We’ve made a list and checked it twice – community, sustainability and flexibility remain the most sought-after elements of office design.
Every year we use our industry expertise to forecast workplace trends of the future, a future that is changing faster than ever before. While workplace innovation is sure to abound in 2020 and beyond, some of the most notable trends aren’t actually trends at all, but integral parts of user-centric office design.
Employees exist at the centre of workplace design. Each new space takes into consideration the needs of its occupants to a greater degree than the one before – where we work is no longer designed to simply help us work well, but to make us want to be at work. In an increasingly remote working world, driving new and existing talent into the workspace is becoming more and more important, and it’s something companies are doing by investing in work/life balance.
Offices now include amenities previously exclusive to the hospitality industry. From on-site movie theatres and fully-catered kitchens, to bespoke furniture and artwork, breakout spaces have grown up. It’s no secret that these kinds of elements support wellbeing and, in turn, boost productivity and morale. The real benefit of added perks at work, however, is the way they reinforce the workplace community by making people comfortable and even happy to be in the office.
Gymshark made a 55,000 sq ft investment in their workforce this year with their ground-breaking Gymshark Lifting Club or GSLC. The state-of-the-art fitness and innovation hub empowers Gymshark with total in-house creative control, simultaneously supporting their staff with integrated wellness amenities. “Having developed Gymshark HQ as a facility that enables the business to grow, we then moved on to GSLC, which enables its people to grow,” explains Lead Designer, Sean Espinasse. “It offers something different from a typical office environment – it’s a playground for mental and physical development.”
GSLC is equipped with photography and videography studios, a research and development factory space, a 100-seat auditorium, world-class gymnasium facilities and a health bar – all just down the street from the Gymshark headquarters. It builds a level of community unheard of at just any other gym, presenting employees with the opportunity to live their method; the Gymshark brand was born in the gym and now it’s got its own.
GSLC is an almost unparalleled example of workplace amenities, but we’ve seen an increase in community-focussed design in comparatively traditional settings as well. Domestic spaces have long been a tell-tale sign of new wave corporate. Area rugs, couches and ambient lighting aren’t much of an industry disruption anymore, but are slowly becoming a staple – even fire places and lounge areas are dotting offices everywhere.
The big idea behind a homey workspace? Attendance. Employees will stay at work longer if they are comfortable there, and companies are targeting attendance rates by blurring the lines between business and pleasure. One of the best examples of this redefinition of balance lies at the heart of Areaworks’ coworking revolution. Self-proclaimed champions of a healthy work-laugh balance, Areaworks are changing coworking for the better.
Beyond upcycled furniture, industrial reading lamps and living plant walls, members become part of a community that promotes professional and personal balance. In a recent interview with Areaworks, we asked the workspace innovators what makes them different from other London coworking spaces. “Areaworks is all about creating welcoming, vibrant and happy coworking spaces where people can thrive and find the best version of themselves,” they said. “Our members are not just about working. They’re seekers, change-makers, they’re looking for balance, to make their mark, to find their purpose. They’re looking for more.”
More is exactly what it’s taking to maintain strong in-office attendance rates as remote working is growing in prevalence. When staff can work from their living room, why would they continue to come into the office? Successful workspace offers its occupants something more than they can find at home or in a local coffee shop. It provides a community of like-minded and motivated individuals, supported by amenities that upgrade users’ quality of life.
Workplace design may revolve around people, but it’s shifting to include more of a focus on the environment than ever before. With climate crisis being one of the world’s most pressing issues, it’s not surprising that sustainable materials are on the rise for 2020. In fact, they will most likely rise every year over the next decade as countries make a final effort to mitigate climate change.
“Sustainability needs to be part of every-day decision making,” said Tor Burrows, Director of Placemaking at Grosvenor, at the 2019 London BOLD conference. Businesses are making an effort to cut emissions significantly by 2050, and many are already seeing the financial benefits of conserving resources. As if the threat of a permanently altered planet weren’t enough, the majority of talent entering the workforce are environmentally-minded, and less likely to work for a company that doesn’t reflect their values.
Environmental consideration is of increasing importance for talent attraction. Younger generations are flooding the workforce with the oldest members of Gen Z just about to join, and Business Leader estimating the global workforce to be “…dominated by Millennials (35%) and Generation X (35%), with Baby Boomers only making up 6%.” With rising rates of climate anxiety, younger generations are particularly invested in sustainability, and expect their workplace to share their concerns.
Sustainable materials are becoming more popular as companies aim to aid the environment and promote talent acquisition at the same time – just two of the benefits of green office design. We’ve seen a marked increase in the number of clients actively pursuing sustainability standards with their new offices.
