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What will offices look like in 2032?

We ask five commentators about their vision for the office of the future

Ger McDonough, PwC partner, people and organisation

Ten years out is a huge ask. We used to do all sorts of “work in future” stuff. We’d do it in 2016 and by 2018 it was obsolete. Trying to predict the future doesn’t work. But in terms of trends, one is the fact that your workplace is not your home or your office, it’s wherever you want to be.

As a result office buildings will become places we get to go to, not got to go to. You’ve got to go to the dentist. You get to go to the theatre or a rugby match. You should get excited about the office.

People won’t need to be there nine to five, so employers will have to think more about where people are going to bounce on to from the office, whether, in the city, it’s to a match or the theatre, or, further out to catch a yoga class or pick up your dry cleaning.

Office buildings will no longer be for just one purpose and will also be used as part of an employer’s environmental, social and governance agenda, fostering linkages with community groups or mentoring children from local schools, for example.


A portion of the space will be used to foster intrapreneurship, with staff spending part of their time working on projects that will provide social or commercial good.

All of this will be, as we say in PwC, human-centred but tech-enabled, with virtual reality, augmented reality and holograms. There is a sense if some people are at home while others are all together in a meeting room, that could be quite isolating, but not if we all have to walk up the stairs together virtually, to meet in the meeting room virtually.

There will be a broader sense of diversity and inclusion and belonging. It will be about how do we make people feel a shared vibe, that shared culture of the office, and how do we make it more inclusive now that we are disaggregated. Technology, if done well, will help.

Joe McGinley, founder of Iconic Offices

What we will see from an employer’s perspective is much more focus on building standards and certifications such as Leed, a voluntary rating system to certify sustainable buildings, and WiredScore, which assesses digital connectivity.

At Iconic we are currently trialling Well certification in our Lennox building and expect to roll it out from there. Well is much more about the end-user, how people use space, having the correct levels of light, natural planting and air quality, at standard certification that is 30 per cent above normal building regulations.

It includes things like nutritional information for the food served and wellness and upskilling talks that take place on-site. In the future offices will also see more biophilic design, bringing nature into the office more.

Already the biggest competition for offices is the home, so there will be no more leasing white boxes. Employers will have to offer employees a compelling reason to come in.

Leases will become more flexible. One of our newest buildings, which we opened on April 1st, has a number of companies in it that have come out of traditional leases. And the old idea of rows of desks is gone. Because hybrid will be part of the future landscape, offices will be less static, with spaces that allow people to come together for collaborative, project or brainstorming work.

Employers will be expected to provide a certain social experience. When you go into the office you also go to meet Sally for coffee and Johnny for lunch. You have an agenda that’s not all work-based.

The metaverse will have come in. Accenture has already onboarded something like 150,000 employees in it and is bringing its clients on that journey now too. I’ve had a demo, it’s 100 per cent the way it’s going to go. It will improve massively in the next two to three years, but even then we will still need human contact.

Mark Redmond, chief people officer at Three Ireland and Three UK

Technology is going to have a role in determining the future. We saw a digital transformation during Covid where lots of organisations had to transform to enable digital ways of working. Some organisations found that more difficult than others but it will have to happen for all.

The question is how technology will enable people to interact with each other, and customers to interact with the organisation.

Covid taught us we can do a lot remotely and as a result, people’s expectations around flexibility have changed.

The days of everybody being in the office five days a week is gone, depending on the nature of the work and the nature of the organisation.

We will see the number of people employed in permanent and pensionable roles falling as opportunities to do contract and project work rises, though as long as banks prefer people in permanent and pensionable jobs when it comes to considering mortgage applications, there will be a problem.

People in permanent roles will need to spend more time in each other’s companies. If you are working with the same people day in, day out, you do need regular interaction for the sake of building a culture. For them, work will be the place to go to talk.

Hybrid working will give the best of both worlds but it will be different for people working on a contract or gig basis. If you are working in a distributed way, on a short-term basis, you won’t need to develop those human connections in the same way, because you are only there for short, defined piece of work.

I think that as more work becomes available this way it will become an increasingly credible choice for people with skills that are in demand. Contract working will become more and more normalised and technology will make it accessible, giving people the ability to collaborate over different kinds of platform.

Simon McEvoy, commercial manager at Making it Work IPUT

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.

In 2032 offices will still be here, but how we use and connect with them will be different. It was already happening prior to the pandemic. They had already become more agile and adaptive, with people using them both for focused work and collaborative work.

But previously it was all binary, buildings were either all offices or all open plan. Now we are seeing greater adaptability and in the future, we will see greater use of data to analyse building usage, including as heat maps that show how people are really using space.

Employers will take a more iterative approach and we will see much more modular usage of spaces, offices that are easier to adapt without having to take down stud walls, an environmentally unsustainable construction job that turned the old walls into waste.

Occupiers previously looked at their space as ‘their space’, and felt they needed everything required to service it to reside within its footprint. But in the future, there will be greater demand for landlords who can provide greater amenity space, such as, for example, a shared conference facility in a building, or a basement gym, or a media room for podcasts and press briefings.

Employers will have to create a desire among people to come in. People are still social but grey, monotone, utilitarian spaces are places they will not want to be, similarly sick buildings with bad ventilation and lighting. There will be a much more informed workforce in future.

The long leases of the past will shift to flexible, shorter terms of one to three years, and there will be no expensive fit-outs required up front, as was traditional. It was just too hard for growing companies to cope with anyway because a 10-year lease doesn’t facilitate their needs.

John Evoy, general manager at Grow Remote

We will see enormous changes in how work is done. The office will be a completely different space, not the open space or individual offices of old but collaborative spaces.

Because only a small portion of the workforce will be in the building at any one time, employers will have to design cool spaces to connect people and stimulate innovation.

With technology there will be so many tools to help people who aren’t there to really feel like they are in the room. Already at conferences in the US you can move around virtually with your face on a screen to network with people.

It’s been said that the commuting of 1990s and 2000s will be to our kids what smoking was in the 1970s and 1980s – unhealthy and unhelpful. They’ll ask why we spent hours in a car each day pumping diesel fumes out into the atmosphere when all the technology that we needed to work from anywhere already existed.

The nine-to-five 40-hour week will be gone too, we’ll have moved to monthly or quarterly targets and if you hit them your boss won’t care if you’re on the golf course three days a week.

Employment legislation will have changed. Right now your contract includes hours of work and even location. If you’re working from home you don’t get expenses if you have to drive somewhere. That will change.

Careers will be less linear. You won’t just do a degree, go into a job and stay there. Instead, people will take a much more holistic approach, not so much by gig working but by doing multiple jobs such as working in tech two days a week and being as a career for three. The number of jobs that will be done remotely will have expanded dramatically too, including all sorts of automated manufacturing done by robots that you’ll control from home.

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times