Where is office design heading in 2022?
The last 24 months have heralded huge changes in the working landscape, and one area where this has been acutely felt is in the make-up of our physical workspaces. We’ve gone from a fully-occupied 9-5 model to one where employees were working from home and completely remote and now to one where we’re now embracing hybrid working. Companies have reacted to these shifts on a number of levels, not least in terms of how they manage people and projects, but what has the effect been on office design?
What has the effect been on office design?
Interestingly, although there are likely to be fewer staff in the office on a regular basis, the move is to change the identity of the working environment to make it more engaging and inspiring. Not only that, incorporating collaboration spaces, games rooms and chill-out zones has become a priority for businesses that need to bridge the gap between the formality of the office and the informality that comes with working from home.
As we move out of the restrictions of the pandemic and companies welcome some – or all – of their teams back to the office, there are several aspects to its design that need to be taken into consideration.
The issue of sustainability goes deeper than simply buying a few recycling boxes and encouraging staff to use less plastic. In terms of office design it’s about sourcing environmentally-friendly materials and furniture, adding natural light and maximising passive ventilation. Successfully incorporating sustainability into your office design isn’t only great for the environment as it also brings positive PR and can help to attract and retain staff, who are increasingly mindful of the impact that their employer is having on the planet.
The switch to working from home, and latterly to a hybrid model, put businesses – and especially their IT departments – under pressure to create flexible connectivity and data integration. This, in turn, is impacting office design in terms of the allocation of flexible desking, the creation of breakout and touchdown areas, the provision of audio-visual capability and the set-up of individuals pods and booths for Teams and Zoom calls. Balancing physical and virtual working and collaboration requires thorough planning and clever design, while solutions such as virtual and augmented reality will increasingly influence the office of the future.
Catering for the neurodiversity of employees is now central to office design. No two members of staff are the same. We all respond to different stimuli, and we all have different tastes and preferences for our working environment. Creating an office design that satisfies everyone is, of course, impossible, but understanding the needs of your workforce and developing a space that offers a range of separate spaces and experiences will help to make everyone feel more at home. Ultimately, being able to offer employees a choice of where they feel most comfortable working will have a positive effect on their mental health and their productivity. Having the option of individually controlling the level of light and sound, being surrounded by vibrant or muted colour schemes and knowing that calm spaces are available as and when required will help any employees who are on the spectrum, and in turn will promote inclusivity and diversity.
Although Covid restrictions have been all but lifted, businesses shouldn’t assume that employees, customers, suppliers and visitors using their office won’t be mindful of the risk of transmission. Installing touchless doors and lifts and implementing an app-based desk booking system represent a considerate use of new technology that demonstrates a commitment to keeping everyone safe. Anxiety remains for some around a lack of mask wearing and social distancing, so using smart technology and providing areas where they can work alone can help to reassure them that they can use the office in safety.
Whether we’re coming into the office occasionally or returning to something approaching five days per week, everyone will want the time they spend in the office to be as productive as possible. As headcount is likely to fluctuate from day to day, traditional office design with banks of desks is becoming a less popular. Alternative worksettings are being added to open plan spaces, not only to give more options on where to work, but also to improve teamworking and creative thinking. In some instances, the office just needs to offer something unusual to make it worth coming in, whether that’s a fully equipped games room or a relaxing café area; often we're looking for something to create a sense of community.
A summary from our Design Partner, Carol Chinn
For Carol Chinn, design partner at The Workspace Consultants, the evolution of office design post pandemic has produced a drive to identify what the user really wants from their workspaces; clients are keen to make sure they get it right. Workshops, E Surveys and Space Utilisation studies have become increasingly popular, and creative solutions are generally required to support agility. ‘The move towards working from home during the various lockdowns was born of necessity, and that presented unprecedented challenges for businesses of all sizes,’ comments Carol. ‘Understanding that we all want to work differently is just as big a change in mind set. People may be more productive in the office five days a week, or they may want to continue to work from home and we may want to use the office for task-based functions or mostly for collaborating. The trick is to make sure there's something for everyone, in other words a fully diverse workspace for a truly diverse workforce. Successful businesses will likely be those that embrace this change. The best working environments have always been those that satisfy the majority, improve morale and increase productivity.’
Get in touch
The Workspace Consultants offer office design and project management in Cambridge, London and Manchester, so if you’re looking to refresh your office space, call us on 01223 656111 or complete our enquiry form to arrange a consultation.