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Workplace Design Trends in a Post-COVID 2021

Workplace Design Trends in a Post-COVID 2021

We probably all made similar New Year wishes for 2021… While many aspects of the year ahead remain unpredictable, workplace design company Evoke Projects presents the most likely trends for 2021.

Challenging the status quo

Having to adapt quickly in 2020 led to many changes in the way we worked. It is unlikely that businesses will resort back to every pre-COVID habit and norm. As companies reassess the workplace, teams will challenge the status quo, looking to bank the benefits from new ways of working and build upon them. 

More strategic physical distancing in the workplace 

Companies have now had time to plan for longer term physical distancing strategies that work from a business perspective. This means that safety, productivity and workflow are being considered in concert. Physical environment office design trends include:
–      Private cubicles within open spaces
–      Fewer desks / reduced workspace density
–      More break-out spaces and lounge furniture
–      Mobile partitions between workstations for an agile office design
–      Movable room dividers for easy remodelling of the office fit-out
–      Movable furniture to give employees flexibility
–      Better use of outdoor work spaces
–      One-way and wider aisles throughout the office design

Health and hygiene focus will set companies apart

For several years, talent has been migrating to businesses that look after their employees. This will accelerate in 2021. Commercial tenants will be looking for office spaces that allow them to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to health and hygiene.

Workplace design plays an important role in physical and mental health and well-being. The WELL Building Standard (link to promotes workplace fit-outs that support health and well-being through its ten concepts of Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community. Biophilic design addresses many factors within the WELL Standard. Companies will also need good mental health support programs and strategies to help maintain a sense of community for remote workers.

Hygiene initiatives that can set companies apart in 2021 include:
–      Touch free entrance and exit points
–      Touch free sanitising stations
–      Ultraviolet sanitisation on escalator hand rails and in lifts
–      Availability of personal protective equipment such as masks
–      Good visual cues regarding distancing and hygiene.

Hybrid working

As businesses evaluate their COVID-enforced actions, they will adapt them to maximise the benefits and minimise the disadvantages. Working from home is a classic example; it brought many benefits but also some challenges. In 2021, companies will move towards hybrid work models:
–          Hub and spoke working with a head office “hub” and smaller regional office “spokes”, like a bicycle wheel. Employees commute to the hub when they need to collaborate with a large group. Other days, they work from home for deeper concentrated work or attend regional offices for smaller meetings and team collaboration.
–          Offices that were previously allocated to a departmental function, e.g. operations or finance, will increasingly host local employees regardless of their role in the company.
–          Pop-up spaces used to be the domain of hospitality venues and art events. Pop-up work spaces are the new kid on the block. Watch out for hotels and under-utilised corporate offices to offer short term leases for pop-up work spaces.

Along with the need for physical distancing, hybrid working will add to the office design trend for reduced workplace density and more collaborative spaces.

Desk for a day

While agile working still has a lot to offer both employees and businesses, the days where four people happily used the same chair and desk are gone. Strict cleaning protocols will need to be in place with visible records of cleaning. Hot desking will become less popular while ‘hoteling’ will increase. With hoteling, employees reserve and check in to a workstation or cubicle space. Reserving a ‘desk for a day’ will give people comfort that they are sitting at a desk that had a deep clean overnight.

Technology steps up

Technology will continue its march forward in 2021. Digitisation of physical records will improve productivity and reduce storage needs. Digitisation also demonstrates a commitment to sustainability through reduced paper usage.

Going one step further, digitalisation of processes improves workflow and efficiency. Digital processes also make people feel more secure, with less fear of human error. For example, smart technology can show a workstation’s occupancy and cleaning status – e.g. free / in use / needs cleaning / cleaned at 9am. This type of smart technology will be particularly useful in office hoteling and other hybrid work space systems. We can also expect an expansion of technology for recording employee movements (for contact tracing).

Utilising Cloud workplace solutions will continue to support remote working. Technological solutions will be adapted to suit long term business aims rather than the needs-must approach of 2020.

Cybersecurity products and training for remote workers will be a growth area for 2021.

Style trends

Being COVID-safe does not mean that the workplace design has to lose its sense of style! Workplace design trends for 2020 include:
–          Comfort and homely touches within the workplace design to reduce the disconnect between home and work
–          Sustainable upcycled products within the office fit-out
–          Funky community spaces with socially distanced furniture
–          Improved functionality with spaces that are quiet work areas one day, meeting rooms the next.
Biophilic design elements will continue to be in vogue:
–          Green/living walls
–          Planters
–          Natural colours and materials
–          Adaptable lighting
–          Nature-inspired meeting room names.
For more information on workplace design trends and COVID-safe office fit-outs, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

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