Office Futures: The Office Design Trends of 2020
Designing office spaces today is no easy task. Companies are becoming increasingly complex in terms of their functions and operations. Those on the front lines of workplace design are working to anticipate the ever-evolving needs of businesses while creating a cohesive brand environment that embraces innovation and a company’s corporate culture and vision.
Innovation, in particular, is a key focus area for many companies. With rapidly evolving technologies and demand for wellness-based design, businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of investing in properties that are both flexible and progressive; properties that improve employee’s performance while enhancing their well-being and happiness in the workplace. This means designing dynamic spaces that are human-centric, feel authentic to the brand, and leave room for growth and new technologies as they arrive.
The challenges facing businesses today have led to exciting transformations in the way that employees perform, interact with, and operate within built environments. No longer are employees and prospective employees simply working in one-size-fits-all spaces, but rather, workspaces are designed for extraordinary business needs, with the goal to improve performance and productivity, attract talented new recruits, enhance wellness and well-being, and inspire new ideas.
As is the nature of trends, they change with the times. Although some have more staying power, even the most popular trends evolve over time while others fizzle out entirely. What remains consistent about the trends of 2020 is that they are a reflection of our modern-day business culture. By looking at the trends of tomorrow, you can understand where the businesses are now and where they want to be when the future finally arrives.
In this article, you will discover the office design trends of tomorrow as defined by our team of expert design consultants. By working with thousands of major employers throughout North America, Ambius design consultants see firsthand what concepts are emerging, trending, and appear to be here to stay. Ambius has identified four groupings of macro and micro trends that are driving office design trends today. As businesses continue to define their future plans, these dynamic trends offer opportunities in workplace improvements and design.
As we plan for 2020 and beyond, these trends stand to make the most immediate and significant impacts on the future of our workspaces.
1. Dynamic Flexibility
A few years ago, the Dynamic Spaces trend began to emerge, introducing people to the idea of multi-functional workspaces. These spaces included indoor-outdoor access via garage doors, movable green dividers, television and video equipment, and step-style seating, to name a few. Basically, these spaces were designed to begin to meet the needs and applications of our increasingly multidisciplinary business world.
Since then, multi-purpose spaces have become the new normal, but nothing quite like this trend’s next phase: Dynamic Flexibility. It incorporates an entirely new generation of moveable, multi-functional, lightweight, and ergonomic elements designed to fit any space and purpose. Gone are the days when heavy, bulky furniture and technology dictated what could and could not be achieved in a space. The Dynamic Flexibility design trend focuses on making the most out of valuable real estate. It allows for complete transformations of environments from meeting room to podcast studio, to production area, to a quiet, semi-private space in the blink of an eye. From movable walls and lightweight, mobile furniture, to adjustable lighting and technology, these spaces allow employees to transform rooms in an instant.
This trend is well on its way to becoming the new normal as work environments continue to shift towards more human-centric, collaborative and active spaces spearheaded by innovation.
It’s now more important than ever to have an integrated workplace that can adapt to your real-time business needs. As the pace of business accelerates, the importance of a multi-functional, dynamic workspace will only become more requisite.
- Moveable / Wheels
2. Wooden That Be Nice?
Wood is making a comeback. Most office environments today are built using traditional whiteboard drywall construction and filled with metal cubicles. As brands become more focused on sustainability and hone their workspace to attract top talent, facilities have adopted a more environmentally conscious attitude in recent years to meet their employee and tenant expectations. Millennials, now the largest labor force in the U.S., want assurance that the organization they work for aligns with their pro-environment and sustainability ideologies. One way property developers are responding is by incorporating sustainably sourced woodwork and natural accent details into their building’s interior designs.
Not only is wood being used for walls, floors, countertops, and accents, but it also provides a space with an undeniable character, adding biophilic texture, lines, and warmth to traditionally sterile office environments. Commercial designs have been progressing towards a more authentic and organic motif (but not rustic, as with former trends) as they focus on attracting top talent. Features like prefabricated wood and glass offices, elaborately constructed wood and moss walls, coffee tables made from preserved tree stumps, and refined, reclaimed woods, are all popular additions to the new office space design.
