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Global Office Design Trends Coming Together

By wizu | 07 August 2020

You’ve probably heard the term “global village,” which most often refers to the fact that the world is increasingly becoming a single, connected community. Within this global community, ideas spread quickly from one country to the next, or combine to create something entirely new.

Office design trends from around the world are beginning to meet, while still leaving room for the inclusion of local cultures and conditions. Workplace culture is starting to blend, especially between the UK and the US; however, differences do exist.

Whatever the differences, both countries share a historic tendency toward innovation when it comes to workplaces. Since the 90s, the UK and the US have inspired workspaces around the world. Both have had to manage the inclusion of an increasingly number of employees who are working remotely. This has led to office design trends that are more fluid and flexible, in order to accommodate those who work in the office, and those who work remotely but come into the office occasionally.

History of Global Office Design Trends

The UK has seen many innovative changes in office design from the 1800s when dedicated office buildings first began to appear, to the rise in popularity of the open plan office which followed the principles laid down by Frank Taylor. Here the emphasis was on maximising efficiency, without considering for the humans working in the office.

Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1939, designed the Johnson Wax company’s open plan office in the US. The idea behind his design was to increase productivity. To that end, 200 salespeople were located on one floor with individual desks. In addition, the office design included bright lights, warm spaces, and cork ceilings (to absorb sound). The office design was becoming more “friendly” for the humans who worked there.

On into the 60s, office design began to reflect a more social layout, which worked to encourage interaction and engagement between employees. This trend was based on a concept from Germany, which was known as Burlolandschaft (which means “office landscape”). Once this design became popular, it soon spread across the globe. This office design was based on a rigid environment and office layout. It was also meant to meet the needs of the employees, with more open spaces, teams and desks placed together, and more. This trend also included more plants, rather than cubicle-style walls and partitions.

Next came the action office, created by Robert Prost. This office design was derived from Burolandschaft, but it put more emphasis on the creation and utilization of alternate forms of work settings. Here the idea was to give more freedom for employees to move around and even find more privacy as they worked. This led to modular furniture, more emphasis on the use of meeting rooms, and workstations became larger and more enclosed. The only problem was this led to less interaction between employees.

In the 1960s, another issue that affected office design trends was more women workers entering workplaces. Offices were now meant to include more privacy, and one innovation was the inclusion of a “modesty board,” which was a piece of wood used to cover the front of a desk. This was included because women were wearing dresses to work, and they needed more privacy and coverage of their legs.

Further changes to office design trends came in the 80s. This is when the “cubicle nation” concept became increasingly popular. Each employee had their own desk in an area that was usually portioned off with walls. Many companies allowed employees to personalise their spaces. However, the cubicle soon became something to be dreaded, as it seemed the workspace was increasingly becoming more like a “farm workplace,” which was packed with employees. Cubicles and office furniture for this design trend were often inexpensive, and not all that comfortable.

The next stage of office design trends took off in the 90s and early 2000s, when office spaces needed to increasingly incorporate technology. This made employees more mobile, which meant they could work from anywhere. Desks were no longer as important. It was at this time that people began to work at coffee shops and cafes. Companies soon realised they would benefit from these trends by incorporating the idea “hot desks,” and more.

It was about this same time that technology companies began to develop, which led to even more innovations in the work environment. These same companies also brought the “fun” aspect into the office, with the integration of leisure areas, creative spaces and even fully stocked kitchens.

Each of these trends may have started in the UK, the US, Germany, or other countries but they soon spread around the world. The cubicle, unfortunately, has been one of the most “successful” design trends.

What does the future of office design trends look like?

New Global Trends in Office Design

One of the main office design trends coming out of major countries such as the UK and the US, and Europe has been the move to sustainability, flexible and shared office spaces, and the wellbeing of employees.

When it comes to sustainability, biophilic office designs are becoming more popular all around the world. Here, companies are making an effort to bring nature into the office, rather than excluding it. Biophilic design uses natural elements including plants, wood, letting in more natural light, along with colours that reflect nature. This creates an ambience of calmness, focus, and energy to employees.

Flexible and coworking spaces have also become highly popular. These office trends make use of moveable office furniture and fixtures, and allows employees to work together, or find an alternative spot to work. Offices may include moveable desks that can come together to create a conference table, which can then be moved back to individual workstations. For offices with an open plan, workspaces may include quiet rooms, telephone pods, game rooms, and more.

The overall worldwide office design trend going into the future will put an emphasis on employee wellbeing, and the incorporation of company culture. The goal is to provide everyone with inspiring, creative, workspaces designed to meet employee’s needs and help them stay focused, engaged and become more productive.

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