Office trends 2018 …. What’s it all about?
Office trends 2018 …. What’s it all about?
Post written by Paragon Interiors   February 27, 2018

Each new year there is an ever-increasing barrage of trend predictions advising us to continue-this, change-that, follow-this and stop-that. With so much information coming directly at the consumer from all forms of media it’s easy to forget that it really is all about The People. It’s about us, and what we need to be happy, productive and to feel fulfilled. It’s about attracting and retaining top talent. It’s about people being their most interesting and creative selves. It’s about stimulating innovation and supporting new ideas. If you’re interested in nurturing the potential your talent pool has available, here are some topics of interest for you.

1 A multi-generational workplace

Longevity and economics have created an older workforce of valued and experienced staff that share the same office real estate with eager young graduates and their new ideas. Conducive environments for the cross-pollination of these talents has become vital. The quiet focus-spaces are just as essential as the hip-and-fun collaboration lounges, but what both require are good acoustic insulation and the correct lighting for the task at hand.

Generation Z’s believe that their actions can make a difference, and their entrance into the workplace brings with it a defiance of singular identity and a neutral view on gender – concepts that are quite new to the corporate world. The values of respect and equality across diverse project-teams and business-units will make for interesting and energising environments, as we value and embrace our differences as part of our daily lives.

2 A change of traditional leadership

Roles that were once clear before, may now be turned upside down. Experts in a field may lead in some instances, instead of the role traditionally played by management, and these roles may constantly evolve and change depending on the task, phase or project at hand. Trust and the transparency of intentions becomes a part of this continual shift, as does the encouragement of an entrepreneurial environment where new ideas can be openly explored.

Changes in attitudes that now value kindness and humanity, offer understanding and support, rather than just enforcing the old-school norms, can have positive effects on employees, enhancing their feelings of value and empowerment. Wanting to make a contribution is a self-realised engagement that will make a favourable difference to the bottom line. A happy work experience is the cue for retaining talented employees and the environment needs to reflect the sensibilities of these people who use the space. To this end, comfort and multifunctional flexibility within spaces, that can accommodate a variety of tasks, becomes increasingly pertinent.

3 Wellness

One of the most increasingly significant trends over recent years has been wellness. While this is not only about the physical environment in the workplace, it’s also becoming recognised as enjoying the kind of work you do, and even about having friends at work! It’s about feeling included in the company and in decisions taken in a transparent manner, which engenders a trust.

Employees expect to have great workplaces, and it’s believed that having the kind of office that makes you glad to be there has a significant influence on ones’ feeling of wellness. Natural light, an outside view, clean fresh air, pleasant scents and comfortable temperatures are still a priority. The actual design of a building and its technical services needs to take this all into account, as well as the ergonomics relating to the fit-out, furniture and fittings.

If a staircase, for example, is well designed, wide and safe it not only has the obvious benefit of increasing the fitness levels of those using it regularly, but it has the added benefit of encouraging serendipitous meetings which fuel natural and relaxed social interchanges. Furniture like Sit/Stand-desks, which offer a choice of desk heights, have become a popular option, as have office layouts with central print-hubs away from the immediate workstation, which encourage movement so that you have to take a break and get up and walk.

Lovely places to eat are recognised as providing space for colleagues to develop friendships in a relaxed atmosphere – it’s not slacking-off, its building community, culture and support structures which help people cope with pressure and relieve stress.

On the other end of the scale, providing places to focus, away from the hub-bub, has become a necessity for concentration, providing some personal space and privacy.

Happiness in the workplace leads to staff retention and a natural engagement in the tasks at hand, but requires a deliberate effort to ensure consistency. When decisions are made, it is always good to ask why and how this will affect employees.

