We’ve put together 23 creative office design ideas that can be used to improve workspaces of all sizes and types. Whether you’re looking to improve your office, or moving offices and looking for design ideas, there’s something in here for everyone. We hope you find these ideas useful and inspiring.
- Hybrid workspaces
- Eye-catching office entrances
- Maximising natural light
- Improving fresh air and natural ventilation
- Optimising office space
- Designing for workplace wellbeing
- Ergonomics and the end of endless sitting
- The use of multiple colours
- Artwork in the workplace
- Agile, flexible working
- Technology in the workplace
- Smart office design
- Home comforts in the workplace
- Biophilic Office Space – bringing the outdoors indoors
- A focus on health and wellness
- Evidence-based office design
- Relaxing breakout areas
- Unconventional workspaces
- Creating open spaces
- Creating quiet spaces
- Reducing office partitioning
- Relax and unwind spaces
- Textures and finishes
Without question, the biggest change in the last year is the shift towards hybrid working. ONS data shows that 85% of UK working individuals favoured a balance of office and home working (the hybrid working model) compared to 52% enjoying the same balance in the United States. Empowering staff to proactively choose how and where they want to work is critical. Offices should be versatile spaces including quiet areas for concentration, creative spaces for collaboration, and relaxing spaces to unwind. These can have a positive impact on both productivity and staff wellbeing.
The return to the workplace, amidst radical change toward hybrid working, has also given creative licence to companies to make significant office design improvements. Rishad Tobaccowala, the CEO of Publicis, likens hybrid companies in this sense to ‘software releases that take shape over time. Far from being static, offices should be under constant review. When reviewing space plans and layout options, our office design team always recommend including these dedicated spaces for concentration, collaboration, and relaxation, in addition to the traditional workstations, which are equally important. For a full detailed review, see our 2022 definitive guide on hybrid office design.
If studies on first impressions are any guide, you only have 27 seconds to make a good first impression. Additionally, 70% of people form their first impressions before any communication takes place. Office entrances (reception areas, lobbies, entryways, and corridors) are key elements in creating first impressions for a company brand. Think about the snap judgments formed by visitors, clients, prospective candidates, and new starters as they are exposed for the first time to your office reception area or lobby. Reception desks should be more than a cosmetic afterthought, they should be a design-led centrepiece that expresses the corporate identity.
Our client, Instinctif Partners, is exemplary of this, with a reception desk that highlights the brand identity right at the point of entering the building.
Waiting areas are equally important. A good example of this is the work we did for the International Security Forum (ISF). We wanted the reception and waiting area to have an immediate impact on visitors. We achieved this by using bold aluminium cast lettering of the ISF logo, which we positioned against a patterned wood wall. The whole feature was illuminated with directional spotlights.
With 80-90% of our days spent indoors, it may not be surprising that natural light is an important factor in planning office spaces. In fact, an HR poll of 1,614 employees, published in the Harvard Business Review, shows access to natural light is the number one attribute workers want in their office environment. Further studies have shown that increasing natural light can have a significant impact on everything from mood to creativity and concentration.
Natural light is an important consideration in office design. Improving natural light can be achieved through effective space planning. For instance, creating open-plan workspaces optimises natural light. Similarly, including glazed partitioning allows light to filter throughout the workplace.
The benefits of fresh air are numerous. 20% of the air we breathe is used by the brain; so having fresh air ultimately leads to clearer thinking, focus and concentration. Studies have also proven that oxygenated blood can significantly elevate brain serotonin synthesis. This in turn can elevate a sense of happiness and well-being in the workplace. In fact, a Havard study of 7 US cities found that doubling the acceptable rate of ventilation in office buildings led to an 8% increase in employee productivity.
In addition to the psychological advantage of fresh air, there are also physiological benefits. When working indoors breathing tends to be shallow (inhaling air into the top part of the lungs, or apical breathing). When you’re outdoors, moving around, either walking, jogging, or running, it encourages increased diaphragmatic breathing. This process of deep breathing not only helps you inhale more oxygen but also helps you exhale more toxins.
Breathing fresh air has other health benefits. Viruses and bacteria have a reduced survival rate when air is constantly circulating. Conversely, it thrives indoors where the air is warm and humid. Low-quality indoor air can lead to various ailments including headaches, fatigue, and sometimes chronic illness, such as allergies and respiratory illnesses.
