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Reworking the workplace: connecting people, purpose and place

7/31/2023

Work and community have long been intertwined. Centuries ago, people worked in the communities they lived in, and in many cultures and countries, they still do. Mixed-use urban centers have formed bustling ecosystems, anchored by places of cultural enhancement and community connection such as churches, town halls, markets and public houses.

However, with globalization, these ecosystems have been supplanted. Until, recently, the pandemic pushed a mass adoption of hybrid work and forced a reassessment of the community's role.

As hybrid work has multiplied job possibilities, the communities in which workers interact have become more varied.

The role of communities
The foundation for human connection is rooted in our biology and our evolutionary need to be together in order to be included within the tribe. Community is at the center of civilization and is central to happiness and survival.
'Place' contextualizes the community. The scale of the place informs the nature of the communities that develop there. People in small, isolated places tend to develop deep community ties with a small number of people, while people who live in large cities tend to form looser connections with a larger number of people.
As hybrid work has multiplied job possibilities, the communities in which workers interact have become more varied.
Reworking the Workplace proposes four modern work communities:

Social Communities – Workers thrive from deliberate engagement with external communities. Now people come to the city to work, but also to get involved in the wider spectrum of activities that city centers offer. In this context, outdoor convenience and places to build meaningful communities with others become an important component of the office worker's value proposition.

Entrepreneurial Communities – The strength of a business comes through a connected ecosystem of suppliers, customers and competitors. The agglomerations add value to the place and tend to form as communities of mutual interest. This is particularly the case for entrepreneurial communities that focus on small or small-scale, creative, technological and science-based occupiers.

In contrast to more mature agglomerations, entrepreneurial communities experience rapid growth, rapid bankruptcy and business restarts. This dynamic environment depends on a high volume of shared information, transferable labor and mutual support.

Temporal Communities – Not all communities need to be enduring. Specific communities of projects or experiences can generate value as a catalyst for innovation or regeneration. Modern place creation strategies address this through the creation of "pop-ups" and other activation activities.

A balance needs to be found between creating new opportunities and retaining what makes a place special. Temporal communities help to avoid "clean" gentrification.

The communities that form around these uses can transition into permanent working and social communities over time. Some function as a bridge to the future.

Regenerative communities – As uses change and places take on new purposes, galvanizing and nurturing new communities generates economic and social benefits.

Challenges
As the model of work changes and sustainability standards increase, the obsolescence rate in office stock is expected to increase significantly.
In previous industrial shifts, economic obsolescence created challenges for both communities and the physical fabric of cities.

However, just as the factories of the industrial age gave way to the lofts of the service economy, new uses will be found for outdated offices.
The biggest challenge for both society and the real estate sector is establishing, managing and curating the new communities that emerge.

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