4 Comfort spaces

Shared spaces that look like casual living rooms or coffee shops are a big part of office design. This encourages employees to enjoy working in their ‘home-away-from-home’, and can go a long way in retaining staff. Choices of soft, comfortable furniture with easy access to Wi-Fi and other technology, create places that are easy and welcoming to work in. Armchairs that support your back for comfort and have wide arms, for easy use of a laptop mouse, and mobile adjustable tables, make it easy to work anywhere. It provides a different, appealing experience, allowing one to ‘zone-out’ for a while and recharge in a different setting.

5 Collaboration

This word has been flung around for a while now but the spaces for collaboration have evolved from unconventional “playgrounds” with quirky furniture, to useful workshop areas, where colleagues share ideas and work towards a common objective, beyond what they would have accomplished independently. These areas now offer comfortable, flexible furniture and fittings that promote ease of use and accommodate a mix of personalities and their individual preferences.

A good, supportive chair, whether upholstered in a vibrant fabric or not, is necessary as are table tops to work on. Both can be on castors if required for easy re-arranging of the furniture for different uses. Writable boards/wallpaper/paint and pin boards, as well as technology in the form of Wi-Fi, digital screens and equipment play a vital role in the success of these areas.

The finishes within the space should still be creative and inspirational, as well as offer acoustic privacy for those in and outside of the space. Rooms that have windows to outside views have proven more popular than internal rooms with only glazing panels to passages or directly on to other office areas.

6 Activity Based Working

This trend is certainly on the rise, and it’s about the effective use of space rather than just a space saving exercise. Activity Based Working is largely used for itinerant workers who require different work settings. These workspaces provide a variety of alternative areas to work in and give diversity and choice for the changes in each specific task’s requirements. Whilst no one “owns” a desk, there should be enough workstations provided for focus work, and quiet spaces for introverts, as well as the team interaction spaces.

An important part of being a member of a company is the communal interaction that employees look forward to each day. People are naturally social and enjoy being with others to give them a sense of wellbeing and belonging. With many larger corporations changing their ideas on absolute remote working, due to the loss of company culture and natural knowledge transference, they are now gearing up their office-spaces to make them inviting and comfortable. This is to entice employees back to the office for some or all of the working day. Designing office interiors with conscious thought to the comforts of the individuals using the space, will go a long way towards achieving this goal.

7 Technology

An essential part of the work environment, there will be continued development and growth in this area. Wi-Fi remains important, promoting connectivity globally, and facilitating mobility and flexibility.

Virtual Reality (VR) is growing due to its ability to simulate experiences ranging from Marketing to Production, and even Customer Services and Finance. With the use of VR headsets for employee training in customer interaction, for example, the experience feels so real, and also allows the trainee to later observe and correct their own mistakes. Practicing public speaking takes on a new perspective where each nuance and inflection can be corrected and adjusted, thereby mastering the skill. Unencumbered, technology-driven spaces will need to be provided for these exercises.

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming a reality in many businesses where mundane tasks can now be performed by this technology. Examples already exist in the interactive marketing of new devices and products, call centres, inventory tasks and even entertainment. This will be the space to watch in the future, as ordinary jobs may be undertaken by androids. Technology consultants and computer software engineers will be in high demand as new solutions are required to run and improve businesses.

8 Materials

Environmental awareness is still right at the top of the agenda, with the use of recycled and environmentally conscious materials in the fit-out of offices still on-trend. Carpets made from recycled plastic beverage bottles, furniture from reclaimed wood, cushions made by using recycled sacks, and even an organic leather substitute manufactured from pineapple leaves, can all be used without compromising the design, and can contribute to a social consciousness and environmental awareness of the employees.

Flooring continues to incorporate hexagonal shapes and the combination of a variety of different finishes on one floor. Vintage, faded-look carpets are en vogue too. Concrete and cement are currently popular, versatile and durable materials, often being used on floors, vertical elements and other horizontal surfaces, sometimes inlaid with wood or stone and used even for ‘loose’ furnishings.

In terms of upholstery, interesting textures that contribute to a warm experience and tactile fabrics such as velvets will still be popular, as well as visual stimuli such as pleating, which takes the place of deep buttons, in evoking luxury and comfort.

