The modern office is no static thing; it shifts and evolves as workers’ and managers’ needs change. With the end of the year coming up and the business world changing as quickly as it ever has, we thought it would be a good time to review some of the office design trends that are gaining steam.
Some of the most important factors that are imposing change on offices are the labor shortage, which is slowly increasing in severity and driving up the acquisition cost of labor; environmentalism, the leadership for which has shifted onto the private sector; and a shift away from working from home, which is causing a resultant focus on office comfort. These are the trends that are the most likely to define office life in 2018.
Amenities have always been an important feature of high-end offices, but the focus these days is on making the office feel like a home away from home. That means that features that were once only found in restaurants and startup offices are finding their way into the offices of larger, more established companies. The larger pool of resources commanded by some of these established companies also means that they can introduce better, more stately versions of the same features.
Startups are known for their playful approach to amenities. What would the stereotypical startup be without a keg in its kitchen, a foosball table, and perhaps some sort of ridiculous, oversized bean bag chair? In more established companies, some of these things, like kegs full of craft brews and even full bars, are finding their ways into the office. Food trucks are finding purchase outside their doors. This year, we may even begin to see game rooms. More likely, we’ll see the grown-up version - gyms, showers, and the occasional squash court.
Improving the comfort of workers in the office has become a particular focus lately in light of the push to bring remote workers back into the fold. It isn’t clear whether workers are more productive at home or behind a company desk, but the actions of big companies like IBM suggest that they seem to think so. While some companies are simply mandating that their workers come in from the cold, others are trying to motivate them to come in on their own volition by offering them the comforts of home and some comforts that they can’t get at home. Expect this trend to continue.
Buildings have been getting more green over the last few decades, but we expect 2018 to see an even bigger increase in the focus that building owners and business leaders place on environmentalism. Why? With the current administration’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Accord, the private sector seems to have decided that it’s time to step up and shoulder more of the responsibility for sustainability. Another factor is the growing body of evidence that suggests that workers are happier, more productive, and less likely to take sick days in green environments.
First and foremost, we think that more building owners will explore environmental certifications, like LEED, GRESB, and the relatively new WELL standard. Each has its own focus, but all of them indicate that a building is using less energy and necessitating the emission of less carbon. Some building owners are opting for all three. LEED focuses on environmentalism from an efficiency standpoint, which covers everything from utilities to the use of the space. GRESB is investor focused - it views efficient, green buildings as a better investment and marks them accordingly. Finally, WELL is geared toward buildings that take care of their workers in a holistic sense; environmentalism is a part of that, but so is clean air, good food, and a relaxing environment. This last certification may be especially important for business leaders looking to improve productivity.
On a more straightforward design front, we’re seeing more buildings bring the outside indoors. Green roofs, green walls, or even just a plethora of potted plants all act as a relief to the built environment. As we’ve discussed before, green spaces engage workers in “passive focus,” which helps them to recharge their ability to use the “active focus” that gets work done.
A final trend that we expect to blow up in 2018 is the flexible workplace. The cubicle-open plan debate has gone on for a long time now (private offices for everyone lost a long time ago) and a new contender is long since overdue. Enter the flexible workplace.
The idea won’t be for everyone, but here it is: Instead of locking employees into desks, you provide a variety of spaces where they can choose to work. Some offices are doing away with assigned desks entirely, though we suspect that’s a big risk. One part of the office might be an open plan area. Another could include several private offices for employees who need to focus quietly. Still another might include open spaces with comfortable furniture for a more social experience. While some employees will almost certainly prefer to stick to an assigned desk, others work best with the flexibility to change their environment according to their mood and the requirements of the task at hand.
Companies that invest in a flexible workplace are generally interested in attracting younger talent and making their workers feel more at home. Happy, comfortable workers are more likely to be productive and to come into the office rather than work at home.
As we prepare for 2018, we’re excited to see how these office design trends will develop as they are rolled out to more spaces and the new ones that will emerge. If you have strong feelings about a particular design trend or you want to share a photo of your beautiful office, drop us a line at marketing(at)aquicore.com!