Spotlight – A-Z of Trends 2018


When we started to consider this year’s A-Z of trends, we thought it would be appropriate to invite one of our fantastic contributors (and former MixInspired panellists) to compose an introduction for us. When we then considered which contributor we should ask, well, the man who deals with trends for a living – Rohit Talwar, CEO at Fast Future – was an obvious choice.
There is one point where the forces shaping the future of business collide – and that’s the workplace. The future of business and the nature of work are being influenced by complex external factors including international trade tensions, global supply chains, Brexit uncertainty, regulation and societal expectations. The way that work then gets done is increasingly shaped by task automation, unruly innovations, disrespectful new entrants, outsourcing and the uncertain future impact of exponentially improving technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, big data, cloud computing, hyperconnectivity, and the Internet of Things.

How we organise work also reflects the quality of leadership and management, digital literacy levels, broader workforce competencies and priorities regarding wellbeing, stress and mental health. Our choices on all these factors come together to shape our decisions on the purpose, ethos, functionality and design of workplaces.

So, from this complex set of influences, and this A to Z of trends, there are two key forces to consider in planning future workplaces. Firstly, we must let history guide us and acknowledge that, in uncertain times, companies often reduce spending, so pressure is only likely to grow in terms of generating innovative workplace designs for ever-smaller budgets, whilst also catering for the possibility of workforce numbers shrinking by 20-50% or grow by 10%.

The second core challenge is allowing for the impact of disruptive technologies like AI. At one end of the spectrum we see jobs being lost to smart automation and the emergence of entirely digital organisations with zero employees. The insurance company, Teambrella, is an example of these Decentralised Autonomous Organisations, which generate jobless economic growth. At the other end of the spectrum is the growing level of job creation in the new ventures enabled by science and technology advances.

In the face of such uncertainty, our challenge is to become ever more creative and flexible in designing workplaces that serve humans in an uncertain world.






Artificial Intelligence is rapidly changing the way we work. AI is already being incorporated into our office spaces, and will no doubt hugely influence the design process itself. We have seen in other industries that new technology can replicate human intelligence traits, leveraging the power of machines to replace human user responses with much greater speed and effectiveness. However, what does this mean for design?

AI is based on data sets; patterns of information which form algorithms that machines can learn, and then predict. But innovation doesn’t come from repeated problem-solving – it comes from the ideas that fall outside of the norm. Humans are eccentric, unpredictable, ingenious…can machines ever become human enough to be avant-garde?

At Perkins+Will, our Insight i/o group has been exploring how, as designers, AI is something that works alongside humans, instead of replacing them. By melding the best abilities of both human and machine cognition, we can develop EI – Extended Intelligence. What we mean by this is that AI can help us gain a greater understanding of complex problems and build new tools and develop new insights that will become aids to the design process. Starting now, we should embrace AI as something that can, and will, augment the existing problem-solving and ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking abilities of designers.

The insight group is a part of the Perkins+Will i/o lab, a technology-focused R&D group. The purpose of the group is to integrate right brain /left brain solutions to complex problems with the application of next-generation tools and technologies.


Natalie Smith,
Senior Associate, Workplace Consultant and Interior Designer, Perkins+Will   





Some people think they live in the future because they are surrounded by robots. They are wrong. Today’s affordable robots – like Alexa, Siri and Cortana – are not shaping the future, they’re simply the next version of any other labour saving device from the last 100 years, and a distraction from the real problems of the future as highlighted by BBC’s The Blue Planet.

At a recent roundtable event, expert opinion was unanimous, citing that, in 20 years’ time, universities are going to be very flexible and offer adaptable spaces. AI & VR technology would rule, up-market apprenticeships would increasingly blur the boundaries between industry and academia would be commonplace – the future was indeed bright. On the other hand, no one mentioned what we are going to do about limiting material usage, reducing pollution, or how to create happy and healthy communities for everyone.

Most practitioners have heard of the benefits that biophilia can bring, but few know how to implement biophilic design strategies correctly. It’s not just about installing a living hydroponic wall or adding a sprinkling of potted palms; these are great additions but they don’t make truly biophilic buildings. If biophilia is implemented correctly, it creates a harmonious link between all aspects of the natural world, both inside and out.

So, it’s therefore essential that interior designers take precautions in the early stages of the design process, to limit the potential discomfort and health problems for end users. With a closer examination of the relationship of a building’s interior with its surrounding environment, we can combat the onslaught of climate change and make better connections with nature; if not, there won’t be a future – not even for robots.

Truly successful biophilic design offers much more than the chance to walk backwards into the future; with robot professors beaming in lectures via drones, towards multi-coloured, beanbag strewn, stress-free zones.


