The emphasis of office design this year will be firmly on the employee, specifically from a health and wellbeing perspective, marking a shift from previous conversations, which have focused more on ‘objects’, from furniture to space and technology, or even policies.
There has been much news of late about the perils of spending too much time sitting down; this has even been described as ‘the new smoking’. So it’s not surprising that sit-stand desks with electronic height adjustment have become popular. We will see an increasing take-up in 2019 as more manufacturers offer value-engineered alternatives.
More organisations will also be thinking in terms of designing workspaces to actively encourage movement throughout the working day. Workplaces will make it easier for workers to ‘unlimit’ themselves from a single desk.
Millennials will continue to influence office design. This generation, of people born in the 1980s and 1990s, wants a career offering a strong sense of purpose, and to be able to contribute to the greater good. So designers will be thinking of how these aims can be embodied within workspaces. For example, collaboration is important to this group, as are areas for socialising.
As part of the growing emphasis on ‘wellness’, we may well find we see more connections with the natural world, given that the benefits of exposure to nature are well documented. That could include working with natural or plant-inspired materials, or maximising natural daylight, for example. Think of stone accents, wooden floors and warm colours.
Indeed, it was clear from the recent Orgatec show that manufacturers are looking at ways of integrating natural planting within working environments, extending to the desk itself.
We are also seeing evolution in storage systems. Large open-plan environments benefit from some sort of division to create a sense of place for working teams. Semi-open ‘room-dividers’ maintain long sight-lines while providing a home for natural plants and objets d’art, as well as more traditional office filing and equipment.
Another trend for 2019 could well be a tendency towards a more personalised form of lighting. Most speculative office space is provided with lower levels of lighting than in previous decades. Compact LED desk lamps are now readily available, allowing the user to adjust lighting levels according to the task in hand. Many of these feature power and USB chargers, so can be used as part of the cabling strategy.
If a single theme emerges, it is about control; the employer providing the tools for employees to manage their own working environment – place, posture and light. The workplace moves from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to one that creates a sense of personal place and wellbeing. By facilitating this, employers are more likely to improve staff retention and productivity.
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