This last year has been a year of reflection and change, specifically for the world of design. Designers all over the globe are reimagining how office spaces will look and operate as we continue to navigate a worldwide pandemic. Although working remotely has become the “new normal” for some, other companies are opting to keep employees in the office to encourage human interaction and to foster company culture and collaboration. Employers have begun to ask themselves - “what do my employees want in their workplace?” Due to this shifting mindset amongst business owners, there are a number of new and unique office design trends that have evolved.
Many companies are reconsidering their layouts and seating arrangements as more people return to the office. Some organizations are maximizing flexibility for a more optimal workspace environment. This flexibility gives individuals the opportunity to choose where they work in the office, rather than being designated to one specific area. This is what is referred to as Hot Desking - the process in which employees do not have any assigned seating in the office but instead may “check-in” to an open seat. Hot desking is a way to increase efficiency in the office as it reduces redundant workspace and promotes cross-disciplinary collaboration. A valid question that comes up when discussing hot-desking is “where might individuals put their personal belongings?” Some choose to keep these items at their desk if they are working on a project with a team for a few weeks at a time. Some organizations also provide personal lockers or cubbies for employees to place their personal belongings.
Photo from WeWork
One of the benefits of Hot Desking is cost. This process helps cut down on unnecessary real estate expenses by eliminating waste and excess space. Another benefit is that hot-deskers have the opportunity to be near colleagues they would not see otherwise. This strengthens relationships, promotes better teamwork, and improves inter-departmental rapport. Hot desking also provides opportunities for hybrid work, where individuals work both from home and on-site in the office. This allows one or more employees to work from the same unassigned desk at different times or days of the week, again cutting back on valuable desk space within the working environment.
After almost a year of working from home, one thing is certain: many employees are longing for collaboration. Designated collaboration areas can be more than just a table and chairs to meet. Organizations are including a variety of spaces, formal or informal, for individuals to choose from that best suit their needs to gets the creative juices flowing. Some employees may prefer a standing touch-down space to attend quick meetings, while others may want a cozy corner to discuss and review a project with additional team members. We are seeing a lot of couches, soft seating, standing tables, and whiteboard walls, just to name a few, for employees to choose how they’d like to meet. Providing a variety of postures and options within a space gives them a choice, which in turn promotes effective collaboration and overall employee happiness.
When you think about the traditional office space, there are constant distractions that can hinder creativity. Doors slamming, cellphones ringing, employee chit-chat – it can all lead to disturbances and lower quality work. In an effort to promote mental health mindfulness, offices are incorporating Zen rooms. The intent of these spaces is to provide calming zones to counteract the fast-paced and stressful nature of the workday. Zen is a Buddhist philosophy centered on meditation and mindfulness to focus fully on the present moment and less on the future. Zen rooms tend to be a designated quiet places with comfortable furniture and adjustable lighting. The goal is to provide a space for individuals to be able to relax, clear their minds, and focus on what they need to accomplish for the day. These rooms are generally intentionally organized with storage solutions to hide unwanted clutter that may distract individuals working in the space. Zen rooms may also include houseplants and other greenery as they have been proven to increase productivity and morale.
The biggest trends we’ve seen in the office this year have been about the individual – giving them the choice of how they want to work. After a year or so of working from home, a lot of people completely rethink where they are in life and what they value. Many people are reconsidering how they want to spend their 9-to-5, Monday-Friday workweek. Hot desking is a type of coworking style that could be implemented in a standard office which gives an opportunity to sanitize after each individual uses the space – maybe even cleaned more regularly than your standard office desk. A Collaboration Area can give employees more than just a standard table and chairs to meet. And finally, the zen room is something a number of offices are starting to implement. It is a wellness room but focuses on providing a space for employees to break away from their day-to-day and clear their mind.
As most of us would agree, home is where we feel most comfortable; therefore, it is important to bring some of that back into the office setting. Creating a variety of spaces and giving individuals the choice to work in different areas is an effective way to get people excited to be back in the office. As we move forward and continue to bounce back from this pandemic, flexibility is key, as it helps promote employee happiness, encourages human interaction, and keeps the company culture alive.