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  • Writer's pictureBrian Trimble

Humans and Tech at the Heart of Office Design Trends

Human-centered, technology-enabled, and sustainable. These are the key features evident in office design trends today.

Current trends in office design draw on insights from the past nineteen months when the pandemic introduced many of us to alternative ways of working, living, and thinking. Digital technology became indispensable, both in our workstations and wherever else we happened to be. We learned to value our health, our well-being, and the planet's sustainability.

Style and functionality will always be the cornerstones of design, but office design today aims for more. Resilience, inclusivity, adaptability, and flexibility have also become essential features of workspace concepts.

Organizations and design experts were already moving in this direction pre-pandemic. The pandemic and its aftermath have highlighted the crucial role these workspace innovations will play in the operations of organizations around the globe.

So what design innovations are we looking at for the present and the foreseeable future?

Office Design Innovations

Open spaces

Traditional private offices reflect traditional hierarchical structures and a silo mentality; a tendency to withhold insights and information from others in a different section of an organization. Private offices create physical and psychological barriers that hinder agile thinking and more productive work. Open offices do away with these barriers.

Shared workspaces allow bosses and their teams to sit together and for different teams to interact, sharing information and insights. Further assigning common workspaces to teams with complementary assignments or functions enables greater interaction, which in turn fuels creativity.

As a bonus, open workspaces (which means fewer walls and greater flexibility) also translate to lower construction, maintenance, and improvement costs.

Coworking spaces

A variant of open layouts, these shared workspaces merge office-like features with an open community atmosphere, where people just come and go.

Coworking spaces provide hot desks, conference tables, and private meeting rooms, as well as small kitchens or pantries where coffee and snacks may be made or stored. These are ideal for organizations with employees who are not expected to be in the office most of the time.

Of course, hot desking may not be a desirable option for everyone. Many workers do still prefer to have their own desks, whether they are in-office most of the time or not.

Activity-based spaces

Employee satisfaction and productivity increase when employees can work in spaces adapted to the different types of work they do during a workday. Activity-based workspaces allow people to perform and interact in various ways according to the nature of their work.

To effectively meet this need, designers and their clients first have to identify the high-value activities that are done in person. They must then create workspace designs that are adapted to the behaviors and interactions elicited or called for by those activities.

Activity-based workspace design must also include private spaces equipped with desks, light sources, laptops, phone connections, and other work necessities. These allow employees to work with more privacy and quiet when needed.

In other words, the design of activity-based workspaces must be purpose driven. It must consider what the space is being created to deliver, not just in terms of functionality, but in terms of comfort and conduciveness to productive work.

"Touch down" spaces

These are smaller open spaces with readily functional desks for use by employees whose work is not tied to the office but who need space to check their email and voicemail, do some filing, etc. i.e., "touch down."

"Needs-based" spaces

Workspaces are allocated according to need rather than rank or position. Those who have to be physically in the office for much of the workday are allotted larger spaces than those who don't, even if the latter are the bosses.

Sustainability in Office Design

Office design trends also emphasize sustainability as an indispensable feature of workspace concepts. Eliminating waste, increasing energy efficiency, and cutting carbon footprint are goals that strongly inform the design of workspaces.

Workspace design experts integrate materials and products that are recyclable or reusable into their concepts, from the construction stage to the eventual use of the workspace. They put a premium on passive design principles that take advantage of the natural environment to provide lighting, ventilation, heating, cooling.

Such practices help sustain not only the environment but the health and well-being of the people using the workspaces.

Technology in Office Design

From daily operations to aesthetics, the integration of technology is central to workspace design. Conceptualizing a workspace facilitated by digital technology requires closely integrating technology in the design features.

The goal is to adapt workspaces to the technology-driven life and work practices of not only the current generation but also the future generations of workers. It is also to enlist technology in enhancing the sustainability and physical appeal of the workplace.

The appropriate use of technology can simplify or enhance efficiency in a wide range of work processes, thus reducing energy consumption and resource waste. It can improve communication, both on site and remote. And through digital media installations and interactive tools, technology can also invite greater engagement and collaboration between employees.

Benefits of Good Office Design

Access to workspaces designed for various uses, from solo work to collaborations, increases employee satisfaction and productivity.

Access to natural environments within the office setup promotes employee health and well-being, leading to fuller employee engagement.

The integration of technology in workspace functions and aesthetics enhances sustainability and resilience while also increasing the appeal of the physical space.

All of these translate to benefits for any organization. Better employee performance leads to better products and services, which leads to better overall performance for the organization.

Increased employee satisfaction also leads to increased employee retention. It serves organizations well to pay close attention to these trends in office design.

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