The workplace has come a long way in recent years. For many of us, the workplace in which we now work, feels a long way from the type of office where we began our careers. These changes are set to continue at pace as advancements in technology create new possibilities and the modern, millennial workers brings differing office expectations. With that in mind, Heidi Biggin, one of Blue Jelly’s lead designers, takes us through the workplace design trends she expects to see in the latter half of this year.
The drive to create happier and healthier workplaces has seen ‘creating the right environment’ become a key focus. One of the key trends here, which is set to continue throughout 2018, is the blurring of the lines between the office and home.
In a move to make the workplace a place where people want to be (often over increasing hours) creating a warm, homely feel has become even more important. Floor-lighting, bookshelves, cushions, comfy sofas, reading chairs and rugs are now regularly seen within the workplace as we look to add a touch of domestic bliss to our working lives.
Heidi said: “A few years ago, dressing of space and adding home comforts was something we were asked to do here and there, now everyone wants to add more informal areas and which have that homely feel. Partly driven by the emphasis on collaborative spaces. We are creating more and more of these spaces than ever before, complete with bookshelves and dividers.”
Have you ever thought that the office staircase could be a good place to get on with your work or hold a meeting? Well, you could soon find that it becomes the latest breakout space as office designers are increasingly designing staircases which double-up as informal meeting spaces. Typically, it involves deep treads and high rises being incorporated on one side of the staircase.
Ikea’s head office in Malmo, Sweden has a massive staircase seating area, complete with cushions and the trend is also popular in America, particularly in Silicon Valley. Now it is starting to cross the Atlantic.
Heidi said: “We are putting one of these into an office building that we are working on now and it will enable 100 people to gather and have town hall meetings and small ad hoc gathering on the staircase, expect to see more and more of this over autumn and winter.”
Seating staircases are part of a wider trend of creating workplace spaces which have more than one use. In particular, breakout spaces are being created in parts of the building which have other functions. Heidi said: “Breakout spaces are becoming bigger and we are increasingly incorporating them into open plan spaces and meeting places.
It means they are more multi-functional and flexible. We had a client who wanted more meeting rooms, however we couldn’t fit them in. So we are putting in meeting booths where they can sit to eat, have informal meetings and use them for hot-desking. If you can incorporate versatility into the workplace design, the client feels like they are getting more value for money.”
The trend of bringing nature into the office – biophilic design - is unsurprisingly set to continue through the rest of 2018. But there is a twist. While you have probably all heard of living walls and have seen the stunning impact they can have on a workplace, a number of offices are turning to a low maintenance alternative – moss walls.
“The great thing with moss walls is that there is no maintenance,” commented Heidi. “With living walls, you may well need to take out a maintenance contract with a company and lease the plants from them. Moss walls do not need any of that, but you still get that greener, softer effect.”
Vinyl floor tiles have been enjoying something of a renaissance in the workplace in recent times and that trend is set to grow in the coming months. In particular, concrete and woven wood effect tiles are set to prove popular as more organisations move away from carpet.
Heidi said: “The vinyl companies now have concrete and wood effect tiles that really do look realistic. Real wood and real concrete are not the best products to have in an office. They can be expensive, wood can scratch and damage easily and concrete is cold - so this is a really good development.
“A lot of people are moving away from carpet and are having vinyl in areas beyond the breakout spaces and receptions and in some jobs vinyl is being put in throughout.” This will however, have an effect on acoustics. Blue Jelly provide pro-active advice about acoustics as part of their mission to ensure everyone has a positive workplace.
I don’t think carpet will ever completely disappear from the office, but we are finding we are putting vinyl in a lot more places than we have previously done. It looks fresher, cleaner and modern and you can create really amazing flooring details, like cut Victorian tiles, chevron or herringbone for example. There is so much choice - this type of flooring has come a long way recently.”
Workplace wellbeing is not so much a trend as something which has become the norm. The days of being tethered to the desk for hour after hour are becoming a thing of the past. Now, office design is increasingly encouraging employees to get up and move around.
Breakout areas are growing in popularity and increasingly feature activities like football and table-tennis tables.
Desk sharing is also seen as a way of getting people moving and working in different parts of the office. Employees are increasingly issued with ‘hot boxes’ which enable them to easily move the things they need for their work around the office and store them in a locker when they are not required.
More and more companies are also turning to the benefits of sit-stand desks which enable staff to regularly adjust their working position throughout the day. “Sit-stand desks are continuing to grow in popularity and we are seeing that prices are coming down now,” said Heidi. “Last year we did our first project that had 100% sit-stand desks.”
And what about colour trends? Purple seems to be very much the theme with Pantone choosing a shade it calls ‘ultra violet’ as its colour of 2018 – a ‘provocative and thoughtful’ purple shade.
But Heidi thinks office colour trends will emerge as the year progresses, stating that “there aren’t really any emerging at the moment. We normally find that it takes its lead from fashion trends on the catwalk. It will be exciting to see what evolves once we have had the spring/summer catwalks this autumn.”
As the ways of working change it is imperative that workplace design keeps up with the pace if companies want to attract and retain the best talent.