Providing areas where surfaces can be personalised – such as writable wallpapers, glass boards, cork pin-boards, and the open invitation to “make your mark”, helps personalise one’s space.

Neat, organic shapes with soft corners, in place of unruly amoeba shapes and hard geometric shapes, add a warmth and softness to the furnished environment now.

9 Colour

Each year a new colour is selected by Pantone and various paint companies, to be the colour of choice for the year. This can be quite confusing as they each promote a different colour. This year Pantone has put forward “Ultra-Violet” – a strong purple, and we will start to see this colour appearing in linen, ceramics, fabrics and furniture.

Obviously, the corporate world needs to be true to the longevity of its brand and culture when choosing colours to enhance offices, rather than what is on trend that year. However, in a neutral environment, accessories can be swopped out to give an up-to-date feel and here the inclusion of a new colour can freshen and invigorate a tired space.

Another surprise is the return of terracotta, and before you all groan, this reappears in warm, earthy bronzes and updated applications, giving it a more contemporary feel. It also extends the palette towards soft neutrals like, pastel caramels and milky mocha’s, as well as the continuation of various shades of grey.

10 Style influences

There is a move away from themed interiors that need to be updated regularly and a break from gimmicks, with more of a connection to the ‘truth’ of materials and their environments being sought. That’s not to say that there are no longer statement spaces, but they are now created with careful consideration to the question of why they are there in the first place.

The pattern-form of Maximalism is a rather busy looking and colourful design concept, where different patterns, colours and shapes are all used together, likened to a crazy-collage. A very obvious response to the extremes of minimalism, and is now becoming quite an interesting addition to current trends.

Maximalism is thought-provoking and definitely not for the feint hearted, while Minimalism on the other hand will remain popular in the corporate world for some time still. The “less-is-more” style is easy to live with and generally timeless, providing a longevity that people have become accustomed to. The warm and cosy influence of the Danish lifestyle of “Hygge”, with its more homely pieces of furniture and fittings, will however now be added to the office to give it that sought after welcoming feel.

Another influence on Minimalism will be the Japanese Wabi-Sabi trend of moving towards having less, and embracing the authenticity of age. In short, this appreciates natural things, like irregular shaped timbers and finding beauty in the imperfection of simple items and cherishing older things, as a great remedy to a society that had become accustomed to discarding disposable goods.

11 Personalisation

Following on from the homely influence, will be the personalisation of work spaces. Even in the nomadic life of Activity Based Working, there will be ways that personal belongings such as photographs of family, or precious ornaments can be included in the workplace setting, to give employees the opportunity to express themselves. This will come through in lockers and bankers boxes, and in offices that include a concierge service where your personal belongings will already be on the workstation that you have requested/been assigned, by the time you arrive.

12 Biophilia

We have seen this trend, that connects human beings with the natural world, grow in 2017 and it continues into 2018. Natural timbers, stone, plant walls, planter boxes, hanging baskets, succulents, grasses and air plants, have all made their appearances in the office environment, and the basis behind this still remains: nature provides serenity and plants detoxify the office.

Due to budgets and maintenance, however, for some there is a trend toward artificial plants, which obviously don’t offer the air-cleansing ability of natural plants, but still provide the visual advantages and feelings of tranquillity.

Terrariums are also growing in popularity and are a change from orchids which have hogged the limelight for the past few years. Easy to use in almost any area, this quiet touch of green adds a calmness and serenity to environments that are often demanding and frenetic.

So, the roll-out of the one-size-fits-all office of the past is definitely no longer appropriate, and is being replaced by designs that offer flexible, personalised and user-friendly spaces. Even within a minimal budget, attention to detail remains imperative as it’s the small things that can make a big difference, and can contribute to the retention of top talent and by creating a happy and productive place to work.

Why not read some more on Activity Based Working? This may be a work trend that is suitable for you!