Ventilation has also become particularly relevant in recent times with the spread of COVID-19 variants. It is now part of government guidance to encourage the circulation of air in closed spaces. When a person with COVID-19 breathes, coughs, or sneezes, they release particles (aerosols) containing viruses. In poorly ventilated office spaces these particles remain suspended in the air. As the particles gather, the chance of transmitting the virus increases. Letting fresh air into a confined office space significantly reduces the chance of airborne transmission.
Here’s a couple of ideas for designing your office to maximise fresh air:
- Utilising existing outdoor spaces: providing easy access to outdoor spaces is a must, whether it’s gardens, terraces, balconies, or rooftop areas.
- Encourage Open-Air Team Meetings: provisioning outdoor spaces not just for lunch breaks but also work activities is another way to encourage more engagement and productivity while keeping employees happy and healthy.
We anticipate that in line with health guidance, 2022 will involve a lot more use of open-air furniture and offices being designed to make more use of their outdoor areas.
Office space utilisation has become increasingly important. All workplaces contain a number of “in-between spaces” or “dead spaces”. Think corridors, under stairs and other nooks and crannies that have not previously been utilised for any purpose. One of the most prevalent current office design trends is the increasing use of these unconventional spaces which are transformed into functional work areas in the form of small huddle booths, informal meeting spaces or even private one-person pods.
As companies embrace a more flexible way of working, office design has endeavoured to be far more space-efficient. Giving serious consideration to how to optimise any space and thinking creatively about how to use otherwise dead space areas can be a thoroughly worthwhile task, and it can result in the inclusion of an array of new workspaces that allow staff to work effectively and in an increasingly agile manner.
While the manual rationalising of space is a good first step, there are more technically advanced solutions. Occupancy monitoring systems integrated into smart offices, like Irisys’s True Occupancy, acts as a single source of truth, by capturing and assimilating data on how the office is used on a day-to-day basis. This is achieved with state of the art intelligence sensors that provide objective data on things like desk occupancy, and people counting sensors at entry and exit points (doorways, zones, and stairwell entries on various floorplates). The sensors only need to be installed at key locations, making the occupancy counting very scalable and cost-effective. Through integrated dashboards, occupancy data can also be brought together with other Smart Office technology such as HVAC and lighting control systems, and meeting room booking systems.
Wellbeing in the workplace is crucial and it’s becoming increasingly important alongside growing health concerns (work-related stress and mental health) as well as the prevailing COVID 19 pandemic. However, according to the CIPD, only around 50% of the UK workplace have a formal wellbeing strategy. Mind (the UK’s leading mental health charity) may be a good place to start for any UK company looking to improve employee wellbeing. In addition to offering free advice and workplace surveys to companies of 20 employees and above, they also celebrate achievements with the Workplace Wellbeing Awards.
From a design perspective, workplace wellbeing has many different elements. Some of the workplace wellbeing initiatives currently used include:
- Showers to facilitate staff cycling or running to work
- Scheduling lunchtime yoga and staff massages
- Adequate bike storage and cycle parking areas to encourage cycle-to-work
- Including fruit and healthy snacks, and a range of healthy hot drinks
Designing for workplace wellbeing is likely to become more important as competition to attract and retain the very best staff intensifies. Many companies are creating staff centric workplaces with well-being at their core. The benefits of designing any workplace with wellbeing as a key priority are numerous, and consequently, companies may find it useful to spend time thinking about how wellbeing can be improved.
Further reading on Workplace Wellbeing
- Harvard Business Review –The No 1 Office Perk – Natural Light
- Newday – Benefits of Natural Light in the Workplace
- Mind – Index Insight Report
- Mind – Workplace Wellbeing Index
There is mounting scientific evidence of the detrimental health effects of prolonged sitting. As the trend towards health and workplace wellbeing continues, we may well see fundamental changes in the way offices are designed. For instance, Barbara Visser, a visual artist, has designed a conceptual working environment with surfaces that allow working without sitting (i.e. by leaning or standing). While we might be some way from the complete end of sitting, practical applications of this principle already exist.
Humanscale Diffrient World Chair – A Leader in Ergonomic Office Chairs
- Ergonomic office chairs that accommodate natural movement and encourage good posture
- Sit-stand desks that allow better posture and avoid repetitive strain when sitting
- Tall tables to encourage standing meetings
- Breakout areas with motivational seating to avoid pure desk-based work
- Hybrid office spaces that encourage movement and reduce repetitive strain.
Colour can make a big impression. While many companies look to just use their own brand palette, we always recommend considering other tones which subtly denote what certain spaces are designed for. For instance, soft colours improve concentration, and vibrant colours enhance collaboration and creativity. You can find out more in our dedicated article focusing on the relationship between Colour and Office Design.
