In this article, we will show you 7 of the hottest trends and concepts in modern office design. Top companies including Silicon Valley trendsetters like Google are using these office interior design concepts to attract the best employees. Consider using them in your next office renovation.
Why Is Your Office Interior Design Important?
Do you want to attract the best employees to your organization? Do you find yourself competing for top talent in a hot job market? Do you seek to reduce your employee turnover rate? These days, salary or financial compensation alone isn’t the only factor driving employees to a workplace. Today’s best employees demand a workplace that stimulates creativity, collaboration, and communication while also reducing stress and anxiety. This is especially true for millennials but is also true for people in other age groups as well.
Besides employee preference, your office interior design is important for another reason: It directly impacts employee productivity, which directly affects your organization’s bottom line. Ideally you want a workplace that allows people to focus and concentrate whenever needed, and to collaborate and communicate whenever needed. You also want a workplace that is physically and mentally comfortable so that people can perform and function at their best. This is what today’s modern office design trends are striving to achieve.
This definitive guide is a list of the 7 most important office themes and design concepts that you need to know to attract and retain the best and most qualified employees to your organization. Let’s get started.
1. Activity-Based Working
Today’s cutting-edge companies are now using an office design plan called Activity-Based Working. What this means is that an employee can work anywhere in the office that suits his or her current activity.
For example, if an employee needs to do something that requires a high level of concentration and focus, he or she can move to an isolated quiet area to reduce distractions from co-workers. On the other hand, if an employee is doing something that requires close collaboration with co-workers, such as learning a new software application or overseeing a new employee, then he or she can sit at a traditional desk located immediately next to other co-workers in an “open communication” type of seating arrangement.
Here is a more extensive list of all the different types of areas in an Activity-Based Work environment:
- Open Office Areas – These are areas of the office workspace that have a more traditional type of seating arrangement where workers are seated very close to one another without any walls or cubicle barriers separating them. Typically, instead of each worker having his or her own individual desk, they share entire long workbenches. Each worker has his or her own individual area and items on the workbench, such as a computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, landline phone, and other accessories. Open office areas are suitable for highly collaborative work activities, such as activities where people may need to ask frequent questions of one another. Open office areas are popular among people working in sales and marketing. The biggest disadvantage of open office areas is noise and distractions from co-workers. Open office areas also lack complete privacy, which is not only needed for personal phone calls but also for direct business activities such as a confidential phone calls with clients.
- Privacy Areas – These are either small, enclosed, sound-proof booths or isolated quiet areas that allow a person to make confidential or private phone calls. These booths or areas may also be used to hold discreet meetings between two employees. Many private phone calls are totally unplanned and unscheduled. In those situations, an employee can quickly move to a private area immediately upon receiving a sensitive phone call from someone.
- Quiet Focus Areas – These are areas where people can concentrate deeply without distractions from others. The type of setting can range from an isolated armchair to a tiny room that is sound-proof.
- Meeting Areas – These are areas where groups of people can meet to discuss anything they need to discuss. The meeting area can be either an enclosed room or a lounge area. Meeting areas come in different sizes to accommodate different numbers of people. In some organizations, meeting areas are a limited resource, so people need to schedule and reserve time slots in advance for each meeting room. Impromptu meetings between two people can be held in lounge areas or small tables.
- Lounge Areas – These are areas with very relaxed and cozy seating and will have such things as sofas, couches, armchairs, pod seats, and coffee tables. These areas are suitable for a variety of different activities including impromptu meetings, group meetings, breaks from work, and activities requiring focused concentration. For activities requiring focused concentration, it is a matter of personal preference whether the employee wants to work in a lounge area or at a traditional desk.
- Café Areas – These are areas where people can sit down to eat lunch or snacks. They are ideal places for people to casually brainstorm new ideas, discuss the latest project, or run into old colleagues and find out what they are currently up to.
Activity-Based Working is a new trend that solves many of the problems of the older and more traditional type of office setup called the Open Office Plan. The Open Office Plan has been around for many decades. With the Open Office Plan, people work very closely together in open spaces with almost no barrier between them. The Open Office Plan was actually the answer to many of the problems of the even older and more traditional cubicles and private offices.
The biggest weakness of the older Open Office Plan is the inevitable distractions and noise from co-workers which can block activities requiring focused concentration. Some people flourish when left alone to concentrate on their task while others flourish in a more social environment. The Activity-Based Working model combines the best of both worlds. It allows individuals to choose the type of work setting that is most suitable to them at any given moment in time.
2. The Flexible Workspace
A hot new design concept that is gaining traction is what is called the flexible workspace. Flexible workspaces feature desks, tables, and chairs that are easily movable and easily resizable. This is in contrast to the more traditional office plan where the locations of desks, chairs, tables, and other resources are fixed and unchanging.