Adidas’ new London headquarters proves the power of environmentally-minded furnishing. Designers worked carefully with the existing building to limit the need for virgin materials, using recycled elements instead. Incorporating sustainable materials from the ground up, Adidas have a sleek new space that’s saving the planet; all carpeting in their new creative hub is Cradle to Cradle silver certified, promoting circular economies while all of the vinyl flooring has an A level BRE Green Guide rating.
Every piece of timber used in the new space is sustainably sourced and has an FSC or PEFC certification. Using this kind of certified wood protects endangered forests and the species that inhabit them. It also makes sure forests are managed responsibly, and the social and economic wellbeing of local communities is upheld.
The chairs in the Adidas HQ are made from waste – fishing nets and beech wood veneer to be specific. The Mater Ocean Chair and Mater Nova Chair are made of 100% recycled fishing nets and recycled pieces of veneer, respectively. One Ocean Chair uses 960g of ocean plastic while the Nova Chairs are made of recycled material that is sliced and glued together in a delicate, patented process.
The teapoint is clad in recycled finishes as well. The tiles used in the teapoint contain at least 40% recycled content and hold an EU Ecolabel, and the plastic panels used to build the teapoint are Smile Plastic. Smile Plastic panels are made from 100% recycled yoghurt pots, each panel containing 5,000 used pots. The labels and foil lining can still be seen as flecks of decorative colour in the panelling.
Even the toilets at Adidas are sustainable. The new office features Vitra toilets that reduce water consumption by up to 60% compared to normal ones. For every 250 Vitra toilets installed, enough water to fill 3 Olympic swimming pools is saved. More than a creative powerhouse with showstopping in-house displays, Adidas’ new London office shines a spotlight on the accumulative impact of sustainable finishes.
You’ve heard the famous quote from Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “the only thing that is constant is change.” His doctrine on universal flux may have been published two and a half thousand years ago, but Heraclitus is still spot-on. Flexibility stands as one of the most crucial elements of office design as the future becomes harder to pin down.
“The unpredictable future is informing workspace,” said Oktra Creative Director, Nic Pryke, at the 2019 Condeco Workplace Innovation Forum. “Change is accelerating, it’s becoming faster. It’s enabled to some degree by technology – it’s harder and harder for businesses to predict what’s going on in their future lives.” It is increasingly difficult for companies to accurately predict how much space they’ll need in the future, and they’re turning to smart technology for help.
Space is a limited commodity, which means it will only become more challenging to find. Companies are investing in space optimisation by installing data-collection devices in the workplace. Lighting systems and desk sensors track which spaces are used, how often they’re used and at what time of day. That information is recorded and analysed to better understand how the space currently functions and how it can be used more efficiently.
We built the first office with a Human Centric smart lighting system, a data collection setup that monitors the workspace and its usage in order to optimise space. The lighting system records motion and heat to track space use, and reduces energy consumption by automatically switching off when the space is empty.
Identifying opportunities to improve the efficiency of space is the first step towards a truly flexible workplace, but being able to actually adapt the space to suit these findings is just as important. With space usage data on the rise, it makes sense to have furniture that can support the reorganisation of workspace. Continually optimising space will mean occasional adjustments. Movable furniture isn’t just great for flexible working methods, it allows occupants to reconfigure their floorplan without contracting an entire refurbishment.
We designed and built a coworking space for Fora, a workspace provider offering premium hotel-style service from luxury interiors to bookable personal trainers. Fora’s elevated coworking experience and their dedication to detail are reflected in their space. We sourced bespoke demountable walls for one of their London locations, enabling easy changes of the layout while maintaining the perfectly personalised feel.
Change is accelerating and, in response, companies are designing workspaces for where businesses want to be rather than where they are. “We spend a lot of time talking about the future workplace with our clients, and trying to understand where they think their needs are going to be in the future,” adds Pryke.
Anticipating changes in the size of your workforce is crucial. Core and flex space plans are great for managing unpredictable fluctuations, while agile spaces and ways of working will help ease the growing pains associated with hypergrowth. Photobox came to us during their hypergrowth stage, in need of a new office space that would bring their brand together under one roof. We transformed Herbal House into the company’s iconic new headquarters, maintaining the integrity of the original printworks building.
The open plan space was designed to accommodate the rapid growth Photobox was experiencing. Combined with the company’s shift to agile work practices, the new office has allowed Photobox to grow without issue. Monika Passey, one of the main designers, explains that “the space is enabled for 550-600 people to work there, but because they’ve been trained to work in an agile way, they won’t feel that pain when they grow from 450 to 600.”
Change may be constant, but flexible working practices and environments are helping companies adapt. The rise of flexible workspace has seen the steady inclusion of smart technology, modular furniture and agile work practices in order to optimise space today and into the future.