longer adequate.

The pandemic has expedited the adoption of remote work and altered our perception of the office’s role. It must evolve into a place where collaboration, creativity and culture can thrive.

The modern office’s purpose extends beyond housing employees; it aims to inspire and captivate them, fostering innovation and a strong company culture.

Flexible workspace design

The keyword for the new office space is “flexibility.” Employees now expect the freedom to choose where and how they work, and as property developers, it is imperative to be aware of these new demands.

A flexible workspace design accommodates diverse work environments, ranging from open collaborative areas to private focus rooms. This design accommodates various working styles and preferences, ensuring that employees can work comfortably and productively.

Embracing hybrid work

Currently, flexible spaces and hybrid work models are the prevailing trends. Therefore, it is imperative to embrace hybrid work arrangements - where employees split their productive hours between working in the office and working remotely.

Consequently, office spaces should be equipped to facilitate in-person collaboration while offering modern technology and resources that enhance remote work. This strategy not only enhances productivity but also optimizes space utilization.

Space utilisation

Do offices still need as much space? While some organisations may choose to downsize their physical footprint, the focus should not merely be on reducing space but on optimising it for maximum value.

Rather than gauging success based on square footage, the primary focus should be on the quality and utility of the office space.

Streamlined work areas

Creating multi-functional spaces is a smart strategy for enabling a change-friendly design, that enables staff, facility managers and development managers to re-shape office spaces to evolving needs. Typically, this involves the integration of communal spaces, individual workspaces as well as shared resources.

For instance, conference rooms can serve as training rooms or presentation spaces, while common areas can be converted into after-hours event venues.

When it comes to furniture, emphasis should be placed on modular furniture that can easily be easily configured and rearranged, such as collapsible desks and foldable cube walls complimented with a communal table. Property developers should aim to make every area as versatile as can be.

Amenities and facilities

Providing the right amenities has emerged as a highly effective strategy for retaining current employees and attracting new talent. Investing in facilities like gyms, cafés, outdoor seating areas, walking tracks within office parks has proven to work exceptionally well.

A growing trend, particularly within office precincts, is also the addition of car wash services and dry-cleaning facilities.

Incorporating braai facilities and investing in the precinct landscaping (abundant greenery and water features) makes precincts a lot more inviting for tenants. Employees are more likely to come to the office if it provides added value and convenience beyond a typical workspace.

Tips to boost productivity and comfort

Natural light and views

Sufficient natural light and views of the outdoors can enhance mood and concentration. Fenestration is a key design element.

Noise Control

Acoustic design is often overlooked but is vital to a productive work environment.

Implement sound-absorbing materials and strategic layout designs to minimise noise disruptions.


In line with the collaboration and health requirements of future office spaces, sustainability plays a major role.

Sustainability measures that property developers can incorporate include energy efficient lighting, recycling refuse areas, back-up water facilities and back-up power.

Technology Integration

A well-integrated technology infrastructure ensures seamless remote and in-person collaboration. Invest in high-speed internet, state-of-the-art conferencing facilities and smart office systems.

Evidently, while office developments still play an integral part of people’s careers, the needs and preferences of its occupiers are evolving.

It is no longer merely just a place where people work; property developers must create office spaces in such a way that its users thrive in that space and actually enjoy being there while fostering collaboration.

*Bryce ODonnell is the managing director of Abcon Developments.

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL.