A-Z of Trends 2017

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The easy thing for us to do with this Spotlight would be to produce a straightforward list of workplace trends. We don’t like things to be that simple though. So, we’ve asked a host of industry friends to help us compile the most comprehensive A-Z we’ve ever attempted. BTW, A-Z lists are bang on trend!

A trend is something that potentially does not exist in the current mainstream but can be a source of enlightenment and inspiration when considering the future. What the following pages do not cover is what is ‘trendy’. Unlike a trend, trendy denotes something that has a very short lifecycle, often has no basis of quality and, worse still, is loved by the masses. Think ponchos and those ridiculous baggy trousers that boys wore, which made them look as though they had a number two in their pants!

“20% of UK jobs are expected to be automated by the mid-2030’s. That’s 10 million people. However history also records that changes in technology can result in more jobs being created than destroyed.” – Mark Simpson, BDP

Trends are a vital part of our industry and that is why we have given it our full Spotlight report to them this month. The most significant trend, which will arguably help us prosper during this uncertain economic period, is for a better working environment for staff – something that we at Mix have characterised as the Workplace Revolution.

“It has taken time to observe and then truly understand how technology can enhance the way people work as opposed to being an end in itself”. – Madelyn Hankins, Director, Steelcase

If you read Mix regularly you will see how the leaders of some of the more enlightened and capable businesses have transformed their workplaces, with the key objective of keeping and recruiting the best staff to enable them to be successful.  The exciting part of this revolution is that we are only at the tip of the commercial workplace iceberg. We live and breathe great workplaces but the majority of business leaders currently don’t. What we are seeing on an almost daily basis is that we have moved past the ‘Google’ factor (don’t get us wrong, we’re not having a dig at Google here – it has certainly worked for them) and, rather than just looking at providing the latest fads, organisations are using the best of design to achieve workplace objectives.

The second and most exciting trend is what we are starting to see the in the public sector. Recent announcements about the HMRC and Ministry of Justice are exciting because their stated desire is that they want workplaces to be ‘more like the private sector’. As tax payers, we should embrace this because the net result should mean increased productivity.

This year’s A-Z has been created with the help of a broad range of opinions right across the Property Food Chain (PFC). Thank you to everyone for their enlightened contributions.


True, honest, original, genuine. Authenticity in design responds to the client, the location and the type of building. It is not borrowed or stolen. It is not a generic somewhere or a someone. It is specific, it is a place and a company. It is an intent and a statement. Too many projects are borrowing heavily to the point of stealing the design aesthetic from other organisations until we are left with this banal meaningless ‘Shoreditchification’, using subway tiles, exposed ceilings, old lamps and fake bricks. We are excited about exploring a new modern timeless aesthetic that reflects our clients and responds to their specific brand, culture and working habits, that develop bold, new, innovative design, that is place and company specific – that is authentic.
Matthew Kobylar, Director of Interiors and Workplace Strategy, Arney Fender Katsalidis


Combining shades of green, aquatic colours and natural aesthetics, the botanical trend has become one of the year’s most popular styles. Whether you prefer understated chic, eclectic or vintage-inspired, the trend’s palette consists of organic and versatile shades that can be combined to create fresh and exciting décor. If going down the greenery route is too great a commitment, why not just incorporate some elements? Wood-inspired surfaces in porcelain or ceramic are an effective and more eco-friendly alternative to natural materials and, thanks to advances in technology, the look can be achieved seamlessly.

Darren Clanford, Creative Director, Johnson Tiles


Co-working is a working style that involves a shared office environment and shared economy. Co-working allows users to have the freedom of a freelancer, the amenities of a real office, whilst having the social atmosphere and sense of a community. Co-working spaces are often open plan with mini-hubs that allow maximum communication and collaboration between users.
As the Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z enter the workplace, the new generations are fuelling the rise in co-working.
The boundaries between work and social life are becoming blurred. This has allowed co-working to develop into co-living, where start-ups can rent out bedrooms and share living facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens, common areas and have access to amenities.
Co-working and co-living will continue to grow as the cultural shift spreads and the new generations continue to enter the workplace.
Nic Pryke, Design Director, Oktra


