Office workspace design is no longer a matter of just renting a space, putting in furniture and fixtures, and getting down to work. Workplace design trends are changing quickly because office design has become a key component of talent retention in companies.
The constantly-connected-to-internet and social media-savvy generation of office-goers needs quite the incentive to continue working for a company. Increasing internet connectivity has made it possible for talented individuals to offer services as freelancers. It has become possible for people to work from the comfort of the rent-free, overheads-free zone of their homes. Internet allows people to pace their work while balancing their life commitments.
A noticeable requirements of young corporate employees is to have the comfort and the freedom-of-movement that home offices provide. Office design elements like neatly laid out cubicles, muted orange and purple paints, overhead electric lights no longer impress the millennial or the Gen Z worker. Bean bags, deck chairs, tents, a garden-like pantry, gaming areas, talking zones, sunlit areas; these are sure to interest them.
Unconventionality is the buzzword among the upcoming generation of employees. Their educations are diverse and unconventional. Many may not have college certificates, only certifications from organizations in their area of expertise. Their needs are unconventional – some prefer working at a desk, others want to work from anywhere in the premises, some want to continue their health regimen while they work. It is observed that employees are more productive when workplace design is relaxed and informal.
Many companies are switching to unconventional office workstations. Designers are experimenting with elements that even a decade ago would be unthinkable.
The top 3 trends influencing workspace design in 2018 are as follows:
1. Investment in biophilic designs for employee health
Companies are getting more attuned to the fact that employees are the most important asset that they need to develop and retain. Conscious investment is being made into areas of employee health. Mental health initiatives include flexibility in work hours, telecommuting options, making workforce diverse, equal pay, investments in employee training and skill development.
Physical health is also a major concern for many companies. Sedentary lifestyle, long hours spent cooped up in office, improper meals, lead to physical deterioration and employee dissatisfaction.
Air freshness, humidity control, acoustics, natural lighting, desks which allow work to be done standing, walkabout areas, exercise areas, relaxation areas, indoor gardens are all part of biophilic designs. These allow employees to fully engage with their workspace in a relaxed, healthful manner. There is nothing like soft natural sunlight to dissipate Monday blues, while noise reduction in areas where creative work is done boosts productivity exponentially.
2. Collaboration and interaction
Gone are the days when your manager would disapprove if you spent ten minutes at the water cooler. Company leaders now encourage people to meet up, talk to each other, enjoy several minutes chatting and exchanging ideas. Performance is known to increase when people interact freely. Many innovative ideas and outcomes are made possible through informal interactions. Employees who have friends at the workplace are happy employees.
This interaction is not limited to one’s own department. Seamless interaction is the key. Workplace design trends are leaning more towards removing departmental demarcations. Emphasis is on providing collaborative spaces. Not just formal meeting rooms but also an open-plan area with a bunch of bean bags strewn around. Or a few benches in a shaded area of the garden for people to knit and talk. Create a pub-like area with a bar and bar stools, and someone serving freshly squeezed juice or coffee.
The idea is to encourage face-to-face interaction. It is predicted that companies may reduce telecommuting in future. This means more workspace designing will be required, not less.
3. Smart offices
The advent of smart technologies is another reason for changing office design trends. As office buildings become more environment and resource conscious, office workspace design is also changing. We already have sensors in restrooms that reduce water consumption. Smart switches and smart temperature control are now commonplace.
The technology-loving millennials and Generation Z employees need office spaces where technology makes work easier. A small example would be voice-based systems. If emails could be dictated and then they self-corrected to say exactly what the sender meant, the time spent on clarifications would reduce. If reports could be compiled simply by voice commands, the amount of time saved could go into more innovative processes.
Hardware that comes with such intelligent systems however, needs storage and maintenance areas. Office premises would need to be creatively designed – say, go fully wireless – such that existing space can expand to accommodate the required equipment, rather than lease more space.
As companies put employees at the forefront of workplace design needs, undoubtedly, 2018 will see more interesting workspace and office interior designs than the previous years.