2018 office design trends – how did they pan out?

9 January 2019

Robyn Bailey, Director at Tétris, explores seven office design trends that were predicted for 2018, examining how they actually panned out over the year and what’s in store going into 2019.

The rise of cross-work spaces
Cross-working takes the soaring trend of co-working to the next level. It’s all about the power of community. So where co-working encourages collaboration through shared physical spaces and amenities, cross-working offers the same in a more deliberate way. It involves the purposeful placement of certain types of businesses together to take advantage of combined strengths. This creates space for interesting interactions across boundaries for mutual benefit. So, in one shared office space you may find a communication consultant, a digital strategist and an event planner who join forces on a new project. It’s an ecosystem that offers shared resources, knowledge, and a co-operative spirit.

How did this pan out in 2018?
A great example of this is where an investment company looked to create a space where retired business people, still with their eye on markets, could collaborate and work with people in a similar situation, in a live co-working space, where the focus is wealth and investments. Like-minded individuals are encouraged to rent a desk or space and make use of the facilities that will ultimately be designed to host talks, workshops and casual gatherings, all of which would be of particular interest to this group of people.

Let a little Lagom into your office
Minimalism, maximalism – which way to go? A Nordic concept, Lagom means “not too little, not too much – just right”. Kind of like everything in moderation is good for you. In the interiors space, this speaks to more thoughtful, functional design. It’s about choosing quality over quantity and being mindful about what products are made of, favouring fewer pieces that make a statement.

How did this pan out in 2018?
This trend has been widespread in the world of residential interiors in 2018 and is still creeping into the office world. Office designs continue to incorporate that human element that would hopefully lead to just the right levels of Lagom. Clients are opting for quality over quantity in terms of furniture and art. We see this trend enduring into 2019, where it will continue to strike a balance.

A new level of green
While all new builds these days promote their green considerations, 2018 will see sustainability efforts taken to new heights. Research has proven the benefits of biophilic design in the workplace, and with employee wellbeing a top priority in every business, green features become even more important. It goes beyond simply installing a living wall and speaks to the real nuts and bolts of sustainability, like grey water and air purification systems. Taking it a step further, environmentally conscious companies will insist on locally sourced food and beverages. It’s about making choices that are good for the planet and our communities.

How did this pan out in 2018?
We have seen a change in the choices companies have made this year, with plastic bottle reductions for example, opting rather for water dispensers and the death of the plastic straw. However, we were bearish in our predictions for this trend and the South African market has been slower to adopt this than anticipated. Sure, green design has become the norm, but 2019 will be the year where the glass straw bearers among us will really push the boundaries and look to make more environmentally conscious choices.

Taking note of the ‘body clock’
In biological terms, it’s referred to as our circadian rhythm – a cycle that tells us when to eat, sleep and rise that’s reset by levels of light. Progressive workplace technology includes indoor lighting that mimics the effects of natural light to influence mood and productivity. Changes in lighting intensity and temperature can impact everything from energy levels to creativity, critical to an industrious work environment. Scandinavian Airlines is using light therapy in its Oslo airport lounge to help cure jet lag and promote a more serene flying experience.

How did this pan out in 2018?
This trend has still been very popular globally and we have seen changes in clients’ perspectives here in South Africa, but there are limitations due to company spend as these choices come with a heftier price tag. Philips for example, has developed a lighting system that has on, off, dimmer, brighter, cooler and warmer settings – all of which change throughout the day and can be controlled from an app, guiding individuals and their energy levels. The downside is that $130 gets you just two bulbs!

Texture takes work home
There’s a big trend to recreate the comforts of home in the office space. An interesting blend of textures, patterns and natural materials immediately creates a more sensory environment, making us feel more at home. Studies have shown that human behaviour is positively impacted by a tactile environment. It all points to wall coverings, fabric and flooring that look and feel natural. Think timber-clad walls, plush panels, cement finishes and terrazzo tiling. Apart from visual appeal, adding texture promotes good acoustics.

How did this pan out in 2018?
This has been massive this year, from scalloped, organic wall tiles, to shaggier more textured carpets and naturally finished timbers – we expect this trend to continue well into 2019.

Ceilings that say wow
The fifth wall is going to have employees looking up in 2018. With the trend of adding texture and colour to add interest to spaces, the statement ceiling is coming into its own. Paint, wallpaper, exposed beams, metallic finishes or graphic patterns can all be used to dramatic effect.

How did this pan out in 2018?
This trend became very popular in 2018 – celling detailing was prevalent in our studio, with timber up-and-overs, coloured ceilings or custom-made lighting features. Wherever possible, clients and designers alike ditched the ceiling grid.

Spa-inspired bathrooms at the office
Following the home trend to turn the bathroom into a personal sanctuary, the office rest room is following suit. It’s in keeping with the blurred lines between work and play, and a focus on comfort. Office rest rooms will receive more attention, creating a refuge for staff to take a moment to themselves.

How did this pan out in 2018?
Where plausible, many occupiers tried to add in showers for their staff. This comes from the rise of running or cycling to work due to an increased focus on healthy living. Bathrooms have become practical places with changing areas and hairdryers allowing staff to comfortably change and ready themselves for their day at work. These creature comforts also allow for travelling staff members to freshen up post long-haul flights. We have seen this request a few times in 2018 and don’t see them stopping for the foreseeable future.

Read more in Robyn’s contribution to this article in Financial Mail.