We hear a lot about technological advances in the workplace, making life easier and more productive for employees. But what about the physical environment we work in? What will 2019 bring in this ‘space’?
We spend 80 percent of our time at work and so it has grown to be more than just a place to do business. It’s now a representation of how we, as a society, view and encourage productivity and progress. So, 2019 office design will concentrate more on employee, visitor and customer happiness while building greener and healthier office spaces.
The five key themes for 2019 will be: Activity Based Working, Experiences-driven spaces, wellbeing, biophilic design, and old meets new.
Agile work areas
Activity Based Working (ABW) is a design philosophy and business strategy, which gives employees choices about how, when and where they work. The theory is that different tasks/ activities are productive when performed in the appropriate spaces such as workstations, collaboration areas and concentration zones. So the flexibility to create and format these spaces is critical to office performance and staff engagement. If the space allows it, being able to format areas as needed could be the answer, with movable and retractable doors.
The early pioneers of ABW style workplaces in Australia were larger organisations with purpose-built campus facilities. For example, Lotus recently worked with the Westpac Bank headquarters in Sydney, which needed an agile workspace covering 58,500 square metres across multiple levels. Products now available such as Lotus gliding whiteboard panels and Lotus Operable Walls (125 Series) can bring agile work areas to life, with a floorplan being transformed from open plan to breakout spaces and meeting rooms with ease.
Think Silicon Valley start-ups, and images of themed leisure rooms spring to mind – meditation spaces, gaming areas and coffee bars. This kind of workplace design is no longer reserved for tech companies. Many workplaces are now incorporating experiences-driven spaces to enhance employee wellbeing and productivity. The time employees spend on ‘collaborative activities’ has increased by over 50 per cent in the last two decades. Therefore, cohabitation spaces have also evolved beyond the tech sector and are now being integrated into businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Office perks are no longer just about pay packets but experiences employees can treasure. So, from a design stand point, it’s about creating spaces, which will boost people’s overall morale and encompass the office culture and in turn increase their wellness. Employees need a stress-free environment and a break when things get hectic. Experience-driven spaces can help staff retention and keep businesses from developing a toxic work environment.
Wellbeing, rather than being viewed as a trend, is now an important priority for many organisations – moving from simple awareness to fully understanding the true value of incorporating wellness aspects into an office design, and supporting and aligning to a company’s values and brand promise.
As more data and research comes out to support the ROI of ‘wellness design’, it can’t be ignored. However, it’s more than adding some greenery or having ergonomic chairs and stand-up desks. Rather than maintaining people’s health, organisations should be aiming to improve it. From a design perspective, this can be done through harnessing visual connectivity of the space, the outside world and each other. The use of visual connectivity and taking a holistic human-centred approach to design that takes into consideration the type of use, frequency of use, time of use and the direction of movement or circulation through a space. With the rise in collaborative office spaces in Australia we are seeing more of these design principles emerge and the need to ensure employees feel connected. Designing spaces that are flexible and keep the needs of the user at its heart is key.
Employees are also looking for transparency and honesty in their employers and this transparency can be translated to the workplace’s physical design. When a space is designed that is authentic and genuine, employees are engaged and the space will thrive. Visual connectivity reinforces a company’s commitment to transparency and supports a sense of one team.
Materials and patterns mimicking nature can also achieve a sense of wellbeing for employees, which is at the core of biophilic design.
Biophilic design can be seen through the use of natural materials such as wood and stone, and using organic and biomorphic shapes and forms, and visual connections with nature. It also utilises live plants, earthy textures and colours, natural lighting and ventilation.
Again, rather than a trend, biophilic design is now seen as the next standard of building to be carried through the ages.
Old meets new
In 2019, old will meet new with the re-emergence of modern offices being crafted inside old buildings. Bringing fresh life into buildings of the past allows for the old world charm to be utilised while breathing new personality into the space and reflecting an organisation’s brand identity.
As part of the renewed push for office creativity comes a rise in office ‘personality’. Workspaces are beginning to wear the spirit of the company and its various cultural cues on their walls. These can be seen in the colours and patterns that are chosen. The overarching design characteristics that are being instituted convey a company’s culture to potential prospects, clients, and even current employees. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and apparently so is design.
While the craftsmanship of older buildings can be retained, they will need to be re-fitted so the office space relates to the above points. The internal space will also need to be reconfigured to meet the business’ requirements, so using glass sliders could be the perfect way to divide the space while maintaining visual connectedness and minimising noise disturbances. Lotus acoustic sliders were developed in conjunction with architects to originally meet the needs of open-learning classroom design, but they are ideal for any office environment, when the requirement to create differing spaces simply and quickly is paramount, and there is a moderate acoustic requirement.
Other features of the ‘old meets new’ trend may include weathered and natural textures, smooth and soft textures, modern design accents, and glass and metals.
Whatever the organisation, the design themes for 2019 can be incorporated to ensure work spaces get the best out of people, while employees can benefit from the multitude of advantages, especially enhancing their wellbeing – something that will be a key focus moving into the future.
By Dr Kate Hartigan, Lotus Head of Marketing and Brand