The New Office — Creating Bump and Nudge


The merging of physical and virtual technologies, when carefully designed and created for human experience and enterprise, is on the cusp of creating the next generation of workplaces and office buildings.

We are now rapidly moving from the Web 2.0, with supercomputers in our hands and superfast networks everywhere, to Web 3.0 which connects the physical space to us in 3 dimensions. And of course, the pandemic has accelerated this transition as we suddenly were made aware of the inefficiencies and semi-redundancy of the previous generation office, with long commute times and sub-optimal work environments.

The best workplaces from the pre-pandemic era were designed to support a wide range of work tasks through ‘activity settings’ and drive collaboration and the ‘real time’ dynamic of teams and cross-team work. New building forms replaced the hierarchy-based models oft he International Style, and were instead designed around face-to-face interaction, vertical and horizontal circulation, and visual connection. Manufacturing serendipitous encounters was highly desirable in driving performance as many organisations moved to matrix structures. Designed inconvenience was implemented through the careful placement of stairs, bridges, atriums, and destinations such as cafes and support spaces. Metrics that were looked for included reducing emails, improving user satisfaction, the utilisation of work settings and density. However, for many of the best workplaces the metric most coveted was increasing the amount of interaction, or as some organisations called it–‘bump’.

Many of us now have increased flexibility and work from home or other places more than the main office. We no longer know precisely who will be in the office on any day, and many of our colleagues have only met each other virtually. The number of people in the office on any day of the week now varies widely. For new team members, particularly the introverts, it can be a daunting experience to be in the workplace as the virtual world is where the younger generations are often more native. Creating bump is no longer enough–the new office will also need to nudge.


Collins Arch, Melbourne, Australia 


What is nudge? Nudge theory has been around for 15 years or so in the virtual social media world and is used to influence our behaviour through ‘choice architecture’ of our cognitive biases–a bit like ‘designed inconvenience’ in the physical world. Examples of this include purchase suggestions, friend recommendations and targeted advertising. Our online activity through search engines and social media such as Facebook on our mobile devices also knows where and when we are in physical proximity to our friends and ‘learns’ our interests and movements to nudge us towards products. Using Web 3.0 it is now possible to merge the ways in which behaviour can be indirectly influenced by altering the environment, or choice architecture, in different ways, usually to trigger some kind of desired behavioural outcome by exploiting our natural cognitive biases.This technology can now be used in our workplaces, universities or health facilities to nudge us towards people, events or places to either improve our experience of make us or our enterprises perform better–an enhanced serendipity.

Increasingly the users of office space have become dependent on others for their workplace experience. The landlords of old were solely interested in the revenue from long term leases of space, but the future office building is now much more than empty space to be fitted out by the tenant – it is now space as a service. The rise of co-working space is an example of how the working environment and amenity is provided by professionals to create the business and social connections we need, especially for the smaller end of the space user market. Right now, organisations are looking to reduce their core space and for landlords or others to provide more space and experiences on demand as space needs now vary day by day. Many office buildings in cities around the world require significant updating to suit these new needs of tenants and users, and they will turn to their architects and co-working operator to refresh their space offer. New buildings will be different than the previous generations. However, the physical architecture, amenity and concierge experience is no longer enough. The physical needs to be seamlessly integrated with the digital, with nudge theory and the sensor technology of Web 3.0 to create the next generation of office building.  Bump and nudge.



James Calder, Global Leader, User Strategy– ERA-co

James is a practitioner, facilitator, author and part-time educator interested in all facets of the strategy, design and use of the learning and workplace environment. He has extensive experience in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific with the world’s preeminent organisations across many education types and most business sectors. His work at the highest levels of leadership gives him a unique perspective on the opportunities for the future workplace of users, organisations and suppliers, and in the issues associated with the planning and design of space and amenity.