Traditionally offices have included uniform furniture – chairs of one type, and all the same colours. The idea that everything must match perfectly is a dated one. Colour ultimately has a significant impact on the mood and productivity of employees. Using a mix of pantones in office furniture can lift the mood of an office and its staff. Different styles, brands, finishes and fabrics of office chairs, can help create a fun office environment to work in. In a recent fit out for the Cripplegate Foundation, we used eclectic seating to liven up their breakout and tea point areas. As the client puts it:
In the beginning, we were invited to see their new office that had many features we wanted for our space. A bit of colour, a less corporate look, and a more friendly/funky place where people can feel at ease. It’s a place to share ideas, enjoy lunch, and host formal meetings.
Creating office interiors that feel fun, friendly, and relaxing places to work can be achieved by other means too, such as artwork.
Artwork in the workplace has numerous positive effects. It has a powerful impact on mental health and wellbeing by creating a sense of calmness. It also improves productivity and creativity and softens the mood in an office.
Art is also a crucial part of a company’s brand identity. It forms unique elements in the workplace that gives an office an authentic feel, a sense of community and belonging. A good example of this is Clyde & Co’s art programme which allows young and upcoming artists to exhibit their work in their various office locations across London and other global offices. Each year the company holds an art auction where members of the law firm and the general public get to bid on artwork. In addition, Clyde & Co have a partnership with the Perspective Project, a social enterprise that aims to tackle the mental health stigma through art and creativity.
While the pandemic put flexible working centre stage, the transition to flexible working has long been in motion. We’ve seen it in various forms – from job sharing and flexitime to working from home, part-time work, staggered hours and compressed hours. It is indeed a key feature of the modern workplace; and having an agile, flexible, and adaptable office is crucial in matching the needs of the workforce and attracting and retaining the best talent.
With staff spending an increasing amount of time away from their desk, and more time at home, the workplace design response to this trend is to provide an array of areas and furniture fittings to match their needs. Flexible, agile and hybrid working design strategies include the use of multifunctional working spaces, the creation of collaborative work areas, and the selection of furniture that reconfigures for different purposes. Having adaptable collaborative workplaces allows teams of different sizes to move around the office. Think about creating space to walk around, jot down notes, brainstorm with whiteboard sessions, or meet to discuss things over a cup of coffee.
Creating spaces that easily adapt to the different requirements can be supported with clever choices of furniture, for example, chairs and tables that can be easily moved and reconfigured, or shelving that can easily form a divider creating bespoke areas within an open-plan office environment.
The modern office has come to rely extensively on technology to remain competitive, achieve efficiencies and improve employee productivity. Perhaps most alluring, is that the investment in technology often helps cut down the time and money required to achieve tasks. Technology allows workplaces to automate and rationalise operational processes and daily activities. It enables employees to get essential work done even outside the office, as well as keep in touch with colleagues.
The design implications of technology in the office are numerous; from virtual team-based collaboration tools, to space optimisation software to support the reconfiguration of furniture. Touchless technology is also becoming increasingly common in the assignment of desks, booking of rooms and opening and closing of doors.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are also helping to make work smarter and more efficient. Think about the use of digital access maps and occupancy sensors in various parts of the office. There’s also the need for plug-and-play ports (USB charging, docking stations etc.) to cater for mobile hotdesking. Security is also a key feature including access to the office and access control of various parts of the building.
We’re starting to see buildings becoming increasingly embedded and integrated into the digital world that surrounds us. This isn’t some technology fad, it’s a trend that’s here to stay. In fact, the smart office market is currently valued at US$ 31.35 billion (23.09 billion pounds) and is expected to triple in value by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11%.
A key driver for this growth is advancements in digital sensors that feedback data and help companies make an informed decision on a who range of things, from energy and cost savings to decisions on health and safety and occupancy. If you’re interested in reading more, we’ve written a full guide on smart office design and the development of smart buildings.
As the workplace evolves, we are starting to see elements of the home becoming more widely used. From comfortable seating and reclining lamps, to break rooms, tea points, and growing interest in plants in office spaces (see our article on biophilic office design).
Creating a wam home environment with colourful sofas, chairs and tables helps staff and visitors to unwind and relax. This, in turn, is credited with boosting productivity and allowing staff to be at their creative best.
