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New office space demands are reversing previous trends

Ergonomic furniture no longer as important as hybrid working, and hot desking more prevalent

Glandore provides high-end private serviced offices, co-working and shared workspaces to rent in Dublin, Cork and Belfast city centre. It’s a family business and director Claire Kelly explains that Glandore was a pioneer in the provision of office space.

“We look after a range of clients from start-ups to multinationals and over that time we have gained many insights into the trends in office spaces,” she says.

Twenty-one years ago, Glandore was delivering individual office spaces, often with a secretary at the door. Then the tech giants arrived in Ireland pushing for vast open-plan floor spaces.

“They just wanted to be able to see everyone in the office and it was nothing but desks, but now after Covid we are moving towards more comfortable working spaces, rather than a long lines of cubicles.”


Kelly sees a renewed move to change the landscape of the office, this time incorporating social spaces to make the return to the office more enticing.

“It’s all about connecting employees again so that calls for a diverse range of spaces including private offices, huddle rooms, larger meeting rooms and even Zoom-specific rooms with ventilation to cope with hour-long digital sessions.”

Maeve Houlihan, associate dean and director of UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business, sees the change in similar ways but uses different terms.

“We’ve designed our co-working spaces around the idea of ‘commons’ and ‘cave’. We want our spaces to be inviting and energising spaces to work and connect.” The new UCD Moore Centre had an opportunity to design the space from scratch.

“The commons space is for social/cafe-style working where interruption and ease of quick informal connections are vital, and there is a sense of being part of a community even when you are working alone,” says Houlihan.

“Whereas the cave spaces can still be communal, but they need to be quieter spaces where it’s clear people are doing some deep work.

“Between the two, we have huge demand for bookable team studios for projects and group work; some bookable, many informal to support variation in demand,” she says.

Joe Quinn, chief people officer with BDO, stargazes into the future and sees VR goggles allowing people to work from home and virtually walk to work and their virtual offices.

“But that is quite some time away yet, in the immediate future offices will change to become a place to come to do specific activities,” he says. “Offices will continue to be open plan, but with more ‘fly in, fly out’ desks to cater for people coming in for short periods of time or for one-off activities.”

Quinn also believes the modern office will go far greener, with better bike/scooter and shower facilities. Also, rooftop or internal gardens for staff wellness.

“I’d say we will see a bigger use of rooftop solar and even water capture. Staff will continue to be interested in lowering their carbon footprint, and companies will need to show this in the workplace.

“I also think forward-looking companies will try to use their offices to promote employee purpose, so maybe use their spaces for volunteer work and the like,” says Quinn.

Simon McEvoy is the commercial manager for Making it Work, part of IPUT’s office platform launched to meet occupiers’ requirements for flexibility and services. He says Making it Work offers occupiers rapid access to office space on a floor-by-floor basis, on flexible lease terms of between one and three years. Unlike the concept of co-working spaces where charges are layered for different services and leases can be as short as three months, flexible workspace - or “space as a service” - provides occupiers with certainty on space and costs. McEvoy explains that the modularity of the layouts will continue to accelerate to facilitate greater flexibility to adapt to different types of daily use. In addition, he sees that usage patterns will dynamically impact future layouts.

“We collect data over time to see the usage patterns through heat maps and room and/or desk-booking systems. We can then reconfigure the office to truly suit the client.”

This data allows rooms to be reimagined based on post-Covid working practices and technology developments.

“For example, in many cases, the one-person phone booth will be gone and replaced with Zoom meeting rooms with tiered seating,” says McEvoy.

Some of the new office space demands are reversing previous trends according to Kelly. “There was a big push before for ergonomic furniture. It made sense; people were sitting at one desk for five days’ a week, they needed to look after their physical personal health.

“But if you are operating hybrid working, hot desking, different work environments, then it’s less important as it’s not just one person’s desk and people can flit in and out. So more standard office furniture is better than personalised desks and chairs,” says Kelly.

It’s not just the layout of the office that has changed, so too have the inhabitants. Once the preserve of the tech companies, casual clothing has extended across a range of industries with suits less common, ties dispensed with, and high heels replaced by trainers.

McEvoy advocates for nicer working conditions. He sees a more informed workforce demanding the physical and mental benefits of bright airy spaces and the adoption of air quality sensors to provide real-time information on the CO² and other qualitative measurements to ensure people are working in healthy buildings.

Can’t wait for Quinn’s VR office though.

Jillian Godsil

Jillian Godsil is a contributor to The Irish Times