The office in 2014 may not be about elaborately-themed work areas and striking designs as much as the intersection of people and ideas, with a focus on employee engagement and sustainability of design. No doubt about it, most changes we see today in the workplaces can be traced back to the open-office movement, which turned concepts such as collaboration, flexibility of work, and transparency into convention. Here are five of the most representative trends that dominated office design in 2014:
The workplace in 2014 is divided between the hunger for collaboration and the need for privacy. People need to collaborate and get together in shared workspaces, but they also need privacy and distraction-free work areas where they can focus. Office managers’ task is to try and balance the ‘we-and-me’ and design collaborative spaces that don’t eliminate, but support, solitude.
Since the nature of today’s work is unpredictable and always changing, an all-purpose workstation cannot meet the needs of most workers. In 2014, the workplace features activity-based work settings where workers engage in specific activities available to all. These include impromptu meeting spaces, formal meeting areas, brainstorm rooms, break rooms, and private workspaces free of distractions.
In 2014, workers are no longer pinned at their desk for hours on end. The need for collaboration has made offices more mobile in general, while the ubiquitous mobile devices have led to an increase in the flexibility of work. Now more than ever, the workplace is expected to be optimized for the new styles and postures of the modern worker, as influenced by the extensive use of laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The goal is to promote greater collaboration and innovation by ditching assigned seating and allowing the employee to shuffle freely between open tables, shared workstations, and couches.
The push for driving down occupancy costs is leading corporations to leverage mobility and shift from a ‘bigger is better’ mindset to the realization that maintaining a smaller real estate footprint is more profitable. This change of perspective has impacted both the size of office buildings and that of assigned workstations; now, every square inch of the office space matters and must be put to good use. As a result, workers’ desks are getting smaller, and team-based workspaces are used generously. The remaining space is used to increase the dimension and utility of break rooms, lounges, and relaxation areas.
Smart companies are recognizing that designing the office environment more efficiently improves the work experience, and thereby, talent retention. Although the design of buildings comes with a significant cost, it is not nearly as costly as it is to compensate employees who are not healthy, engaged, or productive. According to the 2011 CABE report “The Impact of Office Design on Business Performance,” the workplace design is responsible for 24% of job satisfaction and can affect employee performance by 5% for individuals and 11% for teams. By considering a building’s responsiveness to the changing requirements of work, companies will be able to drive up staff performance and easily cover the entire cost office construction and design.
In 2014, recycled and sustainable materials, toxin-free substances, and energy efficiency are the norm for most companies, who have understood that sustainability and innovation are crucial for their own performance. A report from the World Green Building Council comprising the results of 150 studies on the subject outlines how air quality, thermal comfort, natural light, green plants, and interior layout have a significant impact on workers’ performance, health, and job satisfaction. By opting for a greener office design that reduces their carbon footprint, companies are able to improve workplace productivity and their bottom line.
If there were one trend to encompass all others, it would be the growing focus on people-centered design. Keeping employees satisfied through compensation and perks is no longer sufficient to lower turnover rates, and in 2014, most companies are designing workplaces that align with workers’ core values and needs. Unlike in the cubicle days, the value of workplace design in 2014 and the following years will be measured in how well a work environment attracts, retains, and values its people.
Lynne Lemieux, Founder and President of Alliance Interiors Inc., has devoted more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing growth opportunities for some of Canada's leading office furniture dealers. Her ability to provide clients with inspiring and versatile interior solutions for both business and home office environments has garnered her title of Aboriginal Business Woman of the Year in the city of Toronto for 2012. In her spare time, Lynne takes an active interest in politics, public speaking, and philanthropy, but also enjoys gardening, interior decorating, cooking, yoga, and traveling.