With an ever-evolving workforce (we have five different generations working now!), it’s challenging to design workplaces that empower and enable everyone. Here are some of the office design trends we’re most excited about for their potential to serve employees.
Continued Evolution of Flexible Spaces
We’re seeing the pendulum swing back from the “open office” layout, but we’re not returning to the old days of cubicles and closed door offices. Instead, more companies are experimenting with hybrid offices and activity-based working (ABW), where you might not have fixed 1:1 seating, but you also avoid the total free-for-all of an open office.
In ABW, an office might have workstations in designated “neighborhoods” for different business groups, along with several types of meeting rooms and other collaborative spaces, “phone banks” for conference or sales calls, soft seating, and other types of workspaces meant to facilitate different types of work.
Flexible spaces also mean designing an office space that can be easily adapted and updated. If you have the mindset that the workforce and workplace will continue to evolve and change, you’ll want a workplace that can do the same. For example, demountable walls make it relatively easy to reconfigure your space as needed.
Increase in Casual Spaces
Most office buildings have some sort of soft seating, in addition to break rooms, cafes, and lounge areas. We’re seeing a push to make that seating more functional so it can accommodate impromptu meetings or planned work between teams.
We’re also seeing a demand for more soft seating or flexible seating in general. As companies start to “right-size” their footprint (when, for example, they have data showing that on average, only 60% of their desks are occupied), soft seating becomes critical when you need to accommodate the occasional heavier usage. Companies can make these areas even more attractive by making sure they have monitors, projectors, or whiteboards available.
Greater Tech Integration
The move to ABW and hybrid offices is possible—or at least, much easier—when CRE teams have a lot of good space utilization data and space planning tools. More and more, they get that data from IoT devices and other types of technology: everything from badge swipe data to beacons and sensors that show when a certain desk or conference room is in use. They can even get a good picture of employee activity and movements with technology that uses triangulation information to track devices like laptops and cell phones.
In the next few years, we’re going to see this technology get more sophisticated and seamlessly integrated into office buildings. Instead of requiring retrofits or tenant improvement projects, it will be standard for office buildings to be designed to integrate IoT tech and more.
WELL Building and Biophilic Design
Right-sizing your real estate footprint can mean getting more people to work in a smaller space. We’re learning the impacts this has on health and well-being, which is why we’re seeing a rise in buildings that are WELL certified (or at least incorporate WELL building principles) and apply biophilic design.
Buildings that comply with the WELL Building Standard have incorporated design principles that ensure environmental factors like air, water, light, and more are optimized to enhance human health. It’s holistic, looking at physical health along factors that affect mental and emotional health—for example, the standard includes guidelines on everything from daylighting levels to acoustics to create a positive, healthy environment.
Biophilic design is related. It focuses on bringing aspects of the natural world into the built environment. We often see this as companies bringing more plants or greenery into their buildings, like living walls, but it goes much deeper than that. Excellent biophilic design doesn’t just try to expose office workers to “nature,” it uses principles in nature that contribute to our well-being and productivity. For example, a building could have a lobby or atrium that creatively uses natural lighting, plants, and a water feature to simulate an exterior setting.
As fun as it is to look at office design trends, when you’re the one making design decisions, try not to get swept away with every cool new trend. First and foremost, it’s important to know your employees, how they work, and what they need to feel supported. This will keep your focus on design—trendy or not—that will have a positive impact on your workplace.