How office design is responding to the changing needs of employees in 2022
With many workers now returning to the office, it's interesting to see how the design of office environments is responding to employees' changing needs. After two years of intermittent remote working, we're now seeing the introduction of more 'homely' aspects to the physical workplace. These measures are designed to encourage much-needed social interaction and collaboration.
Here, we explore the ways in which office design is changing to help ease workers back into office life and maximise the advantages of the face-to-face experience.
THE BENEFITS OF A REAL-LIFE OFFICE EXPERIENCE
While video calls and other related technologies have been invaluable in keeping us connected over the last two years, there are some functions of office life that can only be truly effective in real life. Collaborative working practices and creative exchanges thrive on in-person social interactions.
As workers swap their sofas for a real-life office, the environment to which they're returning has, in many cases, transformed into a softer, more sociable space. There's been a move towards the creation of more colourful, welcoming offices featuring comfortable seating areas and attractive breakout zones. And the layout of offices is changing, with more emphasis on creating privacy via the use of fabric partitions and soundproofed work pods.
The other crucial change is the reframing of the office as a desirable destination in its own right. With many workers still adopting a hybrid model in which they split their week between office and home, the office environment needs to be attractive enough to make the cost and hassle of their commute worthwhile. The world's most successful companies now understand why it makes sense to provide facilities such as gyms, cafés and lounges to fulfil their workers' social needs and to encourage mentorship, creativity and innovation.
Global architecture and design company Gensler recently released its 2022 Design Forecast which covers trends in office design. Its findings showed that the social function of the office environment is more important than ever.
"The future legal office should support collaboration and social gathering. To attract and keep talent, the legal industry must think of the office as a destination – or a type of work club. Spaces that promote knowledge sharing, mentorship and coaching, meetings, and collaboration will be the hallmarks of the new law office."– Gensler 2022 Design Forecast
EXAMPLE 1: A HOME-FROM-HOME OFFICE IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
Architectural firm Clayton Korte saw the potential in a neglected 1960s office building when they were looking to create a new headquarters in Austin, Texas.
The industrial brick exterior was softened with limewash and lavish planting, and the windows were enlarged to create a light and welcoming interior.
In order to create a sociable space in which their creative employees could happily collaborate, the interior walls were clad in industrial felt to turn them into one giant pinboard. Semi-sheer curtains soften the edges of the floor-to-ceiling windows, and pot plants, artworks and leather furnishings bring a home-from-home vibe to the space.
EXAMPLE 2: THE REDESIGN OF OUR OWN OFFICE SPACE IN BELGIUM
When undertaking the redesign of our offices at the Bru HQ in Kontich, Antwerp, our overriding intention was to create an environment that would encourage genuine connection and collaboration. With an awareness that many of our staff had been working from home for a significant period, we wanted their return to be less of a 'Welcome back to the office' and more of a 'Welcome home'.
With this in mind, the redesign involved the prolific use of our own fabrics to bring softness into the space and to improve acoustics. We also designed distinct colour zones to introduce warmth and colour as well as create a functional use. When you wish to book an appointment with a co-worker, for example, you can reserve an area in the Blue Zone, meaning that you'll both know exactly where to meet.
Biophilic design principles also came into play, with plants and green tones making their way from the exterior landscaping into the interior of the building. Plus our open-air office areas give us the perfect chance to showcase the FibreGuard Outdoor fabric collections.
Health and safety in the office is more important than ever in a post-pandemic work environment. Our anti-microbial FibreGuard Pro fabrics offer a unique moisture barrier which makes them ideal for demanding office environments.
Are you seeing changes where you work? Weigh in on the conversation over on our LinkedIn page, and stay tuned for the next instalment of this design series.