Return to office 2021 – What will the office look like?

What will the future of the office be like? Do we need to design for multiple co-located workplaces or are we best off with one? What about technology? Could we see a future where offices transform into technologically driven coworking spaces and/or become mini-cities? What about energy? How will it affect our lifestyles, our economy, and future co-located work?

2021 office trends will come in many forms. The pandemic revealed some truths about how we organize work, what we value, and how we plan to motivate the employees to do better work. We still do not know which trends will become pillars of business strategy over the next five years as companies reimagine their work hierarchies, work-life balance, employee engagement, collaboration, and more. 


Rethinking collaboration

No matter what industry you are in collaboration is the key. But there seems to be confusion on how people define collaboration. For some, it is about being in the same room as other colleagues, but 2020 taught us it is far more complex than that.

Only one in ten companies expects all their staff to return to the office when the pandemic dies down, the NABE report suggests.

Did you know only one in ten companies expect all their staff to come back to the office after the pandemic? A hybrid work model will most likely be the choice for many companies. If organizations decide to give employees the flexibility to work on-site and remotely part of the week, offices will need to redesign.

Hot desks could become a trend. Companies could change personal desks with tabletops that employees can book for the days that they plan to come to the office. Office spaces must become more open and easy to change, so different employees can collaborate on projects.


A hub and spoke model

As offices around the world closed, some people took advantage of working remotely and decided to relocate to more affordable areas of the city, or even to completely new locations. This is where the concept of a hub-and-spoke office comes into place. Companies could maintain one (smaller) central workspace, while building satellite offices closer to where employees live, for e.g., in the suburbs.

In the future when we think about it, we do see the majority of Googlers’ roles will continue to be tied to a particular office and that they will live within some reasonable distance of that office.

– Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

A hub-and-spoke model is extremely efficient when it comes to communicating information. It is a structured arrangement where departments work closely together and provide support to each other. This allows each department to focus on its most critical tasks without having to answer questions or wait for responses from other departments. In this concept, each department has a “spoke”, which is responsible for overseeing work in that department.

Google, Twitter, and Amazon are already starting to meet employees where they are. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said: “In the future when we think about it, we do see the majority of Googlers’ roles will continue to be tied to a particular office and that they will live within some reasonable distance of that office,”. Amazon recently announced investing $1.4 billion in expanding offices in six cities around the US.


New habits – innovative design

Although many employees will spend more time working from home, occasionally they will have to come to the office and meet with their co-workers. Rather than focusing on how things look, the design focus will be on creating spaces that spark engagement. Meeting rooms will be equipped with videoconferencing or VR meeting technology so employees who work remotely could also join.

For companies to entice remote workers back into the office, they will need to provide facilities for people who want to work offline.

The objective of the 2021 office is to make it as inviting as possible to anyone who wants to work there. All the while remaining fiscally responsible, environmentally conscious, and flexible enough to accommodate the diverse needs of organizations.



Over the past ten years, design trends have emerged in an almost predictable order. The catch is that these are highly speculative about what 2021 will bring. We might see a return to a more familiar form of architecture, for example, or even a completely new direction. Whatever comes next, there’s no denying what an impact these trends had on the way we think about offices, both inside and out. The future of the office is about changing, not disappearing.

“This is an exciting opportunity,” Brent Capron, the interior design director says, “if companies really take the moment and invest in research to understand where their employees have been more productive or satisfied and have found meaning in what they do. They can tailor-make these options moving forward to strengthen their business and culture. Instead of trying to pay attention to the trends everyone else is doing, look for opportunities to make a custom solution and have more of an impact for your organization.”