The beginning of a new year is traditionally the cue for experts to predict the trends everyone will be talking about over the next 12 months, and the world of work and office design is no exception. Here are five trends that are worth keeping an eye on
1. More human interaction
On Forbes.com, workplace expert Dan Schawbel reports that the trend for remote working is being reversed as employers recognise the benefits of workers having face-to-face contact.
Quoting initiatives from Apple, IBM and Google, he says: “All three companies have found that when employees bump into each other in physical environments, it sparks creativity and relationship-building that leads to positive outcomes.” Moreover, an academic study found that face-to-face requests in the workplace were 34 times more effective than emailed ones.
Matt Webster, Head of Wellbeing and Futureproofing at British Land, says the work the company has done with consultancy Happy City to create principles for wellbeing bears this out. “Social relationships are proven to be one of the most powerful drivers of health and wellbeing, and creating ‘sociable places’ is one of the wellbeing principles that guide the way we design and manage our office buildings and campuses.”
Schawbel concludes that “leaders who encourage personal connections will have more committed, satisfied and productive workers”. So we can expect to see forward-looking companies offering fewer telecommuting options and designing their workplaces to facilitate interpersonal relationships between employees.
2. Dynamic spaces
This isn’t a new trend, but it’s one that’s been growing over the past two or three years, and office design experts expect it to continue gathering pace in 2018. In a blog, office plant supplier Ambius describes dynamic spaces as being “defined by lightweight and moveable furniture with wheels, garage doors to open space, plants and containers, moveable green wall dividers and wipe boards or chalk boards”. They give office occupiers the opportunity to be more creative with their space, flexing it according to the needs of the workforce.
James Lowery, co-lead of Storey, British Land’s flexible workspace brand, comments: “Dynamic spaces make perfect sense at a time when companies increasingly need their workspaces to be flexible, particularly to cater for needs such as project work which can change quite rapidly over shorter periods of time.”
3. Biophilic design
Biophilia is the term used to describe humans’ innate attraction to nature and natural processes, and biophilic design weaves the patterns and forms of nature into the built environment. According to design firm Anchorpoint Interiors: “This trend is becoming increasingly popular in the form of plants, lighting and living walls within the office environment where nature is not easily accessible.” The WELL Building Standard and LEED Certification, among others, are helping to raise awareness of the biophilic philosophy.
Jeremy Myerson of WorkTech Academy agrees: “2018 will be a big year for bringing nature into the workplace to boost wellbeing,” he says. “Not just plants, but natural materials such as slate and hemp too.”
Webster explains that British Land incorporated biophilic design principles in the refurbishment of its central London office, York House, and not just by increasing the amount of plants. “Materials choice is key,” he says. “We went for a much more natural and organic palette, because we know that connection to nature can make people feel calmer, less stressed, able to think clearer and make better decisions.”
“We can expect to see forward-looking companies offering fewer telecommuting options and designing their workplaces to facilitate interpersonal relationships between employees”
4. Outdoor workspaces
Given the proven benefits of fresh air and daylight to wellbeing and productivity, the logical next step is to work outdoors. Jonathan Webb, VP of Workplace Strategy at furniture manufacturer KI, told Small Business Trends that a large percentage of technology companies are already exploring outdoor workstations, which can feature everything from charging stations to designated paths for outdoor meetings.
This is particularly practical in an office campus: “Businesses are starting to realise that they own the space on the outside of the building as well,” says Webb.
Mike Wiseman, Head of Office Leasing at British Land, says this is one of the benefits for businesses of locating on a campus. “The modern workplace encompasses not just the office, but also a diverse mix of terraces, coffee shops, green spaces, co-working spaces and more, with technology enabling people to move seamlessly between them. In this context, outdoor workspaces make perfect sense.”
5. Smart precincts
Smart cities, which use data collected from millions of sensors to manage assets and resources more efficiently, are widely seen as the future of urban development. But creating a truly smart city demands a combination of funding, expertise and planning that is hard to achieve and there are, as yet, few large-scale examples.
On a more manageable level, smart office buildings are becoming a reality, for the reasons set out in our 2017 white paper. In between these two extremes lie smart precincts or campuses, which Myerson describes as “the building blocks of digital cities”, and these are set to become more prevalent as developers install smart technology in a business park or campus, or simply a cluster of inner-city buildings.
Juliette Morgan, Head of Campus at British Land, says the company is already working towards this. “Technology is allowing us to make our buildings smarter; we are adopting systems that will allow occupiers and their staff to control and measure how their spaces are used in real time. The logical next step is to extend this smart technology across the entire ecosystem of an office campus.”
Gordon Falconer, Global Director, Smart Cities at Schneider Electric, concludes: “Are smart precincts the true potential to unlocking the promise of smart cities? They may not be the only way forward, but if the smart precincts I’m seeing in every corner of the world continue to grow, there is a strong chance we will experience a sea change in our cities in just a few short years.”