The modern office has come a long way over the years. Just a few decades ago, they consisted largely of side-by-side cubicles, either in an open floor plan or separated by thin partition walls. Of course, some companies opted for a different design, but this was the de-facto standard for most offices constructed in the 1970s and 1980s.
Since then, however, office designs have evolved to incorporate aesthetics, ergonomics, and productivity. Whether you are designing a new office or modernizing your existing office, you should consider the following design trends to promote a positive working environment.
#1) Modular Design
One trend that’s becoming increasingly popular in offices today is modularity. A modular design is characterized by the use of multiple interchangeable parts – doors, windows, walls, ceilings, etc. – that allow business owners and managers to easily change the layout. Rather than removing an entire wall that separates workers’ desks, for instance, you can simply remove parts of the wall to achieve your desired layout.
Modular office designs allow for an unmatched level of customization. You can change out the components to create a layout that’s truly one of a kind. However, there are other reasons to consider a modular design for your office.
Some of the benefits of using a modular office design include the following:
- It costs less than conventional designs
- Ability to change the design on the fly
- Custom design options to reinforce your company’s culture
- It’s future proof
#2) Emphasis on Collaboration
According to research conducted by Herman Miller, Inc., 80% of an individual worker’s output is dependent on group collaboration. As a result, many companies are designing their offices to encourage teamwork and collaboration. Aside from the positive impact, this has on workers’ attitudes, it also improves their productivity – and that alone is reason enough to at least consider a collaborative-focused office design.
Collaborative-focused office designs often include large conference-style tables, open spaces and lounge area. This is in stark contrast to the individually segmented cubicles found in earlier office designs.
Companies big and small are taking a newfound interest in sustainable, environmentally friendly practices, including their office design. A survey conducted by the Nielsen Company found that 55% of consumers worldwide are willing to pay more for products and services offered by environmentally responsible companies. This has prompted many companies to carefully consider their operations and how it affects the environment.
An environmentally friendly office design may incorporate non-VOC furniture, natural lighting, energy-efficient lighting (e.g., LED and CFL), non-toxic cleaning supplies, rugs made of organic materials, natural hardwood or bamboo flooring, rechargeable batteries and recycling bins. Basically, these “green” offices focus on clean, sustainable products that don’t consume a lot of energy or resources.
In addition to the positive impact it has on your company’s brand image, an environmentally friendly office could save you big bucks. The DVIRC reports that office buildings account for roughly 19% of all commercial energy consumed in the United States. Embracing an environmentally friendly office design by changing out incandescent light bulbs for LEDs or CFLs and performing other actions, however, can lower these costs.
#4) Standing and Hybrid Desks
You’ll find many modern offices now featuring either standing or hybrid-sitting/standing desks, the latter of which can convert from a traditional “sitting” desk to a standing desk. So, what makes this a popular trend in office design? Simply put, sitting for long periods at a time is bad for your health.
Studies have linked prolonged sitting to a wide range of adverse health conditions, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and even premature death. “Everybody knows smoking is bad for your health. But what isn’t common knowledge is that physical inactivity is as powerful a risk factor as smoking,” said Dr. I-Min Lee of Harvard Medical School.
It’s unknown why prolonged sitting is bad for your health, though some experts believe it’s attributed to the negative ways in which it impacts blood-sugar levels and metabolism. Nonetheless, the consensus is that sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of many chronic diseases.
While standing and hybrid desks are still a relatively new concept, there’s strong evidence reinforcing their health benefits. A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that sit-to-stand products, including the desks mentioned above, are effective at reducing prolonged sitting. When a worker has access to a standing or hybrid desk, he or she will be more likely to stand.
Standing and hybrid desks allow office workers to perform their respective tasks while standing. And being that you burn 30% more calories when standing versus sitting, this trend could play an important role in improving the health of office workers.
#5) Hidden Wires and Cables
Electrical wires and cables are a serious eye-sore in the office. Whether it’s Ethernet data cables, computer cables, monitor cables, printer cables, power strips, phone lines, etc., the average office has a lot of wires running through it. Leaving these wires and cables exposed creates a cluttered, messy atmosphere that hurts your office’s décor.
Furthermore, exposed electrical wires and cables create a tripping hazard. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that 15% of all accidental deaths in the United States involve slips, trips, and falls. Other statistics show that 1 in 6 of all work injuries that merit time off from work involve falls. Hiding all electrical wires and cables isn’t going to eliminate the risk of falls, but it can certainly help by lowering the risk.
In an effort to improve the safety and aesthetics of their workplace, many business owners and office managers are now concealing their wires and cables. There are several solutions to conceal wires and cables, some of which include wire tubes, furniture with built-in wire passages, wall mounts, ties, organizers and more. Electrical outlets can even be installed directly into the flooring, allowing workers to plug in their devices under their workstation.
