• 9 vital workplace design developments for 2018

    While there will be many reporting the design trends for the year ahead, it’s important that we think beyond the basic workplace trends that will be most popular and consider the development in design that will occur in 2018.

    We’ve researched not only how the results of workplace design will change, but also how the approach to workplace design will change. What developments will affect how new office projects are planned in 2018?

    What’s driving the design developments in 2018?

    More Generations within the Workplace

    With people retiring later and more Gen-Z employees starting their careers, the workplace is increasingly cross-generational. Design strategies have aimed to attract younger age groups in recent years. However, in 2018 there will be more understanding that different generations have plenty in common and that bringing these people together, each with their own experience and skills, is beneficial for organisations. Therefore, more focus will be on the factors that appeal to all employees and provide settings for different work-styles no matter the generation.

    A Greater Focus on Team Performance

    Communication and cloud services are making it easier for teams to work on projects without physically meeting. Workplaces are now focusing more on teams rather than individual performance. In response, businesses are keen to encourage employees to still come together regularly, hoping it will spur fresh ideas and innovation.

    Workplace Design as an Investment

    More companies are realising the real impact workplace design has on productivity and a company’s bottom line. Research from Gensler, a global architect and design firm, reveals that poor workplace design costs U.S. businesses an estimated $330billion in lost productivity each year.

    Increasing Competition for Talent

    A skills shortage has meant that companies have already been competing for the top talent for years. Yet, an increasing skills shortage and a workforce who are more willing to seek new opportunities will take competition up a level. 76% of full-time employees are currently looking at or open to new opportunities. Organisations will use their workspaces as a means to attract and retain employees.

    There are many other factors that will also contribute to the changing workplace landscape in 2018 but these are the most significant. Here’s how such changes will affect the approach to workplace design…

    1. Activity Based Working 2.0

    Activity Based Working (ABW) features a combination of open, private, team and breakout spaces. People can choose where and how they work depending on the task and their work style, leading to higher productivity and lower employee turnover.

    This has been a popular design strategy for a few years. But, organisations are beginning to develop the concept. 2018 will see the emergence of the next stage of ABW.

    With this next stage, employees will not have assigned desks, alternatively, there will be a greater focus on the work environment. Letting employees choose where they work requires a rethink of personal storage, centralised locker systems will be the norm.

    Open-plan areas will still exist but will have well thought-out designs. Larger workstation in clustered position rather than row upon row will feature screens to create a sense of privacy. The number of positions within each area will be low with the space separated by panels or meeting and focus rooms.

    The next generation of ABW will transform breakout spaces. They will be more than a place to relax or to use as an additional meeting room. Some spaces within these areas will be designed to accommodate individual work. These types of spaces feature domestic-style interiors, where employees feel comfortable. Some are referring to these areas as “comfort spaces”.

    Besides the traditional meeting rooms, ABW will also provide comfort spaces dedicated to team collaboration. Research from Gensler has found that two-thirds of workers believe they are more efficient when they can work closely with others.

    In contrast, workplaces will also feature quiet zones, where people can focus and avoid interruptions while background noise is minimised. This means more features such as sound absorbing walls and clear separation of areas, this is a trend we expect to see more of in 2018.

    2. Stepping Back from the Trends

    With each new year, there are numerous articles highlighting the design trends for the year ahead. These are good indicators of what to expect in new workplaces but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of simply following trends.

    Another mistake often made is attempting to copy the workplaces of global organisations such as Google.

    In 2018, we expect companies to take a step back from the typical trends and design strategies adopted by the most admired companies. Rather, businesses will take their own approach tailored to their industry, employees, the way they work and the company culture.

    This means we’ll see culture and values become more integrated into workplace designs. Customised and unique features including furniture will grow in popularity.

    3. Data-Driven Design

    In focusing more on the unique needs of each workplace, there is a greater need to research and understand the company. One way this to achieve this is by collecting data from the workplace itself.

    There are now many services and devices that collect and analyse data about office use. From sensors under the desktops to employee wearables, the office is becoming more connected and driving how workplaces are designed. US company, Humanyze, have created “sociometric ID badges”. A combination of infrared sensors, accelerometers, Bluetooth and microphones enable them to collect data. Employee movements, encounters, speech patterns and posture are collected but kept anonymous.

    Clients cross-reference the data with information including sales, revenue and retention rates. The results are analysed to find which encounters and behaviours are making contributions to the company.

    UK based OccupEye is another company helping develop data-driven design. Their sensors, fitted under desktops and tables, help understand space usage and improve workplace utilisation.

    However, with the collection of data comes privacy concerns. Organisations need to ensure they communicate with employees about how, what, where, and why data is collected and analysed. All data will need to be anonymous otherwise the majority of people will not accept its use. There was some controversy when OccupEye sensors where installed at UK newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, leading to their removal the same day.

    When correctly used, these services help companies create tailored office that encourages positive performance and collaboration.

    4. Design by Artificial Intelligence

    With connected workplaces enabling the collection of more data, this can help build artificial intelligent software focused on improving workplace design.

