Around the world there is a growing rejection of purely efficiency-based office environments. “It is giving way to offices principled in sustainability, community, diversity and lifestyle,“ said Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy.
“These are the 5 biggest workplace designs influences we expect to catch on in South Africa this year.”
Because technology allows us to be instantaneously connected to images and projects taking place all over the world, designers are finding inspirations around the globe. “In 2017, hygge, the Danish word for cozy, became more prevalent in the workplace as people sought more informal and residential work environments,” Galloway-Gaul. “More recently, ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangements meant to expand the observer’s appreciation of beauty, is experiencing a resurgence.”
Designing with data
Data has entered the work environment, adding significant value to the conversation between designers and customers. Said Galloway-Gaul: “Designers who talk about changing space and culture with customers now have the benefit of non-biased data to help eliminate the fear of the unknown. Does everyone need their own workstation or private office? Or would more private enclaves and collaboration spaces better serve the team?” Sensors in the workplace can help organisations learn how often people are at their desks and what kinds of spaces will best support their people.
“When we’re surrounded by digital tools all day long, we yearn for a connection to nature,” said Galloway-Gaul. Biophilia, the principle that human beings have an innate desire to connect and bond with nature. And it is experiencing growing popularity because of the balance we need from our digital world and the benefit nature’s restorative qualities provide to our wellbeing.
As we look at the ecosystem of settings people have to choose from at work, Galloway-Gaul is seeing more nature in the physical environment so people can step away from their desk for a soothing, escapist moment. Designers will continue to explore new ways to introduce the restorative properties of nature in the workplace.
Diversity of materials
As the workplace hosts a broader range of cultures and generations, people are gravitating toward more natural and textured materials. Today’s first-time employees are particularly comfortable with a variety of materials, colours and spaces.
“When people are offered a diversity of spaces at work, they will find the one that’s the best fit for them. It’s about more than just finding the right spot for different modes of work. Materials create a sense of emotional wellbeing.”
She added that there is increasing recognition that workers need opportunities to rejuvenate. She’s noted a wider range of neutrals, translucent and toned down colours as well as textiles with a tactile and warm feel to offer calm and comfort in the workplace.
AR and VR
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will increasingly bridge the gap between a designer’s vision of the workplace and an individual client’s preferences. Mobile phones, tablets and their apps are rapidly adapting to accommodate the coming virtual world. “Pointing a tablet for example at an office area and thanks to AR seeing what it will look like with several different interior options at the swipe on a finger will be a continuous revelation for design,“ Gallowoy-Gaul concluded.