The traditional office space had already begun its journey toward change; however, the global pandemic has only caused this evolution to speed up. Gone are the days of cordoned-off cubicles, hierarchical office divisions, and concrete jungles. Moving forward, offices are now beginning to favor concepts including large and open-air spaces, areas designated for individual needs, and biophilic elements that bring the outdoors in.
As our world moves towards a post-pandemic future, let’s take a closer look at these exciting new design trends, as well as how they will benefit organizations and their employees.
Large, Open-Air Spaces Over the last decade, office spaces have moved away from cramped quarters and toward a vast and open-plan layout. However, this design trend is no longer just about achieving a more flexible and communal way of working. For the future workplace, large and open spaces place an emphasis on employee health and allow workers to adhere to social distancing as a means of reducing the spread of illness.
Along with further embracing open-plan layouts, the future office will also look to open-air spaces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend prioritizing ventilation in office buildings, due to the numerous health benefits of having access to fresh, outdoor air. These include lowered blood pressure and heart rate, a strengthened immune system, cleansing of the lungs, and lowered stress, among many other benefits. Therefore, organizations are now looking to capitalize on this as a means of “pandemic-proofing” their office.
Along with its health benefits, an open-air office also helps workers to boost their creativity. Architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi described large, open-air workspaces as “an alternative to the claustrophobic boundaries of home and the monotonous flatness of the specificity of the office”. Like many others, they believe office design will soon recognize that a person’s creative potential “needs access to the horizon and room to breathe." Large companies including Microsoft, Apple, and Google are already incorporating open-air and outdoor design concepts in their workplaces. It’s only a matter of time, however, until organizations of all sizes turn their attention to the benefits that large, open-air spaces bring.
Areas Designated for Individual Needs The past few decades have seen office design trends move from stuffy and isolating cubicles to a large and open layout-favoring community. The office of the future, however, will contain elements from both of these past trends, opting for a workspace that fosters both collaboration and quiet time.
This is because organizations have become acutely aware of the need for flexibility during the workday, driven by the pandemic’s rise in remote working. As workers were forced to carry out their roles from the comfort of their homes, they began to change the way they approached their work. A typical workday started to look very different, with employees opting to move from room to room, pause for coffee, and take phone calls on a leisurely walk almost whenever they pleased.
Therefore, the future office will embrace a design that adapts to this changing nature of work life. There will be different spaces within the same open office plan to allow for various activities throughout the day. These might include a lounge or café environment for a break-out zone, stand-up meeting spaces, more formal conference rooms, rows of communal desks, or (according to architects at Wolfgang + Hite), private pods for workers to use as a focus space or for napping.
Associate Professor and Director of SHE (Sustainable and Healthy Environments) Lab, Christhina Candido, further emulates this concept; “People are starting to realize that we need to be provided with different spaces within the same open office plan, because we don’t do the same thing during the whole day. There are parts of our day that we need to go to a space to concentrate, there are parts of the day where you actually are happy to hang out with colleagues. And there are times that you actually need to have a moment to yourself.”
Biophilic Elements that Bring the Outdoors In Along with embracing open-air spaces, as we discussed earlier, the future office will also place greater emphasis on bringing the great outdoors into the office. Known as biophilic design, this concept incorporates elements of Mother Nature — such as plants, natural light, and earthy materials — into indoor spaces.
With the onset of COVID-19 and society’s renewed focus on public health, biophilic design has become an additional means of creating a safer and healthier workplace. Countless studies prove that workers cannot thrive in a concrete jungle and instead encourage organizations to harness the power of nature within their offices.
Thankfully, embracing biophilic design is easy to do. By incorporating Living Walls within their layout, for example, companies can enjoy a wide range of benefits. With their abundance of plant life, living walls can improve indoor air quality by up to 85.8 percent, reduce indoor sounds by an average of 15 decibels, boost productivity and creativity by 15 percent, and improve employee wellbeing by 47 percent, all while being low-maintenance and easy to care for.
The future office will embrace living walls as a means of partitioning individual areas, while rooftop gardens and even greenhouse-style workspaces will prove popular in innovative offices. When it comes to the future biophilic workplace, Amazon is already leading the way. Its rainforest-like office space in Seattle houses over 40,000 plants, aiming to inspire creativity and foster a community-based culture.
Reimagining the Office of the Future The pandemic forced many employees to begin working from home, and in turn, has driven organizations to reimagine office design. Design trends come and go, but one thing is for certain: future office spaces will look very different, even when compared to their modern counterparts today.
The office of the future will favor productivity, creativity, and collaboration over hours spent sitting at a desk, particularly through the creation of individual zones designed for specific purposes. It will also focus on creating safer and healthier areas through embracing open-air spaces, as well as biophilic design concepts including living walls.
Are you ready to start embracing the benefits of the office of the future today? Installing a Living Wall is a great first step that's quick and easy to implement, and can provide tons of mental and physical health benefits to your employees. Check out our Model Z Living Wall today to learn more.