Last year saw perhaps the biggest shift in how we view, design and use the ‘traditional’ office for many years. Now, with 2021 upon us and our perceptions well and truly challenged, what does the future hold for the office design? Here, we share our predictions for this year and beyond.
Back in March 2020, we were thrust into a position where the majority of us had no choice but to work from home. We realised that our jobs can be done outside of the office environment and many of us enjoyed the newfound flexibility that came with this new way of working. The internet was abuzz with questions about whether the office was dead.
Fast forward to the end of 2020 and the mood had changed. A recent survey suggests that only 26% of UK office workers say that they want to work from home on a full-time basis. At the start of the pandemic, this figure was closer to half.
Put simply, people are missing the office.
But what does this mean for office design in 2021? Despite people wanting to return to the office in some capacity, the majority of people do not plan to do so on a full-time basis. 87% of UK office workers stated their desire to be able to work from home at least some of the time. This means that, while offices still have a critical role to play, they will need to look and operate very differently to accommodate this new hybrid working model.
Designing for flexibility
Without a doubt, the biggest trend for office design in 2021 will be flexibility. With hybrid working expected to become commonplace, offices will increasingly be used as a place for teams to gather and ideas to be shared. As such, we’ll see far fewer fixed desks and far more multi-use spaces that encourage collaboration and innovation. There will be a pick and mix of ‘environments’ that employees can choose based on their particular needs that day. We also predict the need for much more non-permanent design elements (think portable furniture, pop-up privacy areas etc.) that can support diverse activities and new ways of working.
Designing for sustainability
Sustainability will continue to be a major concern for office design in 2021. As the effects of global warming continue to be felt across the planet, we are becoming more aware of steps we can take as individuals and businesses to reduce our carbon footprint. With many companies looking to redesign their office spaces to reflect the changes COVID-19 has brought about, there’s a real opportunity to put sustainability at the heart of future office design.
This will play out in a number of ways. Firstly, construction companies will need to incorporate new sustainable practices into their operations, particularly the choice of materials and construction methods they use. Secondly, we’ll see an increase in the use of sustainable design features within buildings such as rainwater harvesting and greener lighting as businesses look to play their part in reaching zero carbon targets.
Designing for wellness
The importance of wellness in the workplace is certainly not a new thing, but the impact of the pandemic has highlighted the need to put employee health and wellbeing front and centre. The impact of this on office design will be profound.
Firstly, we’ll see an increase in areas designed to reduce stress in employees. This could be anything from introducing more casual seating areas to incorporating gardens, gyms and more into the office footprint.
We’ll also see more design features that enhance wellbeing such as biophilic design. However, instead of the odd desk plant, companies will start to experiment with more meaningful ways of bringing nature into offices. This could be through living walls, plant partitions, organic materials and better use of natural light for example.
If 2020 marked the ‘death of the office’, 2021 marks its rebirth. The importance of the office will be re-established, and office designs will be updated to reflect the brave new world we find ourselves in. We have some great inspo here or check out our hybrid working floor plan example below.
Despite a challenging start to the year with the start of Lockdown 3 in the UK and (at time of writing) an end date unclear, we’re excited to see what 2021 holds.