A number of workplace trends are set to affect office layout, furniture and décor during 2015. These go well beyond superficial fashion quirks or colour preferences.
Instead significant changes in the ways people work are being accompanied by changes in the office setups that best meet companies’ needs.
Here we consider three main trends and the implications they have in terms of optimal office design.
Technology IS the workplace
More and more, the internet, companies’ digital platforms and e-mail ARE the workplace. Physical offices are becoming secondary.
However, this doesn’t mean that physical offices are in danger of disappearing. Instead their role is shifting. They’re regarded as places where employees can get together and share ideas, and as locations for meeting clients.
In some cases, they’re also vehicles for expressing company branding and status, designed to attract new recruits and impress visitors.
It’s likely that in future, the average proportion of office space reserved for individual workstations is going to shrink. This is partly because employees are switching from bulky PCs to more compact devices, and partly because more employees are working offsite, either some or all of the time.
Similarly, companies need much less on-site storage space now that the majority of data is stored and archived digitally.
Instead more space, and more of companies’ budgets for office furniture and infrastructure, will be dedicated to open meeting areas.
Mobility in and out of the office
People are moving away from traditional office work of the “sit all day in your own cubicle” variety. Instead the internet and a range of portable devices have made it possible for employees to work anywhere.
This trend is clear in the number of employees being allowed to work from home, either full time or on certain days when they “really need to get stuff done”.
In addition, a modern focus on project work, with rapidly assembled multi-disciplinary teams and tight deadlines, has led to much greater mobility within the workplace.
Increasingly, employees move around during the day, collaborating and communicating with people in different areas.
Design elements that support this type of mobility include furniture that’s light and easy to move, with office chairs, tables and even shelving units that can be readily arranged into new configurations.
Focus on communication
Modern offices are where people get together, and one of the primary purposes of getting together is to bounce ideas around.
Documents and simple information are easy to share remotely, via digital means. Collaboration and innovative ideas, however, depend more on face-to-face discussions.
Typical modern office spaces are designed to include not just conventional boardrooms, but open meeting spaces. For example, they may include “pause” areas and comfortably furnished niches with sofas or armchairs and coffee tables. These are designed to encourage quickly arranged meetings and informal communication.
In addition, there’s increasing demand for meeting rooms with integrated multimedia and communication technologies, from web-based video conferencing facilities to wireless presentation systems.
Communication in physical offices is no longer happening just between employees who are there in person. Often it’s between a local group of employees and other geographically dispersed team members.