Each year, new research emerges around the built environment – providing valuable insight into how office design trends can impact employee wellbeing, productivity, talent retention and so much more. With this year’s events throwing most predictions up in the air, we’ve reconvened, recalibrated, and reconsidered 2020’s biggest office design trends, factoring in the influence of COVID-19.
Globally, companies are adopting more sustainable work practices, technological innovation is driving change and a human-centric focus on employee wellbeing is shaping the way we live and work. As our office design experts respond to these cues, you’ll want to stay up-to-date with the top 5 office design trends listed below.
As a worldwide community, we’re becoming increasingly aware of our impact on the environment. As businesses, we need to do even more to reduce our carbon footprint and build a more sustainable future. So, it’s no surprise that sustainable design practices and materials are a huge office design trend of 2020.
There are many different ways to build workspace with sustainability in mind. An office in the Netherlands has recently been built with 165,312 screws so it can be easily disassembled and reused – a process that maximises the circularity of materials and reduces the company’s waste. While this may not be viable for every office, there are lots of simple, eco-friendly design practices that can reduce a building’s energy usage and waste. By incorporating high-efficiency systems, using LED lighting, taking advantage of natural light and passive ventilation, sticking to low-emission materials and re-using or re-purposing furniture, businesses can easily lessen their environmental impact. Certifications such as BREEAM, SKA or LEED are great for assessing the sustainability of buildings and infrastructure – demonstrating how the design and build industry can mitigate its contribution to climate change.
This trend goes beyond the realms of design: the ways people use and behave in their spaces are just as important as the build itself. In the same way that employees are now adjusting their behaviour in the office to align with COVID-related guidelines, having different bins for recycling, encouraging the use of reusable coffee cups and going paper free in meetings are some small changes businesses can implement that will make a big difference if every individual is on board. With the increase in employees cycling to work rather than taking public transport, office designers are also building in more space for lockers, bicycle storage, and shower facilities.
While the need for onsite PPE has meant that eliminating all single-use plastics might be slightly further off than previously predicted, companies like JTP Architects – an architectural firm that has gone completely plastic free – are implementing their own policies banning other single-use plastics. They have no disposables in their office: no one-time use plastic bottles, no paper cups and no paper bags. How did they achieve this? They have rules in place to help guide a cultural shift that is one of the biggest and newest developments in 2020 office design.
Teapoint at Adidas’ London HQ, clad in 5,000 recycled yoghurt pots.
When we designed Adidas’ new London headquarters, sustainability was at the forefront of our minds. We focused on using raw, clean materials and worked closely with the existing building to limit the need for virgin materials. The chairs are made from 100% recycled ocean plastic and the teapoint is clad in 5,000 recycled yoghurt pots. This office design trend isn’t just here for now – it’s here for the future.
Yes, flexible workspaces have been around for a while now – but flexible working is an office design trend that has gained huge relevance in 2020.
We’re definitely living in a time of uncertainty and the only way businesses can prepare for it is to enable and encourage flexible work practices – so they’re prepared for everything. If you want your business to continue to attract top talent, it’s time to invest in this office design trend.
2020 has proved that many of us are able to work from anywhere, but if you’d like to encourage people in their return to work, your business also needs to be smart with its workplace design. Instead of simply thinking ‘we need x number of desks’, it’s time to consider how your space can be used to encourage different ways of working.
With many employees still opting to work at least part of the week remotely, only a percentage of your team will need to come into the office on any given day: you’re not going to need as much floor space. So, rather than allocating everyone an individual desk, instead design an office with open plan bookable workspaces, non-bookable agile areas, task-focused work zones, and modular furniture to accommodate a fluctuating headcount.
Providing employees with different locations to work in – depending on the type of work they are doing – gives your team more control over their work experiences, increases productivity levels and boosts engagement.
Photobox Group London HQ.
Flexible design practices can also assist with rapidly growing staff numbers as well as downsizing: at Photobox Group’s new HQ, we designed the space so they won’t feel the pain when they grow from 450 to 600. But for this to happen, they’ve had to learn to work in an agile way. ‘That’s something the design’s enabled them to do’ comments Design Director, Dom Dugan, ‘with growth, they would have outgrown Herbal House if they stuck to the traditional model.’ But, now with the tools we’ve built into their office, they’ll simply grow into the space.
Another cultural shift in 2020 office design has centred around creating a workspace where employee safety and empowerment is prioritised. The pandemic has reminded us again of the value of our individual staff members, and of the importance of their health and wellbeing in the productivity and profitability of any company.
With businesses now really taking into account both the mental and physical health of their employees, the office design sector is taking note. COVID-secure measures like built-in social distancing, flow management, handwashing stations, hand sanitiser points and readily available PPE not only guard against illness, but also assist in alleviating any anxieties staff members might have about returning to the workplace.
Employees are becoming more demanding of their work environments, and rightly so: along with the above measures, bigger trends for 2020 see wellbeing-focused design elements such as biophilia, cleaner air ventilation and greater areas of natural light. We see 2020 as the year we bring the benefits and comforts of home into the workplace.
Designs using wellbeing certifications such as WELL and Fitwel will really reassure your staff, and attract them back to safe workplaces as well as helping them to work happier and, ultimately, better.
It’s no longer enough for offices to be offices. They have to be smart offices. Remote working has solidified our reliance on digital information and the Internet of Things. Smart workspace uses digital sensors to monitor and respond to things like occupancy, air quality, natural light levels and more.
Smart buildings can collect and share data, enabling companies to better understand when and how different spaces are being used. This is an incredibly powerful tool for office design, and has special relevance in the context of social distancing and COVID-security, as well as being a great help in space rationalisation.
In Gymshark’s HQ we installed the UK’s first human-centric smart lighting system. It tracks how the space is used so that Gymshark can continually assess and optimise their office design as the company evolves.
A more integrated relationship with technology can also help us as we move forward in our return to the workplace: thermal imaging systems and touchless doors, like the ones we recently installed for Network Rail, help keep your employees safe from transmission, and we anticipate that future touchless sensor technologies will further enable employees to move easily around the workplace. Desk booking apps, like the ones we use at our own office in Clerkenwell, help maintain a smooth flow of staff, ensuring that only one person touches a particular desk each day, and eliminating the possibility of being unable to correctly socially distance.
While this year will no doubt continue to transform the ways in which we view working and our workplaces, one of the biggest changes to the office is that it is no longer just a place with a desk, but has become a destination in itself. To many employees now used to months of focused home working and with limited opportunities for social interaction, a day at the workplace has become an event, a refreshing opportunity to see friends, to be inspired, to come together, collaborate and connect.
Similar to our previous predictions surrounding the experience economy, this trend will mean an increase in office design models which are closely linked to the hospitality and leisure industries. This new focus on amenities and communal experience will be another way for companies to attract and retain the very best talent. This was particularly important to Photobox Group when we designed their HQ. ‘It was actually one of their main requirements’ explains Monika Passey, Senior Designer. ‘They wanted to attract talent – young talent. And they were like, “young people don’t come to our offices because we’re paying them a good salary, to the younger generation it matters where they’re going to get their cup of coffee in the morning, it matters where they are going to sit.”’
2020 has also brought home how much it matters who they’re going to have that cup of coffee with; who they’re going to sit next to. This is one office design trend that has only accelerated with the impact of COVID-19, and will continue to inform the way we consider work and workplace design for years to come.