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Recent research, Working anywhere: A winning formula for good work? from Lancaster University's Work Foundation, has found that over half of organisations in the UK will have adopted flexible working by the end of 2017.

The Work Foundation hosted interviews with academics, business leaders and the public sector to glean insights around the theme of flexible working, supported by research with 500 managerial level employees within medium to large businesses to put together their report.

As more organisations realise the benefits of flexible working, the research also predicts that around two thirds of organisations will employ flexible working by 2020.

Benefits of flexible working

  • Increased productivity
  • Improved employee well-being
  • Talent attraction and retention
  • Reduction in accommodation costs

Aside from the benefits of flexible working, the rise in office rates, especially in major central cities, is driving the emergence of a shared workplace. According to research from the CBRE, the one hundred law firms that occupy much of the City of London have experienced rent rises of 7% in 2015 and have been responding to those rises by occupying space more efficiently, with a significant number adopting open plan and flexible working.

Although ways of working are changing, many offices look the same today as they did 5 years ago with employers believing that open plan is the be all and end all of office design.

The ones that are adapting their office design to suit flexible ways of working are reaping the rewards. By providing a range of workspaces that allow workers to choose which type of space they need, companies are signally to employees that they're not expected to be desk-bound when working. With a choice of workspace which includes collaborative and private areas, supported by mobile-working away from the office, workers are given the freedom to adapt their space to the work they're doing each day.

There's countless examples of flexible office design that's bringing about significant benefits for both employers and staff. A before and after study for pharmaceutical company Lilly found that a move from rigidly assigned individual spaces to more diverse, unassigned spaces, such as concentrated focus rooms, team workspaces, cafes and discussion enclaves, resulted in a 29 percent increase in overall employee satisfaction.

It's certain that the office design of the future will see a reduction in allocated desks and will encompass different workspaces and sit/stand desks. With the balance being tipped towards flexible working by the end of 2017, office design will have no choice but to keep pace.