Another key feature is the use of linear wood paneling and slatted wood patterning to create the illusion of depth. This also draws the eye towards important architectural and functional features. Not only do these features look appealing, but they can help reduce noise pollution in high-traffic areas and workspaces.
- Linear, slatted wood
- Warm and textured
- Structural and wall construction
- Natural accent details
- Biomorphic forms and patterns
3. Community in a Remote World
It’s no secret that we’re living in an increasingly digital world, and the business world is no exception. A recent study found that 70 percent of professionals now work remotely at least one day per week, and 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week. That means companies need to reimagine and redesign their office spaces to meet their employee’s ever-changing needs and expectations, even in an increasingly remote world.
In order to adapt, businesses are working with designers to create more inviting and comfortable spaces that promote a sense of community, comfortability, and shared values. This trend is not simply a reactionary effort to keep people satisfied with the office environment, it’s an ongoing trend that has finally reached its natural pinnacle based on employee preferences and lifestyle needs. The new office environment now includes features typically found in hospitality settings such as restaurants, bars or beer fridges, fireplaces and comfortable furniture, game rooms, rock walls, and fitness areas complete with showers and spas.
But why are companies going to such extreme lengths to improve employee satisfaction? Because having employees go to the office helps boost morale, develop relationships, and improve the optics of the business for prospective talent. Facilitating these upgrades benefits the business in ways that telecommuting or flexible working can’t. This means that offices and commercial spaces are only going to get cooler and more vibrant as they double-down on design, encouraging and inspiring employees to return to the office.
- Collaborative environments
- Warm and welcoming
- Indoor-outdoor blurred transitions
- Soft and plush elements
- Home-styled fixtures
4. Striking Sustainability
As office environments continue their ongoing metamorphosis from sterile and impersonal to inspired and wellness-focused community spaces, a trend has emerged that everyone near-unanimously agrees is a good thing: sustainable design. At its roots, sustainable design is the integration of recycled, sustainably sourced, and green building materials into a space. It puts an emphasis on technology-driven energy efficiency, environmental conservation, and ecological compliance in order to establish a more harmonious relationship between nature and our buildings. When you take this concept indoors you get something entirely new called environmental wellness.
Environmental wellness design isn’t necessarily new. Nevertheless, the design trend continues to evolve and mature exponentially as it grows and diversifies in new and exciting ways. Sustainable design in its current form now has a whole spectrum of certifications in place to focus on the investment in our building’s performance as well as employee well-being. These include LEED, WELL Building Standard, FitWel, and the Living Building Challenge, which are all meant to create a positive impact on the occupants and natural systems that interact with buildings. What we’re witnessing now is the fully realized dream of wellness and environmental design.
Finally, in addition to the certifications, wellness design, and sustainable practices that fall under the Striking Sustainability trend tree, the growing Biophilic design phenomenon continues to root itself in modern design. At its core, Biophilic design is a design framework inspired by the natural world. It weaves the organic patterns and forms of nature into the built environment to help strengthen the human-nature connection. Firmly embedded in the overarching theme of sustainability, Biophilic design includes features such as sustainably sourced materials like stone and wood as well as live plants and vertical gardens, but also includes exciting innovations like biodynamic lighting and nature-inspired flooring. To learn more about Biophilic design and the key industry trends of today, we recommend our Biophilic Design Trends Report.
- Minimally processed materials
- Natural woods and stone features
- Highly designed green spaces
- Workspace utilization technologies
- Natural lighting
1. Monochromatic Expression
The Oxford dictionary defines monochromatic as containing or using only one color. However, this definition doesn’t quite tell the whole story when used in terms of design. Monochromatic color schemes are the newest iteration of the color explosion that’s been taking place in commercial environments over the past several years. These exquisite color palettes only use one color, but they use the entire spectrum of shades, tones, and hints of that particular color to convey a uniform but still unique and easily recognizable theme. This purposeful design strategy draws people in through creative expression of color saturation. This helps buildings establish a holistic unified image showcasing key functions and personality.
This trend is noted most for its use of various soft hues, bold, dramatic shades, precious stone palettes, and matte finishes that are typically outfitted with green plants or moss accents, flowers, and accentuated with lights.