For example, in a flexible workspace plan, a meeting table can be easily and quickly resized by attaching or detaching modular components of the table. These modular components can be easily moved around because they are on wheels. Desks and workstations can also be moved around easily because they are on wheels. This allows the dynamic creation of new teams and boosts collaboration between workers for short-term and long-term tasks.
Some flexible workspaces also feature unassigned seating arrangements. This means that each employee is not assigned to a specific desk or workstation and can choose any desk or workstation on a given workday. This concept is made by possible by today’s modern trend toward a paperless workplace where nearly all information is digitized by computer. As such, the modern workplace is looking more and more like a simple desk and chair with only a computer, monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Many companies and organizations are also moving toward storing data on networks and remote file systems instead of local computers. These factors allow for unassigned seating arrangements in the workplace to become more practical and easy to implement.
Unassigned seating is thought to enhance collaboration between employees, since today’s projects are becoming more dynamic and free-flowing. It is also thought to enhance overall job performance, as some employees would like to work where they can best concentrate and focus on their work.
Google Garage is perhaps the most extreme example of a flexible workspace. Google Garage is a workspace area where any Google employee can go to brainstorm new product ideas through hands-on experimentation with different physical products, devices, and gadgets such as 3D printers. In this workspace, all of the tables, desks, whiteboards, and chairs are on wheels. You can write on the tables and walls. Power cables and ethernet network cables extend from the ceiling toward the floor so that desks, workstations, and meeting tables can be moved anywhere in the room while still being powered up and connected to the network. All of their equipment and devices are also movable on wheels.
Although you probably don’t have to go that far to provide a dynamic environment for your employees, Google Garage is a great example of the kind of workplace that many of today’s employees are leaning toward.
3. Bringing Nature Into The Workplace
One of the most powerful and enduring trends now reshaping America’s workplace is reconnecting people with nature. This is called biophilic design.
Biophilic design is based on the premise that humans have an innate need to connect with nature, and that when this connection is made, it results in better health, concentration, creativity, and work performance. The theory behind biophilic design is that it improves both physical and psychological health. Indeed, biophilic design reduces stress and enhances mood.
Biophilic design may use any of the following elements in offices and workplaces:
- Natural Light. Sunlight and daylight are brought into the building through large glass windows, glass walls, glass doors, and glass ceilings. High glass ceilings are used for common areas such as building lobbies. Natural light is considered healthier than artificial light.
- Flowing Water. This includes fountains, streams, and mini-waterfalls. Although these examples might be over-the-top for many small offices, they are more appropriate for building lobbies, common areas, and large offices.
- Plants. Incredible as it may sound, plants actually purify the air of toxic compounds that are otherwise harmful to human health. The scientific field of plant purification of the air was pioneered by a scientist named B. C. “Bill” Wolverton, who has published numerous studies on this subject. Plants also convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which improves human health and concentration.
- Views Of Nature. Magnificant views of the natural landscape outside the building can be achieved by installing bigger and wider windows. Paintings and pictures of nature can also be displayed throughout the office or building. Indoor gardens with plants, trees, rocks, flowing water, and wooden bridges can be installed in building lobbies and common areas to provide views of nature.
- Natural Materials. Floors, ceilings, staircases, hand rails, and other surfaces can be made from natural materials like wood or stone.
A great and shining example of biophilic design is the Central Atrium of the Federal Center South Building 1202 located in Seattle, Washington. This magnificant building features a common area with (1) natural light from high glass ceilings, (2) gardens consisting of flowing waterways, trees, dirt, and rocks, (3) indoor plants, (4) and walls, stairs, and handrails made of reclaimed timber.
The modern trend toward biophilic design is so powerful, it is sweeping the world’s largest metropolitan areas from New York City to Singapore. Bloomberg LP, a company headquartered in midtown Manhattan and founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, features extensive use of glass walls, glass doors, and fish tanks containing the world’s most exotic species of fish, on every floor of the headquarters building in Manhattan. And on building rooftops in midtown Manhattan can be seen gardens of trees, grass, and other elements of nature. Singapore began its biophilic movement about 50 years ago. In Singapore, trees and green natural surroundings can be seen everywhere. In fact, Singapore, which used to be called the “Garden City”, is now more appropriately called “City In A Garden”.
4. Creating A Home-Like Atmosphere
A big trend in office design that is sweeping the world is the concept of a workplace that resembles a home away from home. From bright and comfortable sofas to recreational swings to ping-pong tables to lounge areas, the idea is to make the workplace as relaxing and stress-free as possible. The idea is also to provide areas where employees can take short breaks to give their bodies and minds a rest so that they can recharge and remain productive throughout the day.