How does the office benefit from bringing nature indoors? There is lots of anecdotal evidence of the good feelings that come from interacting with nature – our so-called “nature fix”. But what evidence is there for it? In an experiment, students at the University of Michigan were given a brief memory test, They were then divided into two groups and asked to take a walk. The first group walked through an arboretum and the 2nd group along a busy city street. When they returned, both groups wrote the test again. The group that walked in natural surroundings did 20% better than the group that walked along a busy city street.
But it’s not only the effects on memory, plants can also impact our mood, lower our stress levels, as well as have various other health benefits. Another study showed that people spending just two hours a week with nature reported improved health and greater satisfaction than those that didn’t.
This principle of interacting with nature is being embedded into the office in the form of biophilic office design. From the inclusion of plant life in various parts of the office to living walls and rooftop gardens. Plants have numerous benefits including the separation and zoning of office space, improvement in office aesthetics, and improvement in air quality.
Further reading on Biophilia
- K2 Space – Biophilic Office Design
- The Biophilia Hypothesis and Anthropocentric Environmentalism
- Biophilia and biomimicry: evolutionary adaptation of human versus nonhuman nature
- Biophilia as a Universal Ethic for conversing biodiversity
- Health benefits of Biophilia
- Biophilia Hypothesis
- ‘Nature and I are Two’: A Critical Examination of the Biophilia Hypothesis
- Biophilic Design – Here Are The Stats.
Workplace wellbeing has been around forever, or so it seems, and while once seen as a fad, it is now becoming the accepted norm in organisations of all sizes. But this is particularly true post-pandemic with the transition back to work. More and more companies are becoming health conscious and embracing proactive workplace wellbeing programmes and promoting them as part of the employment package in what is a particularly competitive market to attract the best talent. Great staff want to work in the best possible environment and as a result workplace wellbeing has shifted towards the top of the agenda.
The future workplace will further embrace wellbeing and in time, we could start to see the transformation of the traditional HR role and the emergence of a wellbeing function within the office.
So, how is workplace wellbeing being embraced and what can we expect to see more of? There is no simple answer here as workplace wellbeing tends to mean different things to different organisations. For larger employers, it can mean including a gym facility for staff to provide sit-stand desking solutions that promote increased movement and less sedentary working. For others, it can mean the inclusion of bike storage and showers to encourage cycling to work and in some cases, lunchtime running clubs.
What we will certainly see more of, is companies encouraging staff to get up and move around the workplace and as such sit-stand desk solutions are becoming hugely popular as are standing meetings which have proven to be shorter, yet more efficient. The standing workplace is something to watch out for.
The workplace of today centres around the individual and this is not likely to change any time soon as workplace wellbeing grows in importance. Companies have also grown to understand that workplace induced stress is the biggest health-related issue that employees face and consequentially, they are working to create a more relaxed and healthier work environment for everyone.
You’ve probably encountered surveys, in one form or another, assessing how staff feel about home working. This type of data is useful in making design decisions. With the cost of renting office space, many organisations are adopting an evidence-based office design approach to assist decisions, such as the number of workspaces, the placement of collaborative areas, and the overall space needed prior to an office move or following the return to work in a more hybrid office environment.
This evidence-based office design approach also means changes in project management. Consultants and designers will need to engage more with staff and stakeholders through workshops, utilisation studies and observational analysis to determine what any future workplace needs to deliver. From these various channels, evidence is gathered which is in turn used to influence design so the space can be optimised.
Workplace strategists and designers will continue to work closely, and far more than ever before, to create initial concepts and space plans that support both the qualitative and quantitative data previously gathered. While the approach isn’t new, we do feel that it will grow in importance and will become increasingly commonplace for all designs in 2022 and beyond.
A well-designed workplace will understand where staff spend their time, who works closely with who, and the types of spaces that people need. The rise of evidence-based office design is helping designers to create workplaces with hard evidence, rather than on the assumptions and opinions of senior stakeholders.
Evidence-based office design will grow in importance as companies strive to design offices that truly work and that provide staff with the necessary tools and space to be productive.
A breakout area is a space separate from the usual working area where employees can relax, eat, socialise, and have informal discussions and meetings. The modern workplace centres around staff and their experience interacting with the space. It’s not just about the physical workplace anymore but more about how the space makes staff feel and what it’s like to work there. A workplace is now a critical tool that can help to attract (and retain) the best and brightest talent, and consequently, companies are increasingly investing in creating workplaces where staff love working.