#6) Tailored Towards Millennials
Offices are now being tailored to meet the needs of millennials and for a good reason. According to a report by SHRM, an overwhelming majority of HR professionals (68%) believe the millennial generation will play a major impact on the workplace in the next five years. A separate report published by PWC suggests that millennials will account for nearly half of the entire global workforce by 2020, attesting to their significance in the corporate world.
The successors to Generation X, Millennials are defined as middle-aged men and women who were born sometime between the early 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s. As this generation takes the place of the baby boomers, offices are being specifically altered to satisfy their needs. Millennials typically have a greater interest in technology, wellness, and social and environmentally responsibility. Modern office designs incorporate these elements, so they are more appealing to this ever-increasing demographic in the workplace.
#7) Ergonomic Chairs
We can’t talk about office design trends for 2017 without mentioning the use of ergonomic chairs. In the past, office managers typically selected chairs on the basis of aesthetics, paying little-to-no attention to their ergonomics (or lack thereof). Now, however, office managers are going the extra mile to ensure their workers have access to comfortable, ergonomically designed chairs.
So, what does “ergonomic” mean exactly? This catch-all term describes the process of designing a product or workplace to meet the needs of the person who uses it. Ergonomic chairs, for instance, are designed with a focus on comfort and body support, specifically for the lumbar (lower back) region.
Investing in ergonomic chairs for your office serves several purposes. First, it improves worker morale and satisfaction. Secondly – and most importantly – it reduces the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
MSDs are injuries or conditions that affect the muscles, ligaments, tendons and supporting structures. Common examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains, lower back strains, shoulder cuff tears and trigger finger. According to statistics cited by OSHA, nearly one-third of all worker injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2013 were MSDs.
Ergonomic chairs can help prevent MSDs in the workplace by ensuring that workers are adequately supported when sitting. Chairs that are not ergonomically designed will stress the lower back, causing fatigue and increasing the risk of MSD-related lower back pain.
#8) Blending of Outdoor Elements
Coming in at number eight on our list of popular office design trends for 2017 is the blending of outdoor elements. When workers are forced to sit indoors for eight or more hours a day, it can negatively affect their mood. By bringing outdoor elements into the office, it counters this effect to create a more aesthetically appealing environment.
Decorating your office with low-maintenance houseplants is one way to blend the design with outdoor elements. Strategically placing houseplants throughout your office will enhance the décor, creating a sense of the outdoors.
Additionally, houseplants promote cleaner air by filtering dust, bacteria, bold and other impurities from the air. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) says that indoor air pollution is one of the leading concerns for public health. And just because the air in your office looks clean doesn’t mean that it is. By incorporating houseplants into your office design, you’ll promote cleaner air with lower levels of toxins and pollutants.
Another idea is to install an indoor water fountain in your office. The sound of flowing water instills calmness and tranquility while reflecting the outdoor environment. And like houseplants, water fountains also promote cleaner air by filtering airborne particles. The only downside is that is that indoor water fountains require regular maintenance; otherwise, they’ll accumulate dust and debris while also promoting mildew.
#9) The Right Color
Color can make or break the design of an office. The wrong color combination can literally lower workers’ performance by instilling a sense of anxiety and stress. The right color combination, however, has the opposite effect by promoting a sense of wellness and relaxation, while subsequently improving productivity and performance.
According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas, the worst colors for an office design are gray, beige and white, which reflect sadness and depression. Yellow, on the other hand, embraces innovation and optimism. Other colors to consider incorporating into your office design include red, blue, orange, green and shades thereof. Feel free to experiment with different colors to see what works best for your office layout.
Alternatively, you may want to consider using a metallic finish in your office, which according to Domain is one of the top interior design trends for 2017. Mimicking the appearance of a stainless-steel surface, metallic finish is a classic style that’s guaranteed to withstand the hands of time.
#10) Technology Integration
Finally, technology integration is an office design trend that’s becoming more and more popular. Most modern offices have a wireless Internet connection at the very least – and that’s not expected to go away anytime soon. However, there are new technological innovations that are slowly being integrated into the office.
Wireless charging is one such technological innovation that’s commonly found in offices. Also known as inductive charging, it uses an electromagnetic field to send power to nearby devices, typically through a charging station. The obvious benefit of wireless charging is that it doesn’t require a direct connection between the device and a power outlet, which is a huge plus in a crowded conference room with dozens of workers.
Wireless charging is still in its infancy, though, so it’s typically limited to smartphones and mobile devices. In the future, experts believe it could be used to power nearly all electronic devices, essentially eliminating the need for power cords altogether.
Some companies are also integrating iBeacon technology into their offices. Originally developed by Apple and presented at the Developers Conference in 2013, iBeacon is a Bluetooth low energy proximity sensing protocol that sends location-based information to nearby iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices. It can be used to guide interns around large, complex office facilities, or it can be used to send critical information to teams collaborating in various rooms.
Who knows where office designs are headed next. As technology and interior design practices continue to change, so will offices. However, it’s safe to say the office design trends listed above will remain popular for quite some time.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.