Diversity of people means diversity of ideas. Excluding the clear ethical dimension, there is a strong business imperative behind increasing diversity in the workplace. But how do we build companies that are more representative?
As with any goal in business, you need to set out a strategy with clearly measurable targets. Achieving these targets will require a broad base from which to draw your potential applicants. Quotas can be a blunt tool, forcing hires that fit neither the applicant nor the company. Instead, advertising across a wide range of sites and platforms will give you a far wider talent pool to draw from.
Anonymous application forms can also allow you to skip over any personal information that might be met with unconscious biases.
There are also some great networks out there who are working hard to effect real positive gains for diversity in the workplace – AllBright, for example, a collective formed to support female entrepreneurs, brought the ‘FoundHer’ Festival to Manchester this year and with it some stories that are set to inspire and hopefully counter stats that show that male-led start-ups currently outweigh female-led start-ups by 2:1.
Nicky Moore, Brand & Marketing Manager, NOMA

As people’s working styles increasingly move from fixed to flexible, it’s no longer just the physical workplace that will attract the best and brightest talent. As the lines between work, home and social life become ever-more blurred, it’s the promise of an unparalleled experience that will ultimately get the best people to sign on the dotted line.
From simple things, like access to a decent cup of coffee, through to a hotel-style concierge or spa, it’s about offering a holistic experience. One that starts long before employees reach the office and is embedded in all elements of the collective workplace culture. In a world where people can work anywhere – the local cafe, at the airport, even the nearest park bench – it’s the experience of the environment and how it meets their working needs that will entice people into the office each day. Today, designing the optimal workplace means designing the ultimate experience.
Parvinder Marwaha, Design and Communications Director, Hassel

There is a continued move to more flexible working; and by flexible, we don’t mean working from home. We mean creating a range of work settings within an office environment that provide spaces to allow for optimum productivity on a particular type of task. Over the past few years there has been a real focus on designing for younger generations and encouraging collaboration. Clients are now refocusing the direction of projects to ensure the design works for all generations, including dedicated work areas, so people do not feel they have to work outside the office to focus quietly.
Clients are starting to realise the cost saving advantage of flexible working, due to being able to fit more work settings into a smaller floor area. With the continued advances in technology, we will see this move to more flexible and agile working styles increasing.
Colin Wood, Director, Turner & Townsend


We often talk of geometric patterns or designs as a current trend but, on reflection, when hasn’t geometry been a source of fascination and inspiration for us as designers or, indeed, consumers? It’s the meeting point of art and mathematics and the results are mesmerising. Consider a nautilus shell, a cactus, honeycomb structure or snowflakes…nature has been showing us the beauty of geometry since day dot (and we have been paying close attention). Whilst it is inherent in all things structural, both externally and internally, geometry may be considered optional when it comes to the finishing touches of our interior schemes and yet we never seem to tire of its curiously satisfying forms or ordered repetition. Whether it’s in joinery detail, glazing, tile patterns, lighting, wallcoverings, fabrics or accessories, we’re clearly besotted.

Nicki Hearne, Associate Interior Designer, 5 Plus Architects

Human Resources

In the past, those with the job title ‘Human Resources’ were often regarded as the back end of a company, or even more simply ‘the people who dealt with people’. However, as the world of business has changed over recent years, the definition of HR has also taken a significant shift. Those in HR have quickly become a fundamental part of business; particularly in the Design & Build industry. There is now a trend for those in HR to be increasingly involved in the decision-making process, often working closely with Managing Directors and Executives.
These individuals are likely to have more say on how the business is and should be run, what projects should or shouldn’t be taken on and, of course, who should and shouldn’t be hired. Those who previously had a fairly narrow and prescriptive job role now engage with people across various areas of the once traditional hierarchy of a company.
So why does this matter? For a company like ours, within the design industry, it matters because it reveals a pushing of boundaries and encourages a re-shaping of how business is done by implementing a flatter business model. Ultimately, it is a trend that emphasises a new work culture; one that advocates greater transparency and puts everyone at the heart of the business, which allows us to easily create the best spaces for each great client!

Natasza Pyzynska, Interior Designer, MDC Group


Technology is changing the way we interact with the bricks and mortar around us – and it’s here to stay. In an increasingly interconnected world, the integration of people, technology and the built environment will be the defining feature of the future office.

Implementation of the right type of technology will enable the development of truly smart cities and a transformational digital ecosystem for smarter and faster decision making. How we integrate this technology is key and requires a new mindset away from the traditional silo approach when designing and delivering buildings. A technology first approach is the natural evolution for the office of the future.

Paul Cook, Head of Technology, ISG


They say the journey is greater than the destination. It represents transient time for contemplation and affords people the opportunity to interact with others and objects. This happens in our cities as we use our commutes as thinking space, buy a spontaneous soya latte or encounter an acquaintance en-route to the office. But none of this is coincidence as it is all part of a highly complex and intricate system that creates potential out of opportunity.

Our work environments are not dissimilar in that they are full of micro-commutes between desks, tea-points, meeting spaces, yoga rooms and many other inbound destinations, creating a city-like system within a building where our lifts are our equivalent of tube lines. So, as our activity-based environments mature and we start drinking charcoal latte, our future focus will be on the in-between spaces, the circulation and micro-commutes – and how we can activate these to create potential out of opportunity.

Jordan Jones, Design Strategist, HLW


Although the view of the past sits in our rear-view mirror, it is never static. New knowledge that we gain every day helps us makes sense of it and informs our future view. If our understanding of the past continues to change, then you won’t be surprised that the shape and the nature of our future is changing even quicker, shaped by many more factors than just our own understanding. With all this change comes an opportunity to shape and challenge an industry on the move even further. Central to such change is a level of greater transparency, which we find ourselves handling daily, leading to a greater knowledge (as well as misunderstanding), as well as holding corporate to account. To some extent, we are starting to see such change in some companies, who are starting to see that their brands have importance beyond their shareholder value – meaning all elements of the chain in the supply and building process need to have a greater awareness (knowledge) of the component and the impact that they may create. Issues such as the Modern Slavery Act have made some companies stop and pause – and ask whether they know where all the components of a building come from.

Martin Townsend, BRE Director of Sustainability, BRE Global


We talk a lot about live/work in relation to workplaces, trying to make a workplace seem more like a home in an attempt to improve wellbeing and productivity. The live/work mix has been a mainstay of good urban planning for some time. It brings diversity to an area that allows it to be active for more hours – breathing life to an area naturally sparks more life.

What we rarely recognise is that the same benefits are available in other typologies. Opportunities for culture-led regeneration exist in many regional UK towns and cities, particularly in areas of low cultural provision and investment, where grass-roots arts organisations are emerging and offering new models of engagement with artists and audiences.

There is now a growing understanding of the long-term benefits from mixing living with working; cultural investments and live/work cycles engage communities, raise expectations and encourage further funding and urban development.

Ben Hopkins, Architect, Bennetts Associates

Material Combinations

Our natural human desire to create something new out of the old has led to a growing trend for unusual material combinations – taking traditional matter (metals, stone, wood, textiles etc) and mixing it up to create subtle variations of tone and texture. This has translated into the flooring sector too, where we are seeing the emergence of soft natural textiles combined with industrial, man-made materials. Neutral tones are enlivened with subtle hints of gold, silver, pearl and bronze metallic shades to create interior spaces with added depth. Designers are experimenting with soft, handmade textiles combined with smooth wood surfaces or raw concrete and stone.

Marloes Jongen, Textile Designer, DESSO


Imagine if knowledge travelled around your organisation as quickly as a salacious rumour can. Not much in the way of fresh thinking, original ideas or inspiration is generated in formal meetings. The good stuff is more often generated informally and spontaneously through networks; networks formed by relationships of trust and familiarity.

At work we all naturally develop networks of colleagues who we go to for a chat and information exchange; some for personal matters, others for professional advice. As organisations strive to compete, they must nurture networks of trust by encouraging the face-to-face contact that enables people to increase their access to a human web of social and expert experience. Increased speed to market, faster decision-making time and improved productivity are outputs of healthy networks.

Oliver Ronald, Sales & Marketing Director, Boss Design


Does an individual really need a private office? Is it just a place to adorn with trophies and pictures, a meeting room, a private storeroom or a status symbol? If you don’t really need an office, don’t waste space that more than one person could benefit from. All week your staff looks at the empty room, wishing there were more spaces available for meeting, collaborating or getting away from the craziness of the open plan. Break down the barriers, be one of the people! You can do it. Sharing is caring.