    However, the creativity involved in design means it is a long time before A.I. is able to do all the work perfectly. Initially, A.I. will give many possibilities for layouts and designs for humans to then select from and tailor.

    A.I. software will also suggest improvements during the design process. For example, when a desk is too close to a meeting room so that sound from one could be distracting the other, the designer would be notified.

    Planner 5d, an app that enables people to design their home interiors, has begun work on incorporating AI into their app.

    While 2018 will only witness the early stages of what A.I. is capable of in design, we will see the first steps of development.

    5. Designing for Adaptable Workplaces

    The ability to continuously monitor how a workplace is used means we can see changes and analyse their impact in shorter time frames. The workplace can then be altered to utilise the space and make it more efficient. But, adaptable workplaces and furniture are needed.

    Technology is another factor that is forever changing, also contributing to the need for flexible and future-proof designs. According to a study from YouGov, 50% of businesses are uncertain about their ability to keep up with technological advances. Thus, companies need spaces and furniture that can adapt to new equipment.

    When the technology people are using changes, the furniture and technology support shouldn’t have to. For example, the Arc monitor arm can cater for a vast range of screen sizes. Therefore, as monitors get lighter or companies adopt larger curved screens, the arm can accommodate them.

    As the workspace is one of the highest expenses for most businesses, utilising the available space is essential. Companies want the room to grow and expand but don’t want to pay for space that goes unused. So, adaptable furniture will become a popular choice for many offices.

    6. Designing for Physical and Psychological Well-Being

    Well-being has been one of hottest trends of the past few years and will continue to develop this year. Wellness programmes which offer health and fitness facilities have been around for some time. However, workplaces that integrate well-being into their design aren’t so common. From sit-stand desks to the placement and design of staircases, more architects and designers are trying to encourage movement throughout the day.

    In 2018, designing for well-being will go beyond the physical aspects and focus more on employee mental well-being. A study by Mind found that 60% of workers feel more motivated and would recommend their organisation as a good place to work if action was taken to support mental well-being.

    Social interaction and friendships with colleagues contribute to a positive attitude towards work. Areas, where employees can eat together or relax, will become more important in 2018. On the other hand, it is also essential that employees have some level of personal space and an opportunity to concentrate. Overcrowded workspaces and lack of privacy are shown to affect mental health.

    Providing the right type of settings to get work done leads to happier staff. This comes back to activity based design (ABW) and the need to offer a mixture of settings that employees can choose from.

    The WELL Building Standard is the first certification focused on enhancing health and well-being. Although this initiative launched in 2014, it is increasingly popular. Encompassing seven factors: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind, the programme aims to reach the same recognition as the LEED certification does for environmental factors.

    Another factor that can help psychological well-being is incorporating nature into design, or Biophilic design, as covered in the next section.

    7. Beyond Biophilic Design

    A popular trend in recent years has been bringing nature and aspects of biophilic design into the office. Research has shown the positive effect features such as plant, natural light, and views of nature have on employees. According to a Report by Human Spaces, offices with natural elements can increase productivity by 8% and well-being by 13%.

    In 2018, the trend will move beyond the simple additions such as plants and live walls, rather biophilic design will become integrated into the workplace. More designers will use natural elements as a framework and develop the workplace around them.

    More focus will also be on the materials throughout the office including furniture. While natural looking finishes will be popular, the emphasis will go beyond their appearance, to consider how they’re produced and sourced.

    New office projects that don’t consider either LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) will be few and far between.

    These certifications focus on the sustainability and environmental performance of buildings. The programmes also include factors such as ensuring products are regionally sourced.

    8. Going Horizontal

    Landscrapers is a new term coined to describe the new development of the likes of Apple and Amazon as well as Google’s planned London headquarters.

    These companies have chosen campus like workspaces that cover vast areas, rather than skyscrapers with the company expanding between many floors.

    This approach hopes to encourage people from different departments to mix and collaborate, sparking innovation. Arguably, this creates a greater sense of community and emphasises company culture. It can also remove a sense of corporate hierarchy and minimise chances of a “us-and-them” culture.

    These huge campus style workplaces aren’t possible for most companies and for many locations such as cities like Hong Kong, where space is limited. However, in 2018 more organisations will opt for spaces with larger floor plans rather than splitting between additional levels.

    9. A Monitor Revolution

    We could be entering a new age for office monitors in 2018. The past year has seen many offices upgrade their screens to 32-inch or even bigger screens and the latest models feature almost border-less edges or even a curved display.

    Beyond this new generation of displays, we’ve recently seen how augmented reality headsets could be used for office-based roles while RED is set to launch a phone with a holographic display. 2018 looks like it could be the year when our expectations of monitors change.

    Besides the significant productivity advantages, companies are also beginning to deeply consider how their technology impacts on the look and feel of the workplace.

    Monitors and other technology have become more prominent, as more workplaces opt for sit-stand desks, the back of the screen and the cables are more visible. These latest screens create a sleeker, modern look across the workplace, in turn, organisations are also choosing support tools with aesthetic appeal and that hide cables.

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