2018 Trends in Modern Workspace Design

Employers recognise that, in the modern era, workers need far more than just a phone and desk to thrive within the office environment. Maintaining and retaining an engaged workforce is critical to business culture and there’s a distinct correlation between workplace satisfaction and employee engagement. Emerging modern workspace design trends for 2018 and beyond are increasingly based upon meeting employees’ psychological needs and meshing with company values and ideology, rather than focusing simply upon copying the workplace designs and layouts of successful companies. This is resulting in much more customisation and the creation of unique areas within workspaces, to build environments with cross-generational appeal.

It’s much more the case now that companies customise their office layouts to suit their own specific culture and style of operating. Some businesses provide lounge chairs and suspended seating within open-plan office environments to allow employees to break away from their desk for a while, whether they’re using a mobile device or just need a few minutes of relaxation. Other businesses have increased the numbers of staircases within office developments to try to encourage greater levels of employee mobility. Fitting slides for worker fun and games is another popular device that’s been tried by more than a few modern businesses. All in all, adding the means for relaxation and fun during the day can be highly motivating for employees and enhance levels of employee engagement.

Some of the common factors for 2018 that are influencing contemporary office workspace design architecture include:

Increasingly cross-generational workplaces, as greater numbers of employees choose to work beyond typical retirement age and millenials enter the work force. Organisations can benefit from this wider range of skills and experience within the work setting with the creation of social and collaborative spaces that encourage informal and work-based connections.

Business leaders are coming to recognise the major impact that workspace design has on productivity levels. Research from the global architecture and design company, Gensler, highlighted that poor workplace designs cost the United States up to $330 billion annually in reduced productivity. The psychology of workplace design has become an important factor that influences the design of modern work spaces to enable greater employee positivity and engagement.

Companies increasingly recognise the benefits of a well designed workplace for attracting and retaining the most talented staff. The campus style, horizontal workplaces that have been created by organisations such as Google in London are a departure from typical skyscraper office buildings and are designed to enhance creativity. In addition, the growth of the cloud and developments in communication mean that many employees are based remotely or in different office locations so spaces for team meetings and collaboration should be designed to inspire the greatest levels of creativity.

Meeting psychological needs for design in the workplace

People working in modern agency relaxing during lunch break

Once an employee’s basic psychological needs have been met in the workplace, employers can start to address requirements for respect, recognition and social belonging, as highlighted in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs ( to heighten feelings of wellbeing and increase performance levels. Basic psychological needs would include such things as shelter, sanitation, nutrition, warmth (, tools, equipment and facilities, such as meeting rooms.

When the basic workplace design has incorporated the most simple essentials for successful work, meeting higher psychological needs can often be a case of assessing and profiling the different personality types within the workplace and designing appropriate spaces. For example, it’s highly likely that analysts or finance teams within companies could be classed as “introverted” personality types, so creating a calming and stress-free environment for introvert types to work on complex projects could just entail colour scheming and comfortable furnishings. Extrovert personality types, on the other hand, may be more likely to work within a sales or marketing department and may work better in more colourful, lively environments. Either way, workplace design considerations should also incorporate social spaces and quiet areas for all personality types to mingle and relax.

The human brain is hardwired to prefer more natural environments, hence the growth in popularity of biophilic workplace designs. Research has shown that workers in biophilic environments report greater wellbeing and up to 15% more creativity, than workers in traditional environments. Even something as basic as a workplace window with views of the outside and greenery can add 6% to the productivity of call centre workers, when compared to workers in enclosed environments.

For maximum productivity and creativity within the workplace, employees need to be able to access a choice of workspaces so all requirements for social interactions and demands for concentration and focus can be met in full. A well-designed workplace will be flexible and incorporate multi-function design leading to an empowered office environment. The Journal of Experimental Psychology reported that worker productivity on cognitive tasks can be increased by at least 25% within empowered office environments

Workplace designs to enhance employee engagement

Employee engagement and satisfaction is a complicated subject, but redesigning the workplace is one factor that can have an impact. Designing a workplace for added employee engagement and the creation of an empowered office can encompass many facets and some of these include:

Providing employees with control and choice over where and how they work – Empowering employees with control over the workplace environment can lead to substantially higher levels of engagement. Options to consider include a workplace cafe or coffee shop, providing facilities for remote working (, the creation of quiet areas, for more concentrated efforts, and breakout spaces for working, with a comfortable environment to encourage individual work or creative, collaborative sessions. This type of working is known as activity-based working ( and very often employees will not have allocated desk space and personal belongings tend to be stored in centralised locker systems. 2018 is likely to be a year that sees even more growth and developments in activity-based workplaces.

Enabling greater movement within the office – Employees who stay active throughout the working day enjoy better well being and physical health. Sit down-stand desks are great for encouraging regular posture changes and employees who spend most of the day glued to mobile devices will appreciate the benefits of lounge seats and sofas, for enhanced relaxation. Horizontal workplace design is becoming increasingly popular with the larger tech companies, such as Apple, Google and Amazon and provides campus-like workspaces covering vast areas of ground. This type of layout is said to encourage greater collaboration, creativity and mixing between departments.

Workplace designs to enhance collaborative working – Areas and offices designed for collaborative working are most effective when they take account of the many different styles of collaboration. For example, formal meeting rooms are effective for many business meetings, however, relaxed areas for groups of three to six people to interact and work in privacy on projects or business proposals are far more likely to enhance creative thought. Building social and informal areas into the workplace design, allows for informal connections throughout the day, giving employees the type of relaxed, emotional support that is immensely valuable. Collaborative work spaces for co-creation are particularly essential for businesses with a number of remote workers, as they can often feel isolated and will value opportunities to meet with colleagues when they visit the office.

Environmental considerations

Modern open space office

Biophilic design entails bringing aspects of the natural world into the workplace and has been around since the 1990s. Plants and living walls are fairly common features in many work spaces, however, 2018 is likely to be the year that biophilic design really takes off and is integrated into the workplace. It’s been shown that incorporating natural elements in the workplace can increase productivity by up to 8% and employee well being by 13%.

Many companies have also created rooftop gardens and terraces in the city for their workers to enjoy and appreciate the benefits of the fresh air. It’s likely that 2018 will see businesses place more focus on the natural aspects of furnishings within the office and also give more consideration to ethical aspects of sourcing and production.

In general, designs for new offices should be focused on the methodologies associated with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). An example of sustainable design which produces power for the business is the photovoltaic facade (

Popular colours for decorating the office environment in 2018 are likely to be deep greens and pinks and there are a variety of natural-looking wallpapers ( to add an inspirational, biophilic appearance to lobbies and meeting rooms.

It has only been possible to scratch the surface of 2018 office workspace design architecture developments in this brief summary. There are many more innovations within office design which deserve a mention. Throughout 2018 it’s likely that companies will develop tailored office designs that are more reflective of their own business culture and values. This is likely to be evidenced in the styles of decoration and furnishings utilised within office layouts.

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