But cozy sofas and lounges aren’t all about having down-time. They can be used productively as well. For example, an employee can work on his or her laptop while seated on a cozy sofa or café table. Group meetings can be held at an informal living-room type of space with sofas, armchairs, and coffee tables. Two employees can discuss the latest work-related problem while standing on a beautiful terrace overlooking the natural scenery below. These are all things that can be found in a typical residential home. And a person working from home may very well do those kinds of activities on those areas of the home.
One reason why home-like design in the workplace is becoming practical is that our work can increasingly be done remotely and portably, thanks to increasing technology. Most of our data storage is now on computers, on the corporate network, or on the cloud. Gone are the days of endless file cabinets and stacks of paper sitting on your desk. These days, people increasingly need only their computer or laptop, keyboard, and mouse to do their work. This means that an employee can simply pick up their laptop and walk over to a comfortable lounge area to do their work. They can still choose to work at a conventional desk and chair, but now they have a choice between that and something more comfortable.
Experts believe that the trend toward a home-like workplace also comes from people’s increasing desire to work remotely from home. However, working remotely from home is generally at odds with upper management. Therefore, many managers and executives are now choosing to design their workplaces to be so comfortable and home-like, that employees would want to stay in the office for as long as possible.
Some of the home-like perks commonly provided by employers now include:
- Home-like sofas, armchairs, pod seats, and coffee tables.
- Lounge areas.
- Break areas with recreational games.
- Cafés with free coffee, snacks, and food.
- Fully stocked bars.
- Outdoor terraces and balconies.
- Exercise gym and showers.
- Bicycle storage.
Can Home-Like Workplaces Improve Employee Performance? The answer is yes. Companies everywhere are finding that providing a home-like atmosphere encourages productivity, collaboration, and open dialogue. This is because a home-like atmosphere is less intimating and less formal than a traditional office setup. In a relaxed setting, people feel more free to express their thoughts casually, which can stimulate brainstorming and creativity.
5. Industrial Office Design
A recent modern trend that cannot be ignored is the industrial office design. This trend became popular starting in the late 2000s and remains popular today.
The industrial office design is a purely aesthetic style of design that is intentionally unsophisticated: It is rustic, simple, and unrefined.
Here are some of the most common elements of industrial office design:
- Exposed ceiling air ducts
- Exposed ceiling pipes
- Exposed ceiling beams
- High ceilings
- Exposed brick walls along the outside of the office space
- Lack of interior walls resulting in more open space
- Very large windows
- Natural wood instead of treated wood
- Concrete floors instead of wood or carpeted floors
- Overhanging light fixtures with exposed light bulbs
As you might expect, factories, warehouses, and industrial buildings are more suitable to be converted to an industrial office design than conventional office buildings.
Why would a company embrace industrial office design? The message it conveys is that the company or organization occupying the office space is unconventional, creative, rebellious, or outside the mainstream. It may also convey a sense that “our prices are affordable because our overhead is low.” As such, it is a theme that is more commonly embraced by startup companies such as those found in Silicon Valley. The headquarters office space of Yelp!, which is a relatively new startup in Silicon Valley, has been constructed with a bold industrial office design. Heroku, another relative startup company located near San Franciso, has completely embraced an industrial office design theme in their company headquarters.
From a practical standpoint, industrial office designs are generally more budget-friendly than other types of office design. But the savings in construction costs could be offset by potentially difficult technical challenges encountered while converting an old factory or industrial building into one that is fit for office use in a corporate setting.
Remember, the type of office design used in your workspace determines what kind of employees you attract to your company or organization. The industrial office design tends to attract a younger demographic looking to exercise their creativity and unconventional way of thinking.
6. Ergonomic Workstations
These days, sitting is the new smoking. Sitting at your desk for long periods of time can have negative effects on your health. To address this issue, today’s modern office workplaces are incorporating the following new technologies into their workstations:
- Ergonomic Chairs. These are office chairs that have adjustable support for your lower back, which is also called lumbar support. Their seat height should also be adjustable so that the person sitting on the chair has both feet planted firmly on the ground. The height of the armrests should also be adjustable.
- Height Adjustable Desks. Ideally you would want the height of the desk to be adjustable for people of different body sizes. Some people also like to alternate between sitting and standing while they work. These desks use electric motors to adjust their height upon button activation.
- Sit/Stand Desk Risers. Also called “standing desks”, these are height-adjustable mechanical platforms that sit on top of the desk on which is placed your monitor, keyboard, and mouse. They are suitable when the employee wants to alternate between sitting and standing while working.