- Variation of tone, shade, and tint
- Textures and patterns
- One brand-focused color
- Soft hues and bold, dramatic shades
- Precious stone palettes and matte finishes
2. Hanging Horticulture
Plants are more popular in office environments than ever before, with the emergence of living green walls and moss walls as staples of well-being and branding. The public adoption of biophilic design vaulting greenery into a near stratospheric level of popularity. Plants in offices and commercial spaces are nearly mandatory nowadays. With plant design engrained in buildings seeking a sustainable and wellness-forward image, green has become and continues to be an undeniable feature in the future of office design.
It’s safe to say that plants have officially rooted themselves in contemporary office design. With floor space at a premium, designers are turning to new heights to integrate their vegetation: ceilings. The ceiling is the next frontier for those striving to maximize space, efficiency, and incorporate the patterns of nature. Hanging vegetation often promotes home-styled environments where the lines of business and leisure are blurred. It’s for these reasons that hanging plants from the ceiling has opened up endless possibilities for showcasing greenery.
Plants such as moss balls with Birds Nest or Boston ferns planted within, air plants, various types of ivy, and Pothos plants are all attractive hanging options.
- Moss balls and air plants
- Birds nest, Pothos, Boston ferns
- Scattered, clustered, and varied vegetation
- Natural and organic woods
- Highly designed elements
3. Modern Modular
The open office space isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In the meantime, businesses are looking for ways to provide their employees with personalized, private spaces in which they can focus on their important projects. More than that, functional furniture is a key element to help employees stay creative, active, and extremely productive. This means that new studio drafting tables, standing desks, benching workstations, and insulated phone booths are being developed and reimagined every day to help workers maximize their time in the office.
The Modern Modular trend is an extension of the Dynamic Spaces trend from years past and is focused on the amazing innovations that are emerging in offices, allowing businesses to work smarter, more effectively, and create an environmentally conscious workspace for their employees. Beyond modular offices, dynamic desks, and lounge areas, there’s also simplified office equipment such as computer stands, a multiplicity of ergonomic chairs, standing balance boards for desks, and lockers for a sense of place in such a flexible space.
- Ergonomic and exercise furniture
- Dynamic workstations
- Insulated phone booths and pods
- Modular and lightweight
- Personal space
4. Domesticated Workspaces
Furnished kitchens, flower pots and woven baskets, throw pillows and area rugs — no you’re not at home, this is your office’s new accent design. In an effort to create a more comfortable, homestyle working environment, properties are turning to all of the things that make home feel like home. This design’s benefits are twofold for office workers. The amenities create a more welcoming and relaxed environment for employees who frequent the office. The space is consequently more satisfying overall and conducive to working later than those without household amenities. Workspace amenities such as these attract remote workers back into the office by creating a space with which employees engage and are excited about, strengthening team dynamics and morale.
The Domesticated Workspace trend stems from commercial spaces’ increased interest in hospitality environments, specifically hotels that cater to business travelers. The fusion of designs has the potential to revolutionize the way that office environments are perceived in the long run. For now, things have only just begun.
- Household amenities
- Varied potted plants
- Throw pillows and area rugs
- Coffee tables with board games
- Natural and organic textures
Ambius, the global leader in creating enhanced commercial spaces, is dedicated to helping you stay ahead of the curve by reporting on key trends across the commercial world. If you enjoyed this article then we encourage you to check out these additional reports:
- The Biophilic Design Trends for Commercial Environments Report
- Holiday Decor Design Trends of 2019 Report
- The Office Design Trends of 2019 Report
- Hospitality Design Trends Report: Part 1
- Hospitality Design Trends Report: Part 2
If you want to incorporate these trends into your workspace or discuss how plants can help invigorate your employees and improve productivity, contact your local Ambius office today to bring your visions to life.
- Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. Labor force
- WGSN Interior Trends Report 2019/2020
- The Unique Design Potential of Moss Walls
- Let’s talk about flex: the U.S. flexible office market in 2019
- 70% of people globally work remotely at least once per week, study says
- Hotel Trends Transforming the Guest Experience: Part 1
- Taking the LEED: Green Design in the Modern Age
- The WELL Building Standard: The next big thing in business
- Exploring the FitWel Certification
- How Wellness and Well-being Went Mainstream
- The Official Biophilic Design Trends Guide for Commercial Environments
- The Ultimate Guide to Office Plants
- UNUM Collaborative – Mortarr profile