As organizations continue to optimize their offices for a post-COVID-19, hybrid environment, businesses are looking for ways to redesign workspaces to make them both safer and still successful.
Most experts will tell you that, thanks to changes in technology and workflow, traditional offices were already primed for a major redesign. Office layout and design have been evolving as new business needs arise, employee focus changes and technology evolves. Already the workplace was becoming smarter, with new hybrid work arrangements enabled by mobile technology challenging decades of cube farms and cabled employees. The pandemic forced the need to rethink how the office looks: a focus that still includes productivity and collaboration, with added attention to cleanliness, safety, heightened engagement and adaptability.
Here are the key office design trends for 2022.
Employee health and happiness are top of mind for employers, interior designers and architects. While perks like ping-pong tables and cereal bars were once considered hip, the hottest new amenity is clean air.
According to Sandra Vyse, Staples National Director of Sales and Strategy – Furniture, Tech, Print, Promo, the number one trend is “upgrading office cleaning and air purification.” Air purifiers improve the quality of indoor air by removing contaminants. Good air quality addresses concerns beyond COVID — contaminants include any airborne particles, such as dust, mold, bacteria and pollen.
Even before the pandemic, poor ventilation had been shown to hurt productivity. One Harvard University study of more than 3,000 workers revealed that sick days increased by 53 percent among employees in areas with insufficient air circulation.
Of course, adds Vyse, budget is always a major factor when figuring out how to best clear the air. But these systems don’t necessarily mean a complete HVAC overhaul. Upgrading to medical-grade filters can make a big difference. And depending on the size of your space, portable air cleaners equipped with HEPA filters can also help to remove viral particles from the air. Even simply opening the windows can lower the risk of passing around colds and flus in the office.
According to a recent Gallup poll, people need people. The study, which was released in September 2021, found that employees are most effective when “basic human needs for psychological engagement — such as positive workplace relationships, frequent recognition, ongoing performance conversations and opportunities for personal development” are met. In essence, the workplace will become more like a meeting place — a resource for collaboration – as opposed to an old school, sitting at your desk from a 9-to-5 situation.
This means that acclimatizing to in-office experiences in a post-pandemic world is going to require flexibility on the part of bosses and employees, says Vyse.
For example, to adjust for things like hybrid work hours, rotating staff and social distancing measures, managers of the new workplace will need furniture and walls that can transform any place into the space that is needed at the time.
For example, portable flat-screen monitors, movable dividers to create meeting areas, and surfaces that can be easily transformed into desks or lunch counters. Vyse recommends “a large, round boardroom table that can accommodate everyone.” Such a table can be outfitted with dividers that allow bigger groups to interact safely while also providing space for smaller breakout groups. (And don’t forget to supply hand sanitizer for each station.)
While in-person interactions may boost creativity, for many, working from home reduced stress and increased efficiency. Designers are taking note and working on bringing a homier vibe to the office.
Because no one is tied to a landline or desktop these days, many businesses are converting the cubicle floor plan into common areas — enclosed or open. This includes the aforementioned lounge areas but also small, soundproof rooms for private calls. These spaces are being furnished with comfy couches and chairs and task lighting as opposed to overhead fluorescents.
In hybrid work conditions, Zoom calls and virtual presentations will continue to be a big part of any organization’s day. The big trend in AV is investing in larger screens, high-resolution cameras and microphones to improve the quality of interaction. Today’s tech is designed to be unobtrusive. Digital assistants (like Siri or Alexa) can help control your audio and video without lots of messy wires and remotes.
In addition, noise-cancelling headphones, laptops and other technology, and finding an in-office space where you can work without distractions allows employees a chance to feel at home.
According to Vyse, the pandemic has also taught us to think about the concept of what constitutes an office in a whole new light.
For example, in a move that falls in-between the traditional office and work from home set up, some companies are transforming the outdoors into workspaces.
Just as restaurants provided picnic tables, outdoor heaters and rain and snow shelters so people could dine outside during lockdown, last year some businesses reclaimed parking lots or green spaces where employees could get a change of scenery on-site — even in colder weather. Companies are also bringing the outdoors inside, installing living walls and bringing in more natural light to the office.
No matter your organization’s starting place, creating the office of the now has never been easier. Visit staplesprofessional.ca to get started.