Drawn from the latest research, our designers have identified 9 top office design trends that will shape the way companies work this year. The past two years has been an evolutionary period, out of which the focus on wellbeing, sustainability, and successful hybrid working has dramatically increased, in an effort to retain talent and maintain employee engagement. Evidently, the challenges and difficulties that have taken place during this time, have affected the way we work in a number of ways. Going forward, it is clear that offices will need a human-centric design, that will answer to their needs, draw them to the office, and promote a great magnetic culture that will continue to benefit the company long after the pandemic is over.
Attracting and retaining your top talent is becoming more and more important in this increasingly demanding world. A human-centred design is an approach to solving the problems and meeting needs, that begins with the people. It applies human factors, ergonomics and techniques to ensure that it will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of employees, and ultimately improving their satisfaction and wellbeing. By allowing employees to express their needs and contribute ideas towards the design, they will feel more valued and consequently there is a higher chance you will have greater engagement and motivation from them. Carrying this out could include brainstorming, surveys, and refining designs with the employees; all a creative solution to solving any physical and cultural problems in the workplace.
Organic shaped desks & touchdown tables – looking past the rectangular desk
As the model of work for many has changed from being individualistic to hybrid, people are concluding that a far less desk dense workspace is preferred, with the spare space being repurposed into more collaborative, multi-functional areas. Furthermore, there is a strong trend of curved lines and round shapes that give a better sense of flow, movement and balance to interiors. One effective way to recognise these trends is through desking. Organic shaped desks create a far more unique, collaborative environment, where people have better ability to effectively communicate and have eye contact with more than one or two people (as they would be limited to in a traditional rectangular desk setup). It also gives the space a much less regimented linear feel, encouraging people to move around more and collaborate, as well as providing more pockets of space that can be repurposed into other types of spaces. This increased flexible and dynamic space will lend itself to workspaces feeling more like a homely community, rather than a uniform office.
As we emerge from a global pandemic, it is crystal clear that sustainability and how we affect the environment will play a big part in office design. In 2022 it is thought likely this will be a focus on low carbon designs and fitouts. This is split into 2 categories: operational carbon, and embodied carbon. Operational carbon is the energy used to run a building (lighting, air-conditioning, IT etc). Newer buildings will likely be more energy-efficient and therefore low in operation carbon, whereas older buildings will need more thought as to how to change it to be more efficient. Low operation carbon can go a little way to improving sustainability, however any changes to existing systems made will result in embodied carbon. Embodied carbon is the CO2 emitted in producing materials. This would be manufacturing new lights or air-con, or any products and services needed in a fit out. It is very difficult to measure, but it is estimated that the embodied carbon of buildings counts for 11% of global carbon emissions and 75% of a building’s emissions over its entire lifecycle. It is therefore crucial to take this into account in workspace design, to help businesses understand their impact on the environment, and how they can make decisions that will help reduce it.
As hybrid working becomes the norm for many companies, it is essential that there is suitable technology in order for employee experience to be seamless, and enabling them to remain connected, be more creative, and collaborate as effectively as if they were together. There is more need for hybrid meeting spaces that can accommodate both physical and virtual attendees, such as meeting booths and board rooms that have the right equipment and acoustics to host Teams or Zoom meetings successfully. Even just adding some individual phone booths can better facilitate private calls and meetings. Many workspaces are now going beyond just the standard screens in meeting rooms, or extra monitors for desks. Better technological equipment could take its form in a range of things: lockers, desk and meeting room booking, reception sign in points, interactives whiteboards, coffee machines and much more! As well as keeping existing employees united, excellent technological facilities also broadens the opportunity to attract new talent and make the workplace an even more dynamic and engaging place to work.
Collaboration & Community
There has been a significant shift in priorities since the pandemic in terms of what the workspace is perceived to be needed for. The vast majority of people say that they will return for predominantly collaborative or social reasons, to bring back those elements that have been sorely missed during the long period of working from home. This has obviously affected the way spaces need to be designed and set out, with less space allocated for desking and more for collaboration, social spaces and team building activities. It is these spaces that will bring teams back together and make them feel the workspace is a second home for them. With this in mind, HR managers are getting much more involved in workspace design to ensure that they are in conjunction with planned human initiatives and creating multi-functional spaces that support communities, and increase reasons for people to come back to the office.
Biophilia – going beyond planting
We are all aware of the biophilia trend that has been present for a while now and is very much best practice in workspace design. Biophilia helps the connection between humans and nature, and has been found to support cognitive function, physical health, and psychological well-being. Biophilic design directly affects productivity, creativity, value perception and healing. It also helps businesses in achieving their sustainability and CSR goals, which as we know are becoming increasingly important. Biophilia can be used creatively to make the workspace a unique and memorable space, and is a cost-effective way to improve ambience. In 2022, it is likely that designers will go beyond standard planting schemes and look at features such as vertical farm walls and vegetable patches, to greater recognise the physical and mental wellbeing needs of employees. These new ideas can increase employee engagement and give a renewed sense of corporate community.
In a drive to make the workplace feel more like home, the trend in colours has considerably shifted over the past year, to using more residential shades through main working environments, and minimal brand colouring. Retaining more prominent brand features in reception and visitor areas is still needed, but it is more important that the working space feels comfortable and a good environment to work in. The psychology of colour is very strong, particularly in a workplace where people spend most of their day, and productivity needs to be high. Designers recognise the importance of choosing colour schemes to prevent under or over-stimulation, by using bolder colours in a minimalistic way, and muted palettes in the big areas to give the sense of tranquillity and calm needed for people to be at ease and work effectively.
Health & Wellbeing
When the pandemic hit, many people adopted a more balanced way of living to help manage the pressures, by striving to be more health-conscious: getting out of the house when they could, exercising, and looking at better nutritional practice to boost their health and immunity. In order for a workspace to be human-centric and forward-thinking, this must certainly be a key trend for 2022. Classic examples of how workplaces can do this is by offering things like yoga classes, gym equipment, and mental health workshops, as well as things like hydration points, natural lighting and wellbeing rooms. The workspace therefore must be designed in such a way to accommodate these features, and give them the space that they need to take place.
Hybrid & activity-based working models
It has become hard to ignore the fact that giving people the choice on their work setting and style of working is a key part of productivity and wellbeing, due to the prolonged period in which people have had the full comfort of their home surroundings. Hybrid working and activity-based working models is defined by giving your people the power of choice on how to perform a certain activity, based on their knowledge on how to achieve it successfully. The lines in a workspace design are now blurred: it is no longer rows of desks and formal meeting rooms, but a hybrid environment that has a variety of areas to support quiet working, team activities, collaboration, creativity, and social interaction. This means that when designing a smarter workspace, we must break down the boundaries and challenge the status quo to ensure that employees are supported to perform their jobs and tasks to the best of their ability.