- Exercise Ball Chairs. These are large plastic balls inflated with air that can be used instead of a chair. As exercise, the person sitting on the ball can bounce up and down on the ball. Sitting on the ball also forces you to exercise the muscles in your body that are required to maintain balance on the ball. However, the health benefits of exercise ball chairs remain controversial.
Some employees like to periodically alternate between sitting and standing at their desks in order to minimize the health risks associated with sitting for too long. But health benefits aside, the sit/stand technique along with the exercise ball chair can both stimulate thinking, creativity, and concentration in some people, since the mind and body are interconnected.
Although the sit/stand technique and exercise ball chairs may not be for everyone, it is generally agreed upon that ergonomic chairs and height-adjustable desks are for everyone. That said, however, sit/stand desk risers and exercise ball chairs are trending and becoming more popular in the workplace.
7. Glass Walls And Doors
Glass walls and doors in the office workplace have been trending for years now, and they are an important part of modern and cutting-edge office interior design.
There are two main benefits of having glass walls and doors in the workplace:
- Natural Light. Glass walls and doors allow abundant sunlight and daylight to spread through the workplace. This is believed to be healthier for you than artificial light.Based on numerous studies, scientists now believe that natural light has excellent health benefits. A study published by American Academy Of Ophthalmology shows a strong link between the development of near-sightedness (also known as myopia) and the number of hours spent outdoors per week. Another study shows that as we age, our eyes lose the ability to absorb blue light, and that this is responsible for health problems . It turns out that blue light, which is part of natural daylight, is required for the production of melatonin, a hormone that is responsible for healthy, restful sleep and the rejuvenation of our bodies during sleep at night. Without it, we lose our biological rhythms based on the 24-hour cycle, and this can lead to health problems. Scientists have also known for decades that artificial light can lead to eye strain, headaches, and decreased well-being [3-5]. In addition, sunlight stimulates the production of Vitamin D in our bodies, which is vital for human health.
- Transparency. Glass walls and doors promote more transparency in the workplace. People can see what others are doing and thus become better team players. Glass walls and doors reduce the feeling of being isolated from the rest of the team. At the same time, glass walls and doors are relatively sound-proof, so they still allow people to concentrate and focus on their work. In addition, people are generally on their best behavior when they know that they can be observed. This promotes honesty and integrity in the workplace. Today’s most brilliant office designs make extensive use of glass. If you do not take advantage of this technology, you are missing out big.
Some people who are not familiar with glass walls and doors may dismiss them as being too weak to be used as a barrier in a workplace. But today’s modern glass walls and doors are made of special types of glass material that are amazingly strong and break-resistant.
Laminated glass, a common type of break-resistant glass, can also block 99.9% of ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight .
Glass walls are also thinner than regular walls. This means that glass walls create slightly more available space and square footage than regular walls. Another practical advantage of glass walls is that they are easier and cheaper to install than regular walls.
Which Office Design Theme Is Best For You?
As you decide which of the above modern design elements to incorporate into your next office renovation, you will want to consider not only their impact on your employees’ motivation, health, and productivity, but also the cost of implementing those elements.
In addition, technology exists today to install temporary sensor devices in multiple locations throughout your current workplace to detect the areas in your workplace that are being used the most, which can provide insight into how those areas are being used. That insight can then guide your next office renovation.
If design costs and sensor technology are not within your area of expertise, you can hire an office interior designer to design the perfect workspace for your company or organization that aligns with your company’s goals and values. Ideally you would want an office interior designer, such as RI Group, who understands today’s modern design trends and why they are important to the health, motivation, and productivity of your workforce. A good office interior designer will also have good working relationships with high-quality construction vendors that will ensure that your office renovation or construction project is done competently, on time, and on budget.
Today’s office interior design trends are all about enhancing the productivity, creativity, collaboration, and health of the employee workforce. As competition for attracting and retaining the best employees intensifies, the quality of the workplace becomes an important factor for any company or organization. Although salary or financial compensation is an important factor, it isn’t the only factor. Today’s white-collar workforce demands flexibility, collaboration, stress reduction, and creative stimulation. Since today’s employees spend most of their weekday waking hours at work and not at home, designing a home-like environment filled with physical comfort and stress reduction is a powerfully effective motivational factor for them.
“The Association between Time Spent Outdoors and Myopia in Children and Adolescents”
(American Academy Of Ophthalmology, October 2012, Volume 119, Issue 10, Pages 2141–2151)
“Circadian photoreception: ageing and the eye’s important role in systemic health”
(British Journal of Ophthalmology, Volume 92, Issue 11)
“Fluorescent lighting, headaches and eyestrain”
“The impact of flicker from fluorescent lighting on well-being, performance and physiological arousal”
(Ergonomics, 1998, Volume 41, Issue 4)
“Modulation of fluorescent light: Flicker rate and light source effects on visual performance and visual comfort”