3 Big Trends Poised to Impact Office Design

June 30, 2015 Michelle Boolton


Every year, the business design world comes together in one place to talk trends, ideas, innovation and inspiration—the annual NeoCon event is the place to find out what’s new and upcoming in business design. A few weeks ago, I was in Chicago with other design experts from Business Interiors by Staples, and had a great time discussing, demonstrating and seeing what’s next in business design.

More than anything, what I saw was the way that the way workers experience the office is changing, and the lines between work and life (or home and office) are blurring more and more—and that’s reflected in the big trends of the year.

Privacy Desk

Photo from NeoCon 2015 courtesy of Michelle Boolton

To balance the open office, new design choices help provide privacy. Businesses are driven by collaboration and innovation, and open floorplans can foster those things, but businesses have all learned that balance is key, and an open floorplan must be done right. Early adopters of open office plans really had to learn those hard truths! This year, we saw a lot of design elements that created individual privacy—high-backed seating, work pods, and other pieces are doing a good job of providing the sense of personal privacy and giving workers a little space of their own when needed.

Obviously, millennials are big drivers of open office designs and personal privacy trends, but more than anything, technology has enabled design to move in this direction. Workers are increasingly less tied to their desks, phones and computers, and tablets, smartphones and wearable technology are giving them the ability to move more in the office and make the best use of these open (but balanced) designs. And speaking of moving…

Workers want—and expect— to be able to get up and move. It’s not a big secret that America’s not the healthiest country in the world, and with workers spending more hours “on the job” no matter where they are, blending wellness and work has become a big priority. The idea that “sitting is the new smoking” is becoming more and more prevalent, and health-savvy workers want ways around that. Design is helping answer that need through advanced mobile and non-traditional desk options and even items that blend work with play, like shuffleboard tables and indoor picnic tables.

Shuffleboard Table NeoCon 2015

Photo from NeoCon 2015 courtesy of Michelle Boolton

These design choices can bring a bit of fun to the office and help combat the negative effects of being sedentary for so many hours in a day, but there are some challenges, too. It’s not unusual for workers to clamor for standing desks or “play” items, only to find themselves never using them. (I’ll even confess that I’m guilty of underusing my standing desk!) Workers should be educated on their options and encouraged to use them—it’s no use having a ping-pong table or other work/play items if everyone’s too scared to use them!

Privacy Chair Design Trends

Photo from NeoCon 2015 courtesy of Michelle Boolton

The office should be somewhere where people like to be, and color can enforce that. If the average worker is asked to name what colors are in their office, they’d probably come up with a pretty predictable palette. But as companies strive to find and retain talent, they realize the office needs to be somewhere workers want to be, and no one likes to be in a dull, colorless setting. The colors I saw at NeoCon this year were exciting and bright, from the swag bags to the student projects we saw with the IIDA Student Design Charette. The colors were lively, fresh and vivid: tangerine, aqua, fuchsia, strawberry, and a lot of exciting variations on my favorite—yellow!

Ultimately, the workplace is changing, and the design has to change with it. There have been a lot of changes in office design even over the past five years. The prevalence of technology combined with the generational shift of the workforce is starting to shift workplace culture, and this year’s trends really reflect that. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next, and how office design evolves to meet whatever office needs we see in the future!

For more office design trends, check out Business Interiors by Staples on Pinterest!


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