August 27, 2015

When we last looked at contemporary office design trends, we found many companies striving to make the workplace a more liveable, comfortable space to be in. There’s also an increasing desire to ameliorate the effects of the collaborative open office by providing pockets of privacy and enclosed space, allowing workers to “hear themselves think” when they need to.

So what does the future hold for office design trends? It looks like these aspects will continue, and also that sustainability and ergonomic comfort will become increasingly important factors in design. As well, developments in technology will continue to shape our workspace and how – and where – we use it.

Geyer HWT

The “Liveable” Office

As companies become more focused on encouraging employee engagement, office design itself has become a tool in this quest. A workplace that is comfortable to spend time in, with an environment that offers a blend of work and home, is more likely to attract and keep workers. This is also growing in importance as the baby boomers age out of the workforce and millennials enter it in increasing numbers; to this younger generation, it’s important that their workplace reflects their ideals and is enjoyable to be a part of. So how will the office designers of the future go about addressing these new worker requirements?

Fit-Out Materials

Office design trends are indicating an increasing popularity of “natural” materials such as felt, wool, timber and cork in office fit-outs. Such materials meet two purposes: first of all, they provide a reference and a touchstone to the natural, outside world, which has been found to promote a sense of well-being for office workers. Second, their relative softness creates a more comfortable and comforting environment to spend time in.

There is also an increasing emphasis on transparency in the workplace, both literally and figuratively. This is manifesting in fit-outs with an increasing use of glass partitioning to create light, airy spaces even when there are “walls”. This also serves to increase the sense of collaboration, as well as achieving a decrease in formality and hierarchical use of space.

Ergonomics

There’s a growing emphasis on the use of ergonomic furniture in our office spaces to promote literal comfort, allowing our bodies to handle the physical demands of work for longer and with less wear and tear. This has resulted in furniture design innovations such as the Kinetic desk by Stur, which can be adjusted to suit the height requirements of individual workers. These can even be pre-programmed and allow the user to change the desk from a sitting to a standing model as needed. These kinds of developments are likely just a hint of future furniture design to come.

Sustainability

It’s becoming increasingly important to take care of our impact on the environment. Design initiatives such as individually controlled light and temperature settings allow workers to have control over their environment, helping to lessen both ecological and economic impact.

“Fun-Space” in the Office

funofficeThe work-life balance is an age-old problem that has been with us since work was separated from the home. However, recent office design trends have striven to provide a resolution within the work space itself – as well as motivation to spend more time in the office This has resulted in a huge range of innovations, from sleep pods and arcade games through to health and well-being initiatives such as at-work yoga sessions and the presence of office pets.

 

 

The Impact of Technology

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The advent of the computer has had a huge impact on the layout of the office, tying workers irrevocably to their desks once they’d shrunk down enough for each employee to have their own. However, as technology has grown more mobile, the worker has had increasing opportunities to as well.

Now that cloud computing has putatively cut the final tie, the possibilities for mobility are even greater. For many companies, this may radically alter the overall structure of their office – for example, whereas executives were once guaranteed to get the largest offices, some are now opting to take smaller spaces or even share an open space, since they are not as bound to the physical location in the same way that other workers, such as software engineers, may be.

Other offices have interpreted this development in a different way, such as Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor, which has no fixed seating to encourage greater mixing within the workforce.

Other offices have interpreted this development in a different way, such as Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor, which has no fixed seating to encourage greater mixing within the workforce.

 

 

The Collaborative Office

All this may make it seem as though the office itself could be dead in the future – however, many workplaces still place strong value in retaining a physical location for their workers. That’s because collaboration between employees boosts productivity – and there are hard numbers to back that up.

Studies on productivity using wearables on workers have shown that when they are able to mingle, productivity increases. Informal conversations spark ideas – for example, Gmail was the result of chatting between engineers. Interestingly, talk between employees from different parts of the company can be even more productive, and even encountering a person from outside the company altogether can stimulate ideas. This kind of information has resulted in Samsung creating outdoor spaces between floors to encourage mingling between different sectors of staff. It’s also shown that it’s smart not to underestimate the value of naturally communal parts of your workspace such as cafeterias – many offices are increasing the comfort of their cafe areas, and fitting them out so they can function as informal meeting spaces as well as recreational ones.

What Suits You?

While all these developments are exciting, it’s important to remember there’s no one-size-fits-all solution – not all innovations will be right for all workplaces. If you need professional advice on what might work best for your company, get in touch with Criterion, the office fit-out experts – we’re always ready to provide advice!

Where would you like to take your office in the future? Let us know in the comments!


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