In 2016, we witnessed an increase of on-the-go Millennial workforces as well as the number of partially-remote or fully-telecommute positions. Modern office design professionals have had to raise awareness among C-suite and HR departments that innovative design, more than ever, is required to recruit and keep great talent. An office is not a separate environment the individual visits: it's often part of the individual's identity and company culture. Over the last twelve months, we've looked at technological innovations, creative case studies, and ergonomic solutions to determine five trends that will influence next year's modern office.

The Fate of the Filing Room

Unless you work in an intensely regulated industry such as finance or healthcare, you may have noticed more companies and departments are transferring physical files to the cloud. Cloud-based computing reduces the office layout necessary for filing, printing, copying, and storage. But make sure you have the right people to help you transition, maintain and improve upon your cloud computing workflow. As paper filing and storage give way to digital, you may find yourself with a large, empty area. Consider creatively repurposing that space into another small conference room or huddle workspace for projects.

Rethinking the Office Desk

As more employees reconfigure their work days to include telecommuting, remote-based work, and collaborative meetings, the number of dedicated office desks may decrease. You should perform an audit to make sure employees are not only using their desks, but that their personal work space meets their productivity and comfort levels. Not all office desks are created equal. Adjustable height desks, treadmill workstations, data-integrated personal tables, and "wireless" desks are swiftly dominating modern commercial workspaces for one simple reason: they adapt to the employee's needs, they don't require the employee to adapt to it.

Your New Co-Worker: Mother Nature

This year we saw a rise in the number of offices that are strategically and deeply integrating natural elements in their workplace design such as salvaged wood, water features, living walls, outdoor office extensions. It's not enough to simply keep an ivy or fern at the reception desk and call it a day. Future-forward companies are already introducing a new standard using biophilic design principles. Biophilic design elements have demonstrably real, measurable benefits for human performance metrics such as productivity, emotional well-being, stress reduction, learning, and healing, according to Terrapin Bright Green. For example, Kickstarter's headquarters in New York renovated an old pencil factory into a space that includes a natural courtyard and an edible rooftop garden. The courtyard is centralized in the middle of the office and the space remains open as it extends upward, allowing more natural light to come into the building. As a result, the new office provides spaces for relief from mental and physiological fatigue.

Time to Collaborate Better and Faster

When it comes to collaboration and team meetings, diversity is key...not just among the company, but among the collaborative furniture options available. If you have small meetings of two to six people, you can easily implement an acoustic furniture pod in the middle of your open office. Other commercial workspaces are finding a way to blend acoustic seating and collaborative furniture while simulating the relaxed atmosphere of an employee lounge. This encourages people to get away from the upright, formal conference table in favor of comfortable chairs and intimate surroundings. The trend points to non-linear design in favor of striking yet cozy meeting spaces.

Shape Up With New Seating Options

Imagine how different the conversations would go in a company meeting if you had one area of round, low seating which created an equal playing ground for all involved. That's exactly what Google's London headquarters did, using a giant semi-circle white sofa. The challenge with any large office, especially a 160,000 sq foot space as occupied by Google, is the question of how to keep the space feeling fresh and alive at every turn while offering sanctuaries and think spaces away from one's desk. More than ever, offices must inspire and invite employees to do their best by offering furniture that meets different work modes. You can take a cue from the search engine giant and use a large sofa, or try smaller "hobbit hole" spaces such as enclaves with padded benches, acoustic couches, a long communal table for lunch or telecommuters, the modern version of old-school desk attachments to rolling chairs, and general seating that helps employees feel comfier.

In the new year, use these trends to incorporate new design elements or even plan out a multi-phased improvement project that can inspire your employees and grow your company the right way.

Published on: Jan 11, 2017