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2018 Workplace Trends; What to Expect

It is nothing new when we say that the traditional concept of work has been utterly disrupted with the remarkable technological and manufacturing advancements seen in recent years. The pace of change seen in the workspace sector has forced designers to rethink the way work settings are created to suit the needs of a new type of worker; one that requires comfort, recognition, motivation, vitality, innovation, and a space that feels more like home than ever before. 

What do these fresh challenges mean for 2018 office design? What are the key trends that will be seen impregnating the sector and making their mark on workspace? This blog discusses some of our predictions based on analysis of what the market is saying, what we are seeing ourselves (being at the forefront of cutting-edge leading workspace projects) and what we know other market forces are doing too. 

A Home-away-from-home

This expression a "home-away-from-home" was creeping in during 2017, and today we are hearing it talked about time and time again - Morgan Lovell in their2018 Design Trends Prediction blog discuss the upcoming GenZ demanding that feeling of a home-away-from-home and Area, in their blog "Workspace, your home away from home. How to put your people front and centre" discuss this concept as one that puts its people front and centre.

With the home-away-from-home concept clearly contributing to greater employee engagement, increased productivity, reduced staff turnaround (and costs) we will see a greater emphasis on workspaces that look more domestic than ever before.

Creating a workspace with that feeling of being home-away-from-home requires a careful balance of décor, furniture settings, physical space and accommodation - Reward Gateway (a project were very pleased to have been involved with) provided their staff with a Library - a cosy little nook that houses a selection of books gleaned from employees’ suggestions on their top tales, as well as professional development books to pass the time. A perfect example of a workspace reflecting a feeling of at-homeness. They also have a tech-free Garden zone - allowing employees to retreat from the buzz of work and recalibrate their senses without today's always-on electronic distractions.

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Open-plan?

The traditional hierarchical structures that businesses have relied on to grow are being replaced with sub-networks of teams collaborating and applying leadership, communication and creativity to develop products, solutions and services in a way that the cellular, cubiclelised offices would not have a hope of supporting.

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At the same time we see the argument more often now that challenges whether an open-plan workspace is one that increases employee engagement and efficiency or not. There's no hiding from the fact that workers still need their privacy, focus time and retreats - and this fact is forcing workspace designers to consider third-spaces and areas that support the introvert and lone-worker. 

Innovation is becoming fundamental to business success and lines between individual organisations and ecosystems will blur as companies increasingly cast their net wider to innovate. This is discussed in the Workplace Insight blog talking about Boundaryless Workplaces. They refer to "contextual, personalised workspaces aligned to the individual needs of users" and with this we couldn't agree more - it is no longer possible to implement a workspace with a one-size-fits-all approach - no two humans are the same, no two workers do identical jobs (and if they do there's a very small chance they'd go about it the same way), and people require flexibility, diversity and choice of work settings. 

Throughout 2018 we will continue to see the implementation of open-plan, we definitely will see the extinction of the cellular office and we will start seeing greater introduction of booths, cubes, focus zones, libraries, quiet rooms, tech-free areas and spaces that are away from the distraction of the collaborative open-plan.

Technology

At the heart of any successful organisation is tech that works. Today's tech-savvy GenZ workforce require IT solutions that provide seamless connectivity in the boundaryless workspace enabling enhanced and richer collaboration with internal colleagues and peers across the wider industry.

Technology transformation is essential to attract, retain and enrich top-talent employees and support their comfort and wellbeing with trouble-free tech. Unless companies embrace a technology strategy that future-proofs the business, centred around usability and effectiveness, then it is almost certain they will be left behind. 

The essential connect between workspace design and integrated technology will become a major contributor in 2018 to successful office design. And workspace designers will be embracing further the use of advanced technology to create a workspace that can be experienced before its built, utilising tech such as virtual reality, 3D printing, augmented reality, tracking sensors… and many others too.

Wellness

This sounds like a fluffy new buzzword - and it is. But it's everywhere. Like it or not, wellness is talked about as one of the biggest influencers of workspace design today.

