Modern office design professionals have their work cut out for them.
This is especially the case in 2017, when the likes of Square, Zappos, LinkedIn and other forward-looking companies are showing off innovative office layouts featuring movable desks, music rooms, social hubs and other inventive workspace design elements.
FROM INGENIOUS TO PLAYFUL
Fort Worth-based iProspect has created a curved “brain room” without corners to promote collaboration. SWA Group in San Francisco greets visitors with a “culture wall” of photos, inspirational quotes and work examples. Baton Rouge-based Lamar Advertising uses landscape design to bring the outdoors in for a natural, relaxing vibe. At Brooklyn Boulders Summerville, workers can spend their breaks crawling up rock-climbing walls. At Pixar, they work in little huts instead of cubicles. At Google, they can zoom down slides or play ping pong.
Such innovative—and, some say, gimmicky—workspace design trends are raising millennials’ expectations of what a workplace should look and feel like, with many now expecting the office to be an inviting lounge area or a playground.
THE MILLENNIAL EFFECT
Up until fairly recently, little time and attention went into office space design. Functionality, affordability, and a pleasant enough appearance were the priorities. Hardly anybody was focusing on how natural light, office layouts, colors, greenery and other workplace design elements affected employee productivity and satisfaction. That’s all changed.
Now that more laid back, tech-savvy, highly mobile millennials are taking over the workforce and jumping jobs, companies are understanding that they need to incorporate innovative office space design elements to attract, engage and retain top talent.
For many millennials, the workplace represents a corporate culture they must embrace and belong to in order to stay long enough to make a meaningful contribution. They see the office as a space for collaboration, not isolation, as part of their individual identity and as something meant to be a positive experience, not as a place where they work a certain number of hours per week.
GOOD DESIGN = HAPPY WORKERS = HAPPY COMPANIES
According to office design and human resources experts, holistic design strategies can make workers happier, more engaged and productive, which in turn can make companies more successful. It therefore makes sense to consider the office space design trends expected to dominate 2017.
1. Flexible Layouts
The permanent layout is an endangered species. Office layout flexibility is an exploding trend as traditional office spaces that are planned in advance and set in permanent layouts prove inadequate for an ever-changing work landscape.
A well-designed workspace should be able to accommodate change. Modular components designed to have every element move into place and fit together without rules based on planning are ideally suited for current workspace trends as well as future space needs.
Your organization’s needs will probably change in the near future—it could be months or a few years, but they will change—and you need to be able to adapt. Future-proof your company by incorporating same-size office modules in the planning stage and using demountable partitions, folding walls, reconfigurable systems and portable furniture that will allow you to reshuffle the deck whenever your business needs demand it.
2. Chameleonic Workspaces
The office is going through an identity crisis. Cubicles are disappearing, replaced by benches, which in turn are being replaced by non-assigned work areas that end up as multipurpose spaces. These can be used for everything: day-to-day work, break areas, multimedia presentations, meetings, etc.
“My space” is becoming “our space.” As technology gets smaller, schedules become more flexible and workers grow increasingly mobile, companies are reducing or completely eliminating dedicated personal workspaces and creating common working areas. Hot-desking policies, which let employees choose where to sit on a first come, first served basis, are living up to their name. Attitudes are shifting away from owning a desk and toward being part of a community.
Designated lounge areas are growing in popularity, and why wouldn’t they? Lounge areas offer comfortable furniture where employees can relax, have a cup of coffee, work on their laptops and collaborate with each other. The best of these social hubs offer natural light, outdoor views, plenty of power sockets, chairs, sofas, tables, WiFi, coffee machines and snacks.
3. Sustainable Green Offices
Do you like fluorescent lights? Neither does everyone else. The green office concept focuses on using and preserving natural resources such as light, air, energy and organic construction materials. Natural light and daylighting techniques save on electricity and lower your carbon footprint.
Ideally, you would redesign your office to incorporate sustainable design principles, but if you are not in a position to do that, you can still use LED light bulbs, motion sensor lights, Energy Star appliances, reusable or paper cups, plants, and recycling programs to go as green as you can. Natural light and plants not only make the office space more comfortable for employees, but also they affect their mood, stress levels and performance in a positive, desirable way.
4. Bringing the Outdoors In
Mother Nature is a popular co-worker these days. An increasing number of companies are bringing the outdoors in by strategically integrating natural elements—such as outdoor office extensions, reclaimed wood panel installations, living walls, salvaged wood, grass and water features—into their workspace designs. A few houseplants here and there just won’t do.
Forward-thinking companies are introducing a new standard using biophilic design principles that have demonstrably real, measurable benefits for human performance metrics such as productivity, emotional well-being, and stress reduction.
5. Design for Productive Well-Being
Personal wellness is in, very in. As a result, productive well-being as an aspect of office space design has been embraced by architects and designers as the health and well-being of employees develop into a priority for their clients. The result is a positive impact on the health, happiness, engagement and productivity of workers, reducing sick days, employee turnover and associated costs.
Comfortable furniture, indoor plant life, adequate airflow and lighting, gyms, daycare facilities, and the right balance between private and shared spaces all contribute to the well-being (and performance) of your staff.
6. Disappearing Wires
Eliminating the wiry clutter from computers, printers, and other electronic devices is becoming a necessity, especially in open and shared workspaces. Office furniture with built-in power adapters, chargers and multimedia capabilities will be on the upswing in 2017, with more companies seeking products and services to conceal wires, and more manufacturers developing solutions.
7. The Desk Reinvented
Medical studies show that sitting down all day at work is detrimental for our health. This year, we will continue to see a rise in the use of sit-stand desks that allow employees to change settings and adjust height over the course of the day. Meanwhile, other workers renounce desks altogether, opting for work benches, bar-height tables and stools, community tables or those comfy chairs in the lounge.