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4 Emerging Trends Influencing Workplace Design

In the world of workplace design, design trends run much deeper than superficial aesthetic choices. The trends you see in the workplace are shaped by factors like technological growth, cultural changes, and broader shifts in the ways people work and how they interact with the spaces they work in. When you understand the root forces driving workplace design trends, the better you can understand how to make them work for you. Here are the latest design trends we’re seeing in the workplace.

Three people in an open conference room with bright lounge furniture

1. Remote and Mobile Workers are Increasing

The idea that working in an office means spending eight hours a day anchored to a desk is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Wi-Fi access has become as vital to workplaces as electricity and now that people can easily take a laptop, tablet, or phone and work anywhere in the office -- or away from the office -- more people are taking advantage of this flexibility.

Remote employees represent a growing segment of the workforce and as more people work from home, even if just on a part-time basis, they’re having a strong influence on workplace design. In some cases, companies with a significant number of full-time remote employees are downsizing their spaces altogether because so few people regularly work in the office. For companies with employees who work from home on a part-time basis, doing away with the concept of assigned workstations can help them use their space more efficiently. Instead of having assigned workstations that often go unused, many companies are choosing to create a variety of different unassigned spaces in their offices that people can choose from based on their needs.

Privacy screen sits behind red lounge chair with footrest and personal table with laptop

2. Support Variations of Productivity

Productivity is highly valued by any company, but there isn’t one simple “one size fits all” approach companies can take to improve it. One person can be more productive than another for a multitude of reasons, ranging from how rested they are to how often they’re interrupted. While many factors that influence productivity are beyond your control, your space can have a significant impact on employee productivity, for better or for worse, and that is one thing you can control.

Designing offices to support productivity helps set the stage for employees to succeed. Poor lighting, for example, makes it difficult for anyone to do their best work. And with a growing amount of research demonstrating the link between access to natural light and higher levels of productivity and improved wellbeing, more companies have started maximizing their natural lighting. Excessive noise can be another major distraction and as open offices became more common, sound masking systems and other types of acoustic controls became important office features to help keep noise levels under control.

Woman sitting at conference table taking notes on laptop

3. Employee Wellness is Priority

Prioritizing wellness in the workplace creates a win-win situation for employers and employees alike. Everybody wants to feel valued, so when an employer takes steps to help their employees lead healthier lifestyles, it sends a strong message that they care about the people who work for them. In turn, healthier employees tend to be happier and more productive at work and have lower rates of absenteeism.

Improving wellness in the workplace can be approached in many different ways, ranging from furniture choices to rethinking the layout of your office to encourage movement. If you’re not sure where to begin, providing ergonomic desk chairs is a simple starting point. Not only will ergonomic seating help people be more comfortable while they work, it provides the support people need to prevent musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Adjustable-height desks are a great way to encourage people to move around and change positions throughout the day. Maximizing natural lighting can also help improve wellness by preventing eye strain and headaches.

Students sitting in various seating options in a large open area

4. Engage and Retain Employees

It’s always been a challenge to attract and retain top talent, but with a talent shortage becoming a major concern, many companies are looking for ways to use their offices to keep employees engaged and less likely to look for other job opportunities.

Improving engagement can be viewed as the driving force behind many of the other trends influencing workplace design right now. Natural light, for example, not only helps people be more productive while supporting wellness, it can also be considered a workplace benefit. In a 2018 survey by Future Workplace, access to natural light was found to be the most desirable office feature, ranking higher than features like fitness centers and on-site cafeterias.

Flexible workplaces are another excellent way to help make people feel more engaged on the job. In the Steelcase Global Report on Engagement in the Global Workplaceour research found that 88% of highly engaged employees have the ability to choose where they work in the office based on the task they’re working on. People know what they need to be their most productive, they just need an office that can support their needs.

Putting People First

There’s an old saying that people are a company’s most valuable asset. If these trends are an indication of anything, it’s that this sentiment has become more than just a nice adage. It's become a valued belief that a growing companies are looking for ways to embrace and it’s playing a significant role in shaping today’s workplace design trends.

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