What is wellness? The dictionary refers to wellness as the state of being in good health - couldn’t say it better than that. And as we spend one third of our lives at work it plays a big part in staff happiness and also life outcomes. So much so that 2018 will see wellness in the workplace becoming a more important consideration than environmental and sustainability elements.

Carly Milligan writes in her blog "Buildings are shifting focus from environmental sustainability to human wellness" that the WELL Building Standard and the Fitwel certification system are addressing the needs of building occupants, and designers say it's a growing trend following in the footsteps of programs such as LEED.

For workspace design this means greater thought will be given to ergonomics, efficiency, health and fitness and creating a space that's enjoyed. This doesn't mean slides, ball-pools and sleep-pods (which are more fads than staple requirements) but more than that it considers lighting, biophilia, acoustics, usability, connectivity all brought together in appropriate settings to suit the task being done. And as there isn’t a one-size-fits all workspace, the elements just mentioned will differ from workzone to workzone and need to consider the user at all times. The result is a workplace that stimulates wellbeing resulting in increased employee motivation, loyalty and productivity (aka wellness).

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Very recently Aecom underwent a pioneering new workplace change programme for their own offices. They focused on the concept of people-centred design and coined the phrase "Working Well". The revolution included large central stairways to encourage increased physical movement and collaboration, community spaces on each floor to increase interaction, informal meetings and regular breaks and agile working practices and policies. These initiatives promoted staff wellness and this aspect is certain to impregnate 2018 more than before. 

Leadership to Manage Change

This is an interesting one. We have seen many large corporations and bluechips implement new workspaces, jumping on the bandwagon to create something that's off-the-wall and "out there" desperately trying to mimic the Google's and other media giants of this world. And whilst the end result may be a workspace that is amazing, the key factor in making it a success is considering and managing "change".

In 2018 we are likely to see multi-million pound fit-outs and refurbishments happen in abundance due to the buoyant and dynamic nature of today's business environment forcing companies to adapt to attract and retain top-talent. But the design and build is only the start - for a truly successful implementation, effective leadership will be needed.

Today's workforce have options and we are in a market driven by employees not employers. This change in dynamic casts a whole new light on the way we look at workspace change management and leadership - in turn this affects workspace design and puts more emphasis on the appraisal, consultation and analysis process, using facts and data to create a workspace that works.

Investec Bank have recently undergone a considerable workspace appraisal project, with the objective of creating a workspace for their 2,500 London employee headcount that stimulated extraordinary performance. In a recent meeting I had, Tony Grimes (Head of Corporate Services and Real Estate) explained how the scale of the change required early interviews, online questionnaires, focus group exercises, visioning workshops, utilisation surveys, space demand test-fits and building stacks and from this they learned they had "an extraordinary bank". The staff fed back that the workspace needed to bring people together, enabling collaboration in a variety of work settings and enabling more time being productive together.

For the above to happen effectively, leadership was needed to manage the behaviour changes Investec required to ensure an effective new workspace implementation. To this end Investec introduced leadership workshops, change management workshops, team interview sessions etc and made sure each business unit incorporated at least one change champion to take his team on the journey. 

The Rise of Co-Working

The point has to be made that co-working is increasing faster than before. 2018 will see this continue, driven by the impact of Brexit.

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No longer are 10yr leases being taken out. 3yrs seems to be the norm and in that short period there isn’t time to realise a ROI from a multi-million pound fit-out. Subsequently companies are housing business units of 100+ staff into co-working environments - no lease contracts, no fit-out required, no dilaps! And with today's economic uncertainty creating a volatile arena for business to take place in, co-working meets the need and enables businesses to adapt, to flex and to change whenever required with no burden of a stifling lease contract.

Furniture

Really a 2018 trend? Yes for sure. 

Short lease periods mean that businesses don’t want dilaps costs. The simplest way around this is to design a workspace that incorporates elements such as stripped back ceilings, no structural systems and furniture that enables swift relocation. The more that can be moved out, the cheaper the dilaps!

Written by Creatif