Colin Owen, Creative Director, Maris Interiors


The first offices emerged in the 1800’s for merchants and government officials. Today, 50% of people work in an office.

Organisations today focus primarily on progress, growth and innovation. They continue to invest in open plan offices, to foster collaborative work and shared learning – the UK has twice the number of open offices and twice the number of nomadic workers as the rest of the world.

Today, companies prioritise wellbeing to engage and attract more skilled workers. The UK  sets the trend in providing more relaxation and private spaces than anywhere else.

The next challenge is how offices incorporate the needs for a variety of spaces, employee wellbeing, developments in technology, and an increased need for creative work, into dense spaces. The disappearing hierarchical executive offices, combined with more open spaces, are what make network-based workplaces with flat hierarchies possible.

Serena Borghero, EMEA Research Communications, Steelcase

Quality / Quantity

Quantity is a vital aspect to be considered when designing workplaces. The recent trend of open office layouts has gained immense popularity as it helps co-workers bond and is of course greatly space-saving. However, it needs to be seen just how many people can really work together in a large open space as they can be noisy and sometimes chaotic.

An open office should ideally be limited to a small team of co-workers who need to constantly collaborate or connect with each other throughout their working hours. This arrangement enables them to share important information without having to wander around colleagues’ desks. This also works in favour of the team leader or supervisor as no one needs to be tracked down and they can hold team briefings without having to move to a designated meeting room.

The key to a successful open office plan is to keep the number restricted and have smaller zones carved out for various teams rather than having the whole department seated on an open floor plate.

Shami Goregaoker, Design Director, GA Design


Creating agile floorplates that provide users with endless options on how and where they work has become our bread and butter as designers. We do so to deliver environments that are harmonious to its occupants and which encourage a happier, healthier, more engaged and productive workforce. While task specific areas are crucial to a successful commercial interior, we mustn’t forget the importance of designated spaces for employees to escape from their daily grind without judgment.

This isn’t your typical ‘breakout’ space, which accommodates the masses, it’s far more personal and altogether private areas where staff can close off from external sources, be themselves and freely respond to the challenges they are facing that day. Employees can’t sustain the high levels of productivity expected of them without the opportunity to spend a small portion of time zoning out, relaxing and recharging.

As trusted advisors to countless businesses, we should be championing private recharge spaces and illustrating how they contribute to a more sustainably productive workplace, which outwardly protects its talent. For some companies this is becoming a requirement and manufacturers are beginning to take note.

Simon Millington, Director, Incognito

Smart Lighting

It’s no secret that both dim and harsh lighting cause poor productivity within the workplace, but by getting smarter with lighting, providing indirect ‘daylight’, dimmable sources, as well as LED task lights, workplace providers are seeing improvements in energy consumption and employee mood. But there is also a big push on creating the brand’s social atmosphere with the use of energy efficient decorative lighting sources. These can create common areas, hallways, breakout spaces and cafes with ambience within the workplace.

Katie Fulhrer, Enigma Lighting


Terrazzo is a centuries old technique where marble off-cuts are bonded by cement, ground down and polished smooth. Originally created as a low-cost, hard-wearing surfaces by Venetian construction workers to cover the terraces in their homes, it was later used in high traffic areas such as supermarket floors due to its superb durability. It is now experiencing a revival as a luxury material, no longer limited to walls or floors; the technique has been championed by designers for use in homeware and furniture thanks to its endless potential to create bespoke patterns and colour combinations.

Samuel Pettersen, Designer, Orangebox

User Experience

User experiences are becoming a point of differentiation and play a role in not only attracting, retaining and engaging talent, but ultimately impact on productivity and innovation too. With a younger demographic entering the workplace, the expectation for spaces that tell a purposeful story, show authenticity and create wonderment, will become greater. The foundation for the next intelligent workplace will progress towards immersive, tailored experiences.

The increased focus on user engagement and experience, across all platforms and spaces, has presented new design opportunities. You will see more and more firms looking to embed innovation hubs, wellness amenities, incubation labs and interaction spaces, helping develop greater engagement.

The most memorable experiences are often those that feel completely novel or offer unique or unexpected qualities that surprise and delight – so workplaces will have to work harder to create a distinct experience, which stimulate and excite the human senses on a variety of levels to deepen emotional connections and create lasting memories.

