9 Vital Workplace Design Developments For 2018
#1 Activity Based Working 2.0
Activity Based Working (ABW) features a combination of open, private, team and breakout spaces. People can choose where and how they work depending on the task and their work style, leading to higher productivity and lower employee turnover.
This has been a popular design strategy for a few years. But, organisations are beginning to develop the concept. 2018 will see the emergence of the next stage of ABW.
With this next stage, employees will not have assigned desks, alternatively, there will be a greater focus on the work environment. Letting employees choose where they work requires a rethink of personal storage, centralized locker systems will be the norm.
Open-plan areas will still exist but will have well thought-out designs. Larger workstation in clustered position rather than row upon row will feature screens to create a sense of privacy. The number of positions within each area will be low with the space separated by panels or meeting and focus rooms.
#2 Stepping Back from the Trends
With each new year, there are numerous articles highlighting the design trends for the year ahead. These are good indicators of what to expect in new workplaces but we shouldn't fall into the trap of simply following trends.
Another mistake often made is attempting to copy the workplaces of global organisations such as Google.
In 2018, we expect companies to take a step back from the typical trends and design strategies adopted by the most admired companies. Rather, businesses will take their own approach tailored to their industry, employees, the way they work and the company culture.
#3 Data-Driven Design
In focusing more on the unique needs of each workplace, there is a greater need to research and understand the company. One way this to achieve this is by collecting data from the workplace itself.
There are now many services and devices that collect and analyze data about office use. From sensors under the desktops to employee wearables, the office is becoming more connected and driving how workplaces are designed. US company, Humanyze, have created "sociometric ID badges". A combination of infrared sensors, accelerometers, Bluetooth and microphones enable them to collect data. Employee movements, encounters, speech patterns and posture are collected but kept anonymous.
#4 Design by Artificial Intelligence
With connected workplaces enabling the collection of more data, this can help build artificial intelligent software focused on improving workplace design.
However, the creativity involved in design means it is a long time before A.I. is able to do all the work perfectly. Initially, A.I. will give many possibilities for layouts and designs for humans to then select from and tailor.
A.I. software will also suggest improvements during the design process. For example, when a desk is too close to a meeting room so that sound from one could be distracting the other, the designer would be notified.
Planner 5d, an app that enables people to design their home interiors, has begun work on incorporating AI into their app.
While 2018 will only witness the early stages of what A.I. is capable of in design, we will see the first steps of development.
#5 Designing for Adaptable Workplaces
The ability to continuously monitor how a workplace is used means we can see changes and analyse their impact in shorter time frames. The workplace can then be altered to utilise the space and make it more efficient. But, adaptable workplaces and furniture are needed.
Technology is another factor that is forever changing, also contributing to the need for flexible and future-proof designs. According to a study from YouGov, 50% of businesses are uncertain about their ability to keep up with technological advances. Thus, companies need spaces and furniture that can adapt to new equipment.
When the technology people are using changes, the furniture and technology support shouldn't have to. For example, the ARC monitor arm can cater for a vast range of screen sizes. Therefore, as monitors get lighter or companies adopt larger curved screens, the arm can accommodate them.
#6 Designing for Physical and Psychological Well-Being
Well-being has been one of hottest trends of the past few years and will continue to develop this year. Wellness programs which offer health and fitness facilities have been around for some time. However, workplaces that integrate well-being into their design aren't so common. From sit-stand desks to the placement and design of staircases, more architects and designers are trying to encourage movement throughout the day.
In 2018, designing for well-being will go beyond the physical aspects and focus more on employee mental well-being. A study by Mind found that 60% of workers feel more motivated and would recommend their organisation as a good place to work if action was taken to support mental well-being.
Social interaction and friendships with colleagues contribute to a positive attitude towards work. Areas, where employees can eat together or relax, will become more important in 2018. On the other hand, it is also essential that employees have some level of personal space and an opportunity to concentrate. Overcrowded workspaces and lack of privacy are shown to affect mental health.
#7 Beyond Biophilic Design
A popular trend in recent years has been bringing nature and aspects of biophilic design into the office. Research has shown the positive effect features such as plant, natural light, and views of nature have on employees. According to a Report by Human Spaces, offices with natural elements can increase productivity by 8% and well-being by 13%.
In 2018, the trend will move beyond the simple additions such as plants and live walls, rather biophilic design will become integrated into the workplace. More designers will use natural elements as a framework and develop the workplace around them.
More focus will also be on the materials throughout the office including furniture. While natural looking finishes will be popular, the emphasis will go beyond their appearance, to consider how they're produced and sourced.
#8 Going Horizontal
Landscapers is a new term coined to describe the new development of the likes of Apple and Amazon as well as Google's planned London headquarters.
These companies have chosen campus like workspaces that cover vast areas, rather than skyscrapers with the company expanding between many floors.
This approach hopes to encourage people from different departments to mix and collaborate, sparking innovation. Arguably, this creates a greater sense of community and emphasises company culture. It can also remove a sense of corporate hierarchy and minimise chances of a "us-and-them" culture.
#9 A Monitor Revolution
We could be entering a new age for office monitors in 2018. The past year has seen many offices upgrade their screens to 32-inch or even bigger screens and the latest models feature almost border-less edges or even a curved display.
Beyond this new generation of displays, we've recently seen how augmented reality headsets could be used for office-based roles while RED is set to launch a phone with a holographic display. 2018 looks like it could be the year when our expectations of monitors change.
Besides the significant productivity advantages, companies are also beginning to deeply consider how their technology impacts on the look and feel of the workplace.