Every year, we take a look at the emerging office design trends that we believe will shape the workplace and 2018 is no different.
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Past Office Design Trends
Last year, we wrote about workplaces becoming more flexible, how workplace wellbeing was now the norm, the emergence of biophilic office design, how technology was allowing staff to work from anywhere within the physical office and how offices were introducing homelier, creature comforts for staff. If you like, have a read of our office design trends to watch in 2017 article.
Our team universally agree that many of last year’s office design trends have now become important elements of the intricate office design fabric, with some such as workplace wellbeing and technology, fundamental considerations when creating any new workplace.
The Workplace of Today
We think it’s important to provide some context and to look at how utterly unrecognisable the workplace today is compared to the workplace of 10 years ago. The modern workplace centres around staff and their experience interacting with the space. It’s not just about the physical workplace any more but more about how the space makes staff feel and what it’s like to work there. The workplace is now a critical tool that can help to attract (and retain) the best and brightest talent, and consequently companies are investing more and more to create workplaces where staff love working.
As the line between work, home and social life becomes increasingly blurred, it’s this workplace experience and how attractive a proposition it is to come into work every day that will ultimately attract the talent your business craves. And it’s not just about how the actual office design, it’s a key element but smaller, simpler things like access to a cracking cup of coffee, the ability to unwind over a game of pool or table tennis or the technology and tools available to use and work with – today’s workplace is 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 that allows them to be as creative and productive as possible. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what exciting new office design trends we think will emerge during 2018.
Rise of the unconventional work space
When we mention unconventional work spaces, 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 beanbags 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, defined as 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 practises has risen in both importance and popularity and we feel these unorthodox working and collaborative spaces will become commonplace in new offices during 2018 and beyond. Of all the office design trends, we particularly love this one as it reflects our mantra of offering staff an increased choice of work settings, allowing them to work how they like.
Introducing the open collaborative space
The open collaborative space isn’t just a fancy term for a breakout area or meeting space, it’s an open space where teams can congregate to collaborate and are often equipped with comfortable soft seating, whiteboards and screens with sharing capabilities so staff can easily share and collaborate.
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 and critically how they can serve a dual purpose by providing staff with an alternative space to be creative and to ponder 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 and as such, making them both visible and easy to use is key to their success.
Traditional meeting rooms have also been rethought and now open meeting zones that are not enclosed are becoming more popular and widespread – expect to see more of this during 2018 (and also within our next trend prediction…)
Tearing down the walls
Like our previous trend, large open spaces are very much the norm and the prevalence of the non-enclosed meeting space is evidence of this. However, what we mean by ‘tearing down the walls’ is that traditional walled partitions are becoming less popular and alternatively office designers are now using alternative materials to create dividers to define spaces like nature inspired bamboo walls with shrubbery, metal display cabinets and/or acoustic panels.
Offices are tearing down the walls to provide staff with open spaces to work and also as a subtle means to promoting a culture of openness and transparency. Enclosed meeting rooms and cubicle walls are out in favour of open, collaborative and socials spaces that are defined not by walls but by a mix of divider units (of various heights), wooden slats, carpet variances and colour.
Ironically, this office design trend has provided a greater sense of privacy in the workplace as spaces become clearly defined and staff have more choice and flexibility to work in spaces that allow for greater concentration or catch ups with colleagues. They can also prove to be more acoustically private with soft furnishings and surfaces ensuring that noise doesn’t travel.
Recharging your workplace batteries
Workplaces have always had dedicated spaces to grab a quick cuppa and to eat your lunch with many of these breakout spaces now beautifully designed social spaces resembling residential kitchens or hipster cafes. We love a great breakout space as much as the next person but what we mean here is an entirely separate area designed so staff can simply unwind and chill out, 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 beanbags for power naps to meditation spaces with yoga mats and even saunas (yes, I said 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, so a recharge room allows staff to do just that – recharge. This isn’t your typical breakout space, it’s far more personal and altogether private space where staff can close off from external sources. Simply put and in the words of Simon Millington from Incognito, quoted in Mix Magazines A-Z of trends:
“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.”
We really couldn’t have put it any better and while many companies may view a recharge space as a luxury, others are reaping the benefits of allowing staff time and space to recharge – this really is one of the more exciting office design trends, and we hope to see more examples as 2018 progresses.
Textures and Finishes – It’s all about variety
Human nature dictates that we are drawn to natural textures like wood, stone and metals and it’s this simplified principle that lies behind Biophilic Office Design, and bringing elements of the outdoors into the workplace.
Biophilic office design is a broad subject but what we have witnessed more of (and want to see a lot more of) is a variety of natural finishes and textures being used in office design, and also some unlikely combinations that conventionally wouldn’t have been used or even considered. Wood or wood inspiring flooring has become hugely popular, as has cement surfaces which we think will widespread during 2018.
The trend for unusual material combinations – metals, wood, textiles, stone – has been growing and we will see even more of this in 2018. We are big fans of combining of different textures and using subtle variations in natural hues to add depth and interest to interior spaces.
Office Design Trends – Where Next?
As mentioned earlier, the workplace has evolved rapidly over the past decade and continues to change at pace, year on year. Aspirations and demands for a Google inspired office have diminished as has the WeWork/Shoreditch look that was dominant over the past few years and while we don’t have a crystal ball, we firmly believe any workplace we design needs to reflect that specific company – there is no out of the box, one size fits all solution.
Yes, trends and learnings about what is working well can be applied to any office design but any space regardless of office design trends needs to work for that company, and that is the fundamental overarching principle we need to follow.
So, with that sermon over, what will we see more of in the next 5 years? We’ve not 100% sure but believe we’ll see major advances in workplace technology, adoption of VR/AR, workplace wellbeing will become even more prominent and workplaces will become inherently more social as home, work and social activities continue to intersect and blur into one.
We also think HR will play a more important role, working alongside workplace/facilities managers to manage the experience and to provide a work environment that ticks all of the boxes and helps to attract the very best talent – in a nutshell, we think companies will continue to strive to create better, more comfortable workplaces for staff and we’re excited to see how the office of 2023 will look (and feel).