Break out area design is affected by an increasingly blurred line between work, home, and social life. This is particularly prominent in the post-pandemic workspace where employees are used to the comforts of home. Companies can benefit from making workspaces fun, relaxing spaces that ultimately attract the right talent that a business craves. And it’s not just about the actual office design. It’s a key element but smaller, simpler things are equally important – like access to a great cup of coffee, the ability to unwind over a game of pool or table tennis, or the technology and tools available to get work done most effectively. Today’s workplace is indeed all about offering a more holistic experience to staff and ultimately, office design is now all about designing that experience.
It’s also worth noting that as working styles become increasingly fluid and agile, the key trend has been all about providing staff with a space that is comfortable, makes them happy and healthier and allows them to be as creative and productive as possible.
When we mention unconventional workspaces, what we mean are those areas that in the past have not been used or even considered as spaces where staff could work from – think corridors, nooks and crannies, or even an open space under the stairs with bean bags or sofas. Technology has of course driven this trend and enabled staff to work from anywhere within the workplace with plug and play spaces located throughout many offices.
However, the ‘Third Space’ has long been a debated concept amongst office designers and how these spaces (any area away from the desk and meeting room where staff can work) could best be utilised. Increasingly, companies are looking for space efficiencies, so creating these unconventional areas alongside adopting more flexible, agile work practices have risen in both importance and popularity.
Open collaborative office space design isn’t just a fancy phrase for a breakout area or meeting space. An open space is where teams can congregate to collaborate. These open spaces are often equipped with comfortable soft seating, whiteboards, and screens with sharing capabilities so staff can easily share ideas.
While a collaborative zone or space isn’t a new phenomenon or office design trend, it is how they are constructed and located within the office landscape. Critically it’s about how they can serve a dual purpose by providing staff with an alternative space to be creative and discuss ideas. That marks them out as different. Their open nature is also key as they are designed to encourage and promote increased collaboration. As such, it makes them both visible and easy to use is key to their success.
With all the benefits of open plan offices, there are also challenges. Studies have shown that over 50% of people have difficulty concentrating in open plan offices, with an estimated 15% decrease in productivity due to lack of concentration. A popular solution for the noise created in open plan offices is acoustic pods and booths. They allow for one-on-one meetings and team meetings, while also providing ‘quiet zones’ for creativity and relaxation. Unlike the traditional use of cubicles and glass room dividers, small meeting pods and booths don’t require planning permission. Pods come in different shapes and sizes to suit different purposes. From two-person meeting pods to hybrid pods fitted with video conferencing, there’s a range to suit all formats. Ultimately, they achieve a happier and more productive workforce in a space with less rigid divisions.
Traditional walled partitions are becoming less popular and alternatively, office designers are now using alternative materials to create dividers to define spaces. Examples include nature-inspired bamboo walls with shrubbery, metal display cabinets and acoustic panels, and crate shelving with plants.
Offices are removal walls hard divisions to provide staff with open spaces to work and as a subtle means to promote a culture of openness and transparency. Enclosed meeting rooms and cubicle walls are out in favour of open, collaborative, and social spaces that are defined not by walls, but by a mix of divider units, wooden slats, carpet variances and colour.
Workplaces have always had dedicated spaces to grab a quick cuppa and to eat lunch. Many of these breakout spaces are now beautifully designed social spaces resembling residential kitchens or cafes. We love a great breakout space as much as the next person, but what we mean here is an entirely separate area that is designed so that staff can simply unwind, chill out, or even take a nap.
While breakout spaces have traditionally acted as spaces for staff to socialise and unwind, the notion of creating a dedicated recharge space has gained traction with some companies including everything from giant bean bags for power naps to meditation spaces with yoga mats and saunas.
The thinking behind these spaces reflects the idea that tired, or mentally drained staff, are far less productive and certainly not at their creative best. A recharge room allows staff to do just that – recharge. This isn’t your typical breakout space, it’s a far more personal and altogether private space where staff can close off from external sources. Simply put, in the words of Simon Millington from Incognito:
“Employees can’t sustain the high levels of productivity expected of them without the opportunity to spend a small portion of time zoning out, relaxing and recharging.”
Source: quoted in Mix Magazines A-Z of trends
Human nature dictates that we are drawn to natural textures like wood, stone and metals. It’s this simple principle that lies behind Biophilic Office Design by bringing elements of the outdoors into the workplace.
What we have witnessed is more of a variety of natural finishes and textures being used in office design, and some unlikely combinations that conventionally wouldn’t have been used or even considered. Wood or wood-inspired flooring has become hugely popular, as has cement surfaces. The trend for unusual material combinations – metals, wood, textiles and stone – has been growing and we will see even more of this. We are big fans of combining different textures and using subtle variations in natural hues to add depth and interest to interior spaces.