Four words that will define the office of the future

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Work changes are coming. With this past year turning people’s work lives upside down, the answer to how and where work gets done when people physically go back to the office has been up in the air.

1 december 20217 minuter
Four words that will define the office of the future - People in the office

(And yes, there will be in-person offices)

Work changes are coming. With this past year turning people’s work lives upside down, the answer to how and where work gets done when people physically go back to the office has been up in the air. Well before the pandemic, we were already seeing the beginnings of this. With the flexibility of mobile communications, videoconferencing, and cloud-based workstream collaboration solutions, the prospect of a work environment where office spaces could become obsolete drummed a steady background beat. But it took the pandemic to force the issue into the spotlight. Overnight, tightly held assumptions on both sides—“who needs offices” vs “offices are necessary”—were suddenly put to the test.

So far, offices are hanging on, but in a diminished capacity. According to a recent survey in the UK, although the majority of employees are in favour of a hybrid work model—some days in the office, some days not, half of the senior leaders prefer an in-person first option. And If you thought the prospect of lowering real estate costs through remote work would prove irresistible to employers, that’s not proving to be the case.

Offices are here to stay for the foreseeable future. But what will those offices be like? Of course, no one knows for sure. But we think these four key words will lead the way: Safe, Flexible, Engaging and Efficient. Let’s take a look at each one.


Employers are responsible for the safety of their employees. COVID-19 took that to a new level. Before this pandemic, offices were designed around the idea of “densification”—maximising the number of employees per square foot. Now, worries over the lasting effects of this pandemic and the possibility of more in the future, are leading desires to reverse this with fewer people with more space.

It’s likely that in many offices, spaces will be bookable with measures and controls so employees can remotely reserve desks, meeting rooms, lunches, etc. Upon arrival, they enter a well-controlled, well-organised, and ultimately safe environment complete with a wider range of elevated safety features that include:

  • Daily deep cleaning services
  • Covid stations with masks, gloves, cleaning wipes, hand sanitiser, and other supplies
  • Upgraded ventilation systems
  • Hands-free on everything possible such as faucets, soap dispensers, dryers in the bathroom, and door openers


At the beginning of COVID, offices emptied out. People fled to work from home. But we all know home isn’t the only option when it comes to finding a place to work.

If you’ve got a steady internet connection, your team can connect, collaborate, and share information just about anywhere.

From the traditional owned or leased spaces to flexible leases, flex spaces, co-working spaces, and working from home, organisations have been experimenting with a range of office space solutions for quite some time. Long before the pandemic, flexible space offerings held about 3% of the US office market and were growing at 25% annually. In the UK market in 2019, flexible workspace contributed to 35% of commercial property transactions in 12 months in London, despite only making up 6% of total office supply.

Unfortunately, many coworking providers were also hit hard by the pandemic. WeWork cancelled its public offering and others went into bankruptcy while hundreds of locations closed. However, there is a glimmer of hope from studies in this area:

  • Employees are open to flex and co-working options, especially if they are located near their homes to help eliminate long commutes.
  • Companies planning for post-pandemic growth see flexible office space as a smart, cost-effective way to support future expansion.
  • Landlords and coworking operators are now increasingly working together to encourage flexible working options as evidenced by some willing to share both profits and losses or actually operate the flex space itself.
  • 30% of all office space will be consumed in a flexible manner by 2030.


We all love being able to do Zoom calls in our pajamas, organise our work lives around the needs of loved ones, and avoid commuting all together. But at the end of the day, we’re social creatures and the lack of physical engagement with coworkers can take a toll.

With organisations looking forward to in-person work, office space designers are presented with a new opportunity.

Now, offices can be reconfigured with the intention of fewer private spaces and more shared spaces where people can safely work together. With flexible office layouts, there will be more moveable objects and fewer walls for quick changes depending on the facility use.

If organisations can counter the negatives associated with working away from the office, they have the chance to create work spaces that truly help employees feel energised, connected, and engaged.


Office space costs have always been a big part of any organisation’s budget. With traditional office environments continuing to compete with flex spaces and work-at-home strategies, they’re going to need to get creative. While some may abandon traditional headquarters or branch locations, many will work harder to squeeze more useful space out of existing office footprints and workflow processes, by taking these actions:

  • Repurpose storage spaces
  • Focus on storing or securely destroying records, excess equipment, and out-of-date IT assets
  • Scan and digitise all files to reduce used space and support easy access for remote workers
  • Find better way to store or donate office supplies, desks and other no longer needed office furniture/equipment

Decluttering, organising, and rearranging your office space can quickly become overwhelming. After years of allowing records and other unnecessary things to build up, most organisations don’t know where to begin. If an all or nothing approach is taken without careful planning, you can end up dramatically increasing your risks of destroying important information needed for compliance; or keeping assets that increase your exposure to data breaches and regulatory violations.

Isn’t it time for a Clean Start?

Safe, flexible, engaging, efficient—these are the four words that will define the office of the future.

While we can’t really predict the future, there is one thing we can say with certainty—the office you left behind will not be the same one you return to.

Luckily, Iron Mountain Clean Start® can help. Our skilled experts conduct in-person and/or virtual assessments of your office to provide recommendations on how to optimise your workspace. We manage the entire clean-out process and facilitate the secure destruction or donation of items you don’t need and the temporary or permanent storage of the ones you do.

As you sort out the options available to you in this new post-Covid environment, consider the value of having an organisation like Iron Mountain come in to take a fresh look around and give you a “clean start.”

To learn more visit: Iron Mountain Clean Start®

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