Navigating the Evolution of Workplace: Beyond Headcount to Next-Gen Workplaces

In the ever-changing landscape of corporate real estate, the past year has witnessed a seismic shift in how companies utilize their spaces. As trophy assets remain vacant, occupiers are strategically rethinking real estate’s purpose, cost and space allocations. 

First, let's explore the transformative trends that have shaped the present and gaze into the crystal ball to predict the dynamic future of workplace design.


Recent Observations:

  • Human-centered amenities and work point variety: Companies are focusing on worker well-being by offering a palette of amenities that restore, provide shelter and belonging.
  • A departure from the one-size-fits-all approach, organizations are providing more places to be productive, called “work points,” to enhance one’s sense of autonomy and accommodate a variety of needs.
  • Flat occupancy levels drive the rise of hot-desking: Occupancy rates have plateaued, hovering around half of pre-pandemic levels... paving the way for the successful adoption of hot-desking and flexible work policies. Many organizations are currently piloting a structured hybrid approach.
  • Sustained employee empowerment: The top-down approach to office decisions has shifted.  Employees are now expecting active engagement in shaping policies, defining space requirements, and influencing benefit programs


The changes mentioned above are influencing a profound transformation in both the amount of space we utilize, but the typology of functions to support. Challenging traditional norms that once dictated space requirements solely based on headcount, the question on every company's mind is no longer just "How much space do we really need?" but rather, "How can we create a modern-day space program that aligns with the dynamic nature of flexible work?"

Biorhythm-Informed Work Scheduling? Holoportation? Let’s explore the next-gen considerations for a modern-day space program.

What are the new ingredients to the programming recipe and what is around the corner for workplace disruption?


1. While headcount remains crucial, each hybrid worker will drive new metrics for space allocation.  A modern, nuanced approach considers activity norms (often grouped and classified as a “Worker Persona”) and their flexible work arrangements prior to assigning a quantity and work point typology.  This variety of work point designations is yielding not only new space ratios, but a whole host of user protocols to socialize.  This is too, why change management and organizational culture is a new line item on most project budgets.  Forgetting the human factor of change may put your new investment at risk.

2. Beyond hybrid and remote work, organizations are recognizing a heightened responsibility to support to employee well-being.  Cognitive performance will replace ergonomics through a palette of human-centered amenities that restore, provide shelter and belonging.  Offices will aim to minimize cognitive load, reduce distractions, and enhance mental well-being, ultimately improving focus and productivity.  Additionally, offices will prioritize inclusive design principles to accommodate neurodiversity and support physical disabilities. Some organizations are introducing amenities like “do-not-disturb” zones, nap rooms, prayer rooms, and low-sensory spaces.  These net new amenities disrupt the program excel sheets of the past, and offer ingenuity to the future work experience.

3. Acknowledging diverse work needs, a one-size-fits-all desk approach is becoming obsolete. Personalization and individualization are crucial in designing for a diverse workforce. “Work Point” diversity for varied workflows will disrupt the “copy/ paste” sea of workstation from the past. Moreover, future offices might consider employees' natural biorhythms when planning work schedules. Flexible work hours and personalized schedules aligned with individual circadian rhythms could optimize productivity and well-being. 

4. Rapid advancements in technology are reshaping the workplace. While futuristic tech like Holoportation is on the horizon, most offices are still adapting to basic accommodations for virtual and hybrid meetings.  Technology Infrastructure & emerging tools are reshaping programs, disrupting budgets and setting new expectations for how work gets done.  Looking into the future, advancements in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) drive a need for new, immersive work environments. Virtual meeting spaces, holographic simulations, and augmented workspaces will redefine how teams interact. New wearable accessories will be prevalent, as brain-computer interfaces may support memory recall, decision-making, and problem-solving.

5. Predictive workforce and business analytics are driving the future of growth modeling. We’ve seen a shift from relying on old business cycles to dependance on predictive workforce analytics and define what’s in store for headcount growth and industry expansion plans. Sensor technology and organizational network analysis can document and predict  worker interaction, which can inform not only the quantity, but adjacency of different room types and amenities. Biofeedback Integration is a futuristic concept that incorporates biofeedback technologies to observe and respond to employees' physiological states. Advanced emotional analytics tools can gauge the emotional well-being of employees, and smart buildings could adjust adaptive lighting, temperature, and soundscapes based on individuals' stress levels and well-being.


The shift from a headcount-centric approach to a more dynamic, adaptable model signifies the evolving nature of work. The future of workplace strategy lies in creating environments that are as ingenious as they are functional, fostering a workplace culture that is both empathetic and forward-thinking.

Embracing next-gen solutions ensures workplaces are not only responsive to contemporary work dynamics but also prioritize the health, happiness, and productivity of the workforce. 

The next-generation, human-centered workplace holds the power to provide exponential benefits to an organization and its people. After all, a space designed around the principles of ingenuity, comfort, and functionality not only enhances the well-being of individuals but also positively impacts the organization and its extended community.

About Jenny West 

Jenny West, Vice President of Workplace Solutions & Project Management, leads vision and strategy to drive growth for these service lines at Cresa. Jenny’s national leadership role helps Cresa’s Client Solutions Platform make an impact in today’s quickly evolving workplace. Connecting to Cresa’s clients and community, Jenny can be found sharing and creating thought leadership while integrating Cresa’s network of subject matter experts to address complex challenges. Jenny builds synergy internally, to enhance operational excellence and integration of best practices across geographies. She is based in the firm’s Denver office.