Kenneth Freeman, Head of Innovation, Ambius
Although office workers spend a large proportion of their time indoors when at work, companies do not always place a high priority on the design and interior features of their offices. Lobbies and meeting rooms typically get the most attention because they are used to impress clients or customers, while the more functional workspaces can often be ignored. Research has shown that UK office workers’ productivity is so poor that we only spend three days out of five actually working. So why aren’t businesses investing in more inspiring workplaces to motivate their workers? What can companies do to improve the design of their office space to maximise the positive benefits this could deliver? In this article, I will explore five office design trends to consider this year.
It’s all about the green
Adding a splash of colour can be an inexpensive way to brighten up an office space and can stimulate creativity and productivity. Colour matching expert Pantone has declared that the colour of 2017 is a shade of green. The particular shade is called ‘Greenery’ and we expect this colour will be used often in office design this year.
Green is a neutral shade and has close links to the biophilia hypothesis - identified as our need for nature and defined as “the innate affiliation people seek with other organisms and the natural world”. Studies have shown that office plants can increase productivity by 15% and Pantone’s colour of the year suggests that the benefits of greenery are going to become more widely understood and feature in more offices in the year ahead. The retail sector in particular is starting to embrace this trend. Big brands including Apple and Anthropologie have recently incorporated large installations such as green walls and live trees into the design of their London flagship stores.
Air plants and succulents
While there is no hard rule as to which plants you should have in the office to boost productivity, this year succulents are looking particularly popular. Their interesting shapes make them pleasing to the eye and they would not look out of place in almost any office design. They also have other benefits when used in offices as they are robust and long lived.
Air plants also look to be a popular choice this year as they sit well in ornaments of almost any shape and size, from seashells to the crevices of logs and driftwood. These plants absorb moisture and nutrients from the air, hence the name, and are not conventional interior plants for design – so if you’re looking for something a little different, this could be the plant for you. They can be found in most garden centres and often look attractive when glued to surfaces. Like succulents, air plants are very resilient and tolerant of indoor conditions, and are, therefore, a perfect choice for offices.
Adoption of the WELL Building Standard
As more and more employers understand the impact a building has on their employees’ wellbeing and productivity, we anticipate more companies will strive to meet the WELL Building Standard. This standard is a certification to support health and wellbeing and recognises the value of design in workplaces. It covers concepts such as air, light, comfort and mind – all of which can be positively impacted by greenery. Recently, the well-established BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating system for green buildings has become closely aligned with the WELL building standard, making WELL a much more mainstream standard in the UK.
The demands of a business are constantly changing and this concept is even more prevalent in our technology-driven world. A well-designed workplace should be able to accommodate the evolving requirements of the employees within it. Whilst flexible working such as hot-desking is not a new concept, we expect it to increase in popularity this year. Installing modular soft seating and workbenches, desk pods, meet-point tables and breakout furniture, are just a few great ways to make your office more adaptable.
Office technology needs to support flexible working and be integrated into workspaces. Expect to see wireless charging of devices, built in power adaptors and multimedia capabilities to become the norm this year. It is also likely that they will start to be rolled out across most businesses in the next couple of years.
Incredibly, it is believed that 75% of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell . Not only can smell help to enhance your brand, as anyone who has ever stepped foot into a Lush or Hollister store can confirm, it also provides a more powerful customer experience and can even help to make your staff more productive.
While often overlooked, building managers and employers should give their office design increasing thought, as it can deliver benefits to your employees’ output and wellbeing. Whilst aesthetics and colour are important, adding greenery and even a scent to the workplace takes it a step further. The time for seeing plants purely as decoration has passed. We need to be open-minded and understand the reality that incorporating more of a natural environment into our workplaces can bring huge rewards.