The history of commercial office design makes for a fascinating read. From its origins of taylorism and open-plan spaces for commercial buildings, to economical cubicles featured in corporate workspaces during 1980s – office design is always transforming.
The 21st century is no exception. In fact, the turn of the millennium was the catalyst for many key concepts of office design in contemporary businesses today. Co-working spaces became popular in the 2000s, and remote working has slowly gained traction during the 2010s, enabled by innovative advancements in technology.
With such rapid change spurring potential for a whole host of new working methods each year, the office design industry is quick to identify emerging trends that drive innovation.
Considering this, let's run through the new or growing trends currently shaping commercial office design in 2019.
1. Employee Opinion
Key concepts such as agile working, dynamic workspaces, and employee wellbeing have altered the way businesses approach commercial office design. Now, organisations are inclined to experiment with design to influence employee methods of working, wellbeing, and productivity – rather than a sole focus on cost-based decision making.
This has resulted in workforce opinion rising to prominence, as growing employee expectations have become a major incentive to design optimised workspaces with staff satisfaction in mind. Talented and sought-after employees aren’t likely to remain in an office crammed-full of cubicles that offer no creature comforts or workplace perks.
As a result, organisations know that to attract, recruit, and retain staff, they must examine the relationship between employee satisfaction, retention, and workspace design. Businesses who ignore this step will miss out, as competition for talented employees only continues to increase.
2. Biophilic Design
For years, studies have shown that plants in offices are proven to increase workforce happiness and productivity – so it’s easy to understand why biophilic design has become more prevalent in commercial offices.
However, it’s not just about the addition of a few potted plants. Biophilic design concentrates on creating an office space with the outside in mind, whether it’s better access to outside areas, greenery-filled walls, or more natural light. Major businesses such as Amazon and Etsy have embraced indoor forests to improve employee engagement and productivity, highlighting how greenery can drive change in the workplace.
With this in mind, it’s evident biophilic design is destined to become more than just a trend, but rather, an important feature of every office space, from small-businesses to corporate giants.
3. Data-driven Design
Evidence-based planning is now at the forefront of commercial office design. To create the optimal workplace, businesses need to be equipped with rich data that details how their employees work in the office environment and use this information to create a space that staff can maximise to its full potential.
For example, focus-based workers may be less productive in a loud, open-plan office – hindering productivity and reducing employee satisfaction.
By conducting in-depth studies or surveys through workplace consultancy, organisations retrieve qualitative data regarding what the workforce needs. This means commercial offices’ can be designed bespoke to the workforce that inhabit them – which is proven to improve productivity by up to 12%. Thus, businesses now choose to approach commercial office design with data-driven methods, rather than guesswork.
It’s not wise to blind employees with fluorescent shades of fuchsia from all directions during their 9-to-5, however, tasteful pops of colour can be beneficial to commercial office design – be it in accent furniture, feature walls, or statement pieces.
Colour is proven to have tangible effects on mood and productivity, and colour theory suggests that certain shades can not only help liven up the workplace, but also encourage productivity benefits such as creativity or memory recall.
More so, incorporating new palettes into office design is an opportunity to instil brand colours into a workplace, improving visibility of brand identity for clients and staff. Where neutral corporate design once dominated, refined colour placement can provide welcomed relief from the typical grey of office-space and help businesses create a welcoming workplace environment.
In recent years, resimercial design has grown in popularity. The concept focuses on incorporating design features that are more familiar in a residential setting, rather than a commercial office – creating a ‘home away from home’.
These features can be soft fabrics or finishes, comfortable seating areas, or homely accents that create an inviting space and encourage a relaxed atmosphere. Think canteens that resemble home kitchens, stylish rugs, or quilted arm chairs.
What’s most significant about resimercial design is that it marks a shift away from the slick, corporate design of previous decades. As the workforce welcomes increasing numbers of millennials and Gen Zers, employee expectations are leaning towards the approach that work can happen from anywhere, at any time.
Experts suggest that this trend has risen from younger generations who encourage the natural blend of workplace and home, equipped with the knowledge that a comfortable environment that they’re familiar with can reduce stress and promote productivity.
6. Brand Identity
A study of brand identity management found that, when employees resonate with the brand identity and personality of their employer, they foster positive attitudes that surpass basic job responsibilities.
Employees who can clearly recall a specific vision for their company and feel a sense of communal identity are more likely to be satisfied and productive in their workplace. But, how does this relate to office design?
In 2019, bespoke furnishings that are relevant to brand identity are leading the way. Not only does this attention-to-detail impress potential clients or partners, it solidifies company culture and identity in the minds of employees. A greater sense of community boosts productivity, and inherently encourages greater employee engagement.
For example, in one office design project, Rhino incorporated finishes that befitted the client’s heritage and history, providing a personalised touch to employees for years to come. Studies show that employees benefit from visual reminders of why they come to work every day, so it’s easy to see how brand identity is now a core focus of commercial office design.
‘Movement’ trends in the workplace seem to come and go, and it’s easy to get carried away by the likes of treadmill-desks or standing workspaces that only the most energetic of employees will willingly embrace. However, overlooking the fads of office working, encouraging movement in the workplace has become a top priority for many organisations looking to promote employee wellbeing and happiness.
Many are achieving these outcomes by designing break-out areas that provide recreational games to keep employees moving, or adopting agile working to encourage frequent movement from space-to-space to match the relevant task at hand. Thus, movement as a trend is unlikely to go away any time soon, so businesses should design their offices with this in mind to improve the longevity of their workspace.
Room for Improvement?
In the commercial office design landscape, it's likely new trends will occur every year. New methods of working, employee opinion, and the increasing drive to have more control over the way we work has affected the workplace in more ways than one. To learn about the three key areas that all industries need to address in their workspace design, read our future workspaces e-book, here.