Brand your space, enhance employee performance and attract top talent
Thanks to the proliferation of millennial-run dotcoms, one might think that every office needs a rec room with funky furniture, multi-colored glass partitions and indoor playgrounds. Not the case.
Yes, workers and workplaces are changing. These days, it’s all about technology, collaboration, employee engagement and productivity and how innovative office design can inspire and empower employees to do their best work. That doesn’t mean you need to have slides instead of stairs, hammocks instead of chairs and pool tables instead of desks.
Office design trends reflect these changing times. Mobile technology has led to open floor plans and shared desks that allow employees to connect and bounce ideas off each other. Trends create expectations and vice versa. Modern workers expect workplaces that are healthy, fun, inspiring, comfortable, urban yet green—that is, spaces that make them feel good.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF OFFICE SPACE
Employees spend half or more their waking hours at work. To keep them engaged and productive, a workspace needs to be designed with that goal in mind.
There are numerous studies on the effects of office design on workers. Open vs. closed spaces, natural vs. artificial light, dark vs. light colors, etc. Each of these elements affects individual attitudes and behavior and should, therefore, be carefully considered during the design process.
It’s not enough to design an office space based on a company’s products and services, location, corporate image, branding strategies and other considerations as well as current office design trends. A workspace must be designed for the people who will be working in that space, with the ultimate purpose of enhancing their performance.
According to a 2017 Capital One survey, 82 percent of office professionals believe companies need innovative workplaces in order to encourage innovation among their employees.
- 63% feel innovation isn’t reflected in their current workplace’s design.
- 64% believe workplace design and environment is equally important or more important than office location.
- 69% believe the local culture isn’t currently reflected in their company’s workplace design.
- 85% believe flexible workplace design is important.
- 82% have their best ideas when they’re working in flexible spaces.
- Most desired design elements: natural light (62%), artwork and creative imagery (44%), easily reconfigurable furniture and spaces (43%) and collaborative spaces (37%).
Given the business benefits of engaged, creative and productive employees, more organizations are placing a higher priority on spaces that promote employee health and well-being, hence the growing popularity of alternative spaces (e.g., quiet rooms) and activity-based environments, among others.
DESIGNING FOR PEOPLE AND PERFORMANCE
Next year, office design will continue to transition from designing spaces where people work to creating spaces where people do their best work. Here are some of the most dynamic office design trends we will see in 2018.
1. Unconventional Work Areas
This trend is gaining momentum thanks to millennials’ attraction to open and social spaces, collaborative work environments and all things quirky and divergent.
Unconventional workspaces are showing up everywhere, not just the likes of Google and Facebook, and they come in many forms, from co-working spaces to exciting activity areas and indoor parks, from relaxing meditation rooms and laid-back lounges to conference rooms featuring bean bags and vibrant colors.
Found within this trend are dynamic workspaces: areas that are in constant fluctuation and easily movable or transformed from one function to another. Dynamic office spaces offer flexibility and additional opportunities for being creative and innovative. They typically feature furniture on wheels, portable wall dividers, floor-to-ceiling dry-erase boards and other dynamic design elements.
Millennials generally want to have fun at work and need to feel their job has purpose and meaning. By throwing convention out the window to create unorthodox workplaces, companies can lure in and retain top talent in a generation of restless, highly mobile workers.
2. Naturally Green Biophilic Design
Biophilic design stems from our instinctive bond with nature and natural elements. Scientific research shows—and common sense dictates—that spending our days in window-less, fluorescent-lamp lit, poorly ventilated, noisy, stressful work environments is detrimental to our health and well-being.
Biophilic design goes beyond adding a few plants here and there in your office. It incorporates nature into the built environment through natural forms, colors, textures and lighting. Some of the most popular biophilic design elements include living or green walls (made from plants mounted on wood, metal fencing or strings), rooftop and vertical gardens, indoor greenhouses, naturally lit glass panels, stone surfaces and indoor grassy areas, as well as renewable energy sources, grey water systems and air purification systems.
Biophilic design is scientifically proven to reduce stress, promote physical, mental and emotional health, boost energy and creativity, and improve employee performance and job satisfaction.
3. Home Sweet Office
If you can’t work at home, you might as well work at an office that feels like home. A workspace that doesn’t feel like an office is another trend in office design that is on the upswing.
Research shows that workplaces designed to be more homelike, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable, makes employers appear more trustworthy to employees. Home-inspired comforts such as living room furniture, fireplaces, kitchens and even showers can turn a cold office into a warm, welcoming work environment.
4. Zen or Meditation Rooms
Zen or meditation rooms are on their way to becoming yet another way to attract those elusive millennials. These rooms are designed to give employees a quiet space to relax, meditate or ponder the meaning of life (or what to have for dinner). They usually feature yoga mats, hammocks, massage chairs, pod furniture, couches, indoor water fountains and indoor gardens—no tech gizmos allowed.
We don’t need rocket science to explain how Zen rooms and other relaxation spaces can combat cognitive fatigue, lower stress levels, enhance overall health and improve job performance.
FURTHER READING: SUSTAINABLE OFFICE DESIGN IS GOOD, SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
5. Telling Your Brand’s Story
Style speaks volumes. How we dress makes a statement about who we are. How a workplace is designed makes a statement about the business or organization that occupies that space.
Good office design tells the brand’s story. It can showcase corporate culture and serve as a recruiting tool. Whether for an investment firm that takes bold financial risks, a dentist’s office that evokes hygiene and comfort, a hip online magazine publisher or a somber funeral home, every design element should express the brand and agree with company culture.
6. Hot Desking
Trending open-floor plans have generated yet another trend: hot-desking environments where employees don’t have assigned desks. Instead, they are allowed to sit and work wherever they want in the office—communal tables, comfy lounges, secluded booths, conference rooms, etc.
Hot desking can facilitate connections among employees, encourage collaboration, improve communication, assist in team building, strengthen employee engagement and offer a variety of environments to suit each person’s mood, needs and priorities on any given day. This trend is particularly helpful for companies and workers involved in project-based work.
On the other hand, hot desking isn’t for everyone. Those who need quiet and solitude to work will find communal tables or lounges too loud and full of distractions that can hinder their productivity. Setting up a laptop and other equipment at a different workstation each morning and removing it at the end of the day can consume time that would otherwise be spent working.
Before jumping on the hot-desking bandwagon, a company should analyze how its employees work and whether hot desking would enhance their ability to do their jobs or get in their way.
The Bottom Line: More Than a Paycheck
Back in the 80s, it was all about the paycheck and the clichéish five-year plan. Not anymore. The average employee today, especially millennials, can recite with ease a long list of things more important at work than the paycheck—office location, work-life balance, flexible hours, company culture, paid parental leave, social responsibility programs, etc., not to mention a well-designed, enjoyable, innovative and inspiring place to work.
As we welcomed the new millennium 18 years ago, who would have thought that the office was supposed to be such a happy place?