Philippe Paré, Principal and Design Director, Gensler

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is back for the future and coming to a workplace near you!

Prepare for VR to take the collaborative environment, training, marketing, document management and data visualisation to the next level.  Since 2012 the number of VR companies has grown by 250%. Facebook acquired VR company Oculus for $2 billion in 2014. It’s serious.

By 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce and Generation Z will have entered employment. The M’s & Z’s are tech-savvy, actively seek digital innovation and are influenced by workplace facilities, capabilities and environments. Some tech-progressive corporates have started offering VR experiences to enable prospective employees to virtually experience their new workspace.

With the decline in demand for the trading desk and an increase in requirements for open plan offices, such as the need for privacy, we predict VR will be a new influencer in the workstation of the future.

Caroline Pearce-Browne, Director, Reps


Workplace wellness revolves around promoting and enabling the wellbeing and health of employees. It can easily be encouraged by good office design and company culture. Sound complicated? Get inspired with the suggestions below:

Promote health and fitness: This could include offering showers for those cycling into work, an office gym or even something as simple as fresh fruit.

Socialising: Enable collaborative work through ad-hoc meeting rooms or breakout spaces. Equally, social events should be a part of your work calendar – these help to create a sense of reward, which stimulates motivation.

Encourage openness: Open up the lines of communication to managers and be empathetic about different issues, such as interpersonal conflict and mental health.

These examples are likely to result in healthier and happier employees – and that means greater productivity too. With this in mind, it’s clear to see how workplace wellness can benefit individuals and businesses alike.

Interaction, Workplace Design & Build experts

Emotional DetoX

A balance at work is vital. We’ve all heard of the benefits of a digital detox or doing a nutritional cleanse, but what about an Emotional Detox?

When we hold a grudge or fume throughout the night over a colleague’s (perceived) litany of misdeeds, we engage in emotional warfare. We become increasingly upset, our thinking becomes clouded and, often, we plot spiteful response. The longer we dwell within this emotional battlefield, the greater the toxicity.

We have a right to act and respond skilfully.  We are not responsible for another person’s actions. Centre and realign to your True North – your Optimal Blueprint.

Three steps for an emotional detox:

Breathe deeply for seven breaths. Linger on each, exhale and savour the moment of silence between in-breath and out-breath.

Zoom out to gain a bigger perspective. Envision your mind as vast as the sky or a landscape panorama within a telephoto view.

‘Pure Mind, Warm Heart. May my thoughts, words and actions be a blessing to my world.’ Tune in to an inner listening, then repeat this mantra, from the inside out, 5x or more.

Karuna Detox team

Yulio Technologies

For those working in design, communicating a vision to clients is commonly one of the biggest challenges. Spatial visualisation is difficult…and clients say ‘I’m not seeing it’ a lot. Using current tools, like images and models, can result in unproductive feedback from clients as they don’t understand what they’re looking at.

VR is the next evolution in communication and collaboration for design. Effective VR solutions should work efficiently with an existing workflow and be easy to integrate into the ways you currently author, present and share designs. With a simple process that creates VR from assets you already have, you can have immersive pitches, productive design presentations – and even a full VR portfolio in your pocket in minutes.

VR has moved beyond novelty and is now a practical, everyday business tool that helps communicate things faster and more clearly. It gives clients greater confidence and speeds up their decision making.

Robert Kendal, Founder & MD, Yulio

Generation Z

According to Chloe Combi, author of the book Generation Z, this group is defined as those born between 1995 and 2001. Born four years after the invention of the internet, Generation Z have been absorbed by and surrounded with technology in their home, school and social lives literally all of their lives; there has never been a more hyper tech-savvy generation. And also, significantly, they have experienced uncertainty all their lives: recession, war and social unrest at home and across the globe.

‘They have an instinctive understanding of technology, which the brightest among them is applying to the big issues of our times: healthcare, energy, education,’ Combi says. ‘These kids will create new jobs and industry.’

This generation has just begun entering the workplace and it is felt will push for greater work/life balance and increased workplace flexibility. A recent report by Forbes concluded: ‘Generation Z’s will continue to put pressures on companies to transform the office, reward employees, and align the companies’ interests with a cause.’

Alison Kitchingman, Director of Marketing & Design, Milliken