Office buildings are known to be fairly robust but stylish buildings in the modern age. City skyscrapers and purpose-built commercial buildings are the latest designs and architectures to host business proceedings, but they’ve come a long way in the last few hundred years.

The supposed first office building to ever be built was in London in the early 18th Century. Originally named The Old Admiralty Office, it was created to deal with the ever-growing demands of running the British Empire. It’s a stunning piece of architecture, still standing and in use to this day. But the typical office building has come a long way since then and changing commercial needs have shaped the structures of today and today’s needs will shape the offices of tomorrow. But what will these look like?

Changing spaces

The lasting impacts of the pandemic have reimagined the way that companies and employees operate. Working from home has gone from a luxury reserved for the few to an almost expected element of many jobs across most industries. This is likely to fundamentally change office concepts and designs, with fewer in-office workers needing to be accommodated at any one time.

Practical changes in this regard could be fewer desk spaces and a smaller desk-to-employee ratio overall, with the extra space becoming redundant or used for another purpose. Extra space could be used to create more functional meeting or collaborative spaces for when more colleagues are in the office at the same time.

Built for sustainability

Modern office buildings are already being built with sustainability in mind, but this is likely to become ever more prevalent in the future. The incorporation of green spaces or natural elements into office complexes is increasing in popularity because it’s a good way to offset the carbon emissions from the building itself.

Future office complexes are likely to benefit from renewable energy sources, perhaps from solar and wind farms on or around the buildings themselves, all aiming to reduce the reliance on gas and electricity networks. Heating and air conditioning systems are one of the biggest energy consumers in modern buildings, so future offices will need to find the most efficient ways to heat and cool buildings to provide comfortable work environments without increasing carbon emissions.

Health and wellbeing

Another significant change that offices have seen since the pandemic is a greater emphasis placed on employee health and wellbeing – and rightly so. This is likely to continue into the future as employers are further expected to protect their employees in all regards. This may materialise in more effective ventilation systems to help stop viruses from spreading, floorspace planning to reduce potential overcrowding and hand sanitising stations and other safety solutions built into buildings rather than just being added.

Other factors like natural light and office decoration have become more central in recent decades, far from the artificially lit and dreary offices of the 20th century. Open plan designs are likely to continue to be popular with architects and companies because of the potential benefits on employee motivation and wellbeing.

What will remain?

Of course, some elements of future office buildings will need to stay as they are now. As automation and technology further dominate office systems and networks, physical elements such as emergency exit hardware must remain as a backup to digital alarm and exit systems. Emergency laws and regulations will need to be updated to incorporate new building styles and technologies, but building designs will need to work within these regulations to ensure everyone is safe at work.

Other office components that will surely evolve along with building designs will be furniture such as desks, chairs and other features that make up standard offices. It will be interesting to see what developments occur and how and where people are working in 50 or even 100 years!


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.