Office design has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Just think - coming to an office for the day used to mean sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours. Today, it could mean sitting on a couch with your colleagues for an hour, then participating in a walking meeting through your company's green space, then spending a few hours hyper-focused in a soundproofed room.
As we've come to understand more about how our work environments affect our creativity and productivity, many companies have chosen to take advantage of those findings. The result has been good for all of us: more comfortable, effective, and productivity-boosting workspaces.
So what's the latest in office design? What will we see from the most forward-thinking companies in 2018? Here are a few new ideas that I and my MADE co-founder, architect Jared Skinner, have been thinking about.
1. Collaboration 2.0
The collaborative workspace isn't new by any means, but the collaborative workspaces of 2018 are approaching collaboration in a more creative way.
For one thing, these spaces are being placed in innovative locations. We're no longer seeing "collaborative zones" that are relegated to a single floor, or deliberately placed in a one corner of the office.
Instead, collaborative workspaces are being incorporated seamlessly into the office as a whole. We're seeing open spaces with seating, tables, and whiteboards backed up against enclosed offices. Intermediate zones like hallways are being transformed by the addition of a booth or beanbag seating to encourage employee interaction.
Companies are realizing that if they really want to encourage collaboration, it must be baked into the office design - not just added on.
2. Greater focus on internal brand activation
In 2018, brands of all types will seek to move beyond internal brand engagement, and toward internal brand activation.
The difference might not seem like much, but it's actually an important step in the evolution of how companies are relating to their employees. Internal engagement sees a brand as an object or concept that employees engage with in (ideally) a give-and-take relationship.
Internal brand activation sees a brand as what it actually is: a living, ongoing experience that is a part of employees' lives. Considering how much time each of us spends at work throughout our lives, that experience is a pretty significant one.
One creative way that companies are working on internal brand activation is by embracing the concept of brand hospitality.
Hospitality has long been a staple of creating customer experiences, but the most forward-thinking companies are now putting that concept to work internally.
This includes things like improving accessibility for employees with disabilities. Translation apps for the hard-of-hearing, adaptive office chairs, and fully-accessible office spaces are just a few of the important ways that companies are extending that brand hospitality to all of its employees.
3. Biophilic design - with a twist
Biophilic design, or design that seeks to bring elements of nature to our indoor environments, has been around for decades. We've seen its influence in the move toward more natural lighting, for example, and the incorporation of green space into office campuses.
Recently, biophilic design has started including more subtle, creative elements as well. The use of natural textures in floors, walls, and furnishings, as well as an emphasis on colors and patterns found in nature, are becoming more prevalent.
Some companies are even combining these elements with more contemporary or urban design choices, creating a new twist on biophilic design.
2018 will see our workspaces becoming ever more innovative, comfortable, and hospitable. How does your workplace measure up?