Stephen Edge,
Senior Lecturer in Interior Design, University of Gloucestershire





A few years ago, the industry was considering home offices and how they will affect our working environments – and even if they will become obsolete. Now people are looking at offices as meeting areas, places to discuss ideas and collaborate. People come to the office to sit down with each other and converse or create together. Discussions are much easier face-to-face and workplaces are encouraging people to do this.

There was a time when work was about a person and their computer. Now, however, computers can do so much more and we are tasked with being more creative. Offices need to adapt to encourage this creativity and foster a culture of being creative and collaborative. This has given rise to more flexible spaces, and our offices aren’t banks of desks but a variety of places to gather, confer and work together.

We are also looking at designing-in places for serendipitous collision, where the building and layouts are designed to encourage chance encounters, leading to further collaboration and sharing of ideas. Kitchens are placed in particular locations that encourage teams or people to cross paths and talk. Offices are no longer just about producing work, but also about lifestyle and discussion; this directly affects their make-up. Although collaboration is really created through office culture and leadership, good design can definitely help and encourage this culture to grow.

Charles Bettes,
Managing Director, Gpad 




Workplaces need to catch up with the new digital reality. Internet of Things, big data, voice-activated technology, smart sensors, VR/AI will become an essential part of the workplace. We must integrate digital technologies in the way businesses work to help collaboration, boost productivity and facilitate mobility. 

One of its benefits is that it frees us to have multiple workplaces; where we can work with anyone, anywhere and at any time. The boundaries between home and the office dissolve and new office typologies are emerging – e.g. coworking hubs and spaces. Big data, aligned to smart sensors, help buildings to understand and effectively respond to the needs of users. The office environment can be optimised to support collaborative and individual tasks with clients and colleagues on the spot and across the world. Voice-activated technologies complement the digital scene, creating new opportunities for capturing ideas, re-configuring work settings with a simple voice command. 

Digital technologies may empower the future workforce but also bring with them challenges – a potential Trojan Horse on the doorstep of every business. These technologies usually involve a high cost, increased security risks and require a fundamental cultural shift in the organisation if they are to be successful. 

Forget your personal desk, security badge and paperwork. Voice-activated AI office assistants, noise-cancelling wearables, acoustic meeting bubbles and immersive technologies will be only the start of your new 3D-printed office.

Workplace Strategy Consultant, Strategy Plus





There was a time when a cubicle, a kettle and a photocopier were the sum of parts to a standard office. The workforce of today demands more. To be competitive in the hiring market it is not enough for an employer to only address the new recruit’s financial package. They must show themselves worthy of their staff through an exemplary workspace. In doing this they are demonstrating that they will aide each individual to be their best. These workspaces need to give choice, to inspire, and be open to change and innovation. They must also welcome and enable those of all personality types. Currently, the trend is to design for the extravert; open plan offices and spaces shared with a host of other people (and often dogs!). The best future spaces and designs will also cater to the introverts, and those with other needs; for example, those suffering from autism. 

For large employers it can be a huge challenge to answer the ‘needs of the many’, especially when there is a business case to answer to. This can result in the perfect answer appearing to be a sea of desks to that client, although often with a bespoke offering for themselves. It is our job, as designers, to remind managers that they are not alone in their firm in requiring something different for great focus and productivity. 


Stefanie Woodward,
Head of Interior Design, Cushman & Wakefield





The concept of ownership of space runs deep in our work culture but is gradually eroding as organisations better understand how their people work. Be it down to biorhythm, personal preference or circumstance, designing a flexible workspace to accommodate how individuals work is shown to result in greater productivity. 

Thanks to technology, we’ve already seen a number of roles, which were previously exclusively office based, now being accomplished offsite. As an evolution of this, new workplaces are increasingly accommodating and are adopting a much broader range of functions, enabling people to move to spaces that better support their way of working. 

There’s a number of flexible alternatives to the traditional office work set-up already available, including coworking, activity-based workspaces and hot desking. Resimercial office design is set to be the next focus. Here we find a space that merges home comforts with the resources of a modern day office so workers are supported from both a physical and psychological perspective. As time goes on I believe we’ll see the trend for flexible workspace design to become the norm.

Nicole Portieri,
Director, Woods Hardwick





We recently spent the afternoon with a client, working our way through a full shelf of oak veneer samples. Although we were designing a high-tech workspace, the choice between red, white, smoked, crown cut, rift and rotary was absorbing, and finding the right natural grain became as important to the design as the digital backbone that keeps it running.

‘Grain’ means texture, scale, pattern and material. It’s a fundamental part of how we build and furnish space, and it’s also a reflection of how we work – big picture vision doesn’t happen without attention to the fine grain. Bespoke detailing and individuality are expected in every interior project these days and, as workplace specialists, we’re designing for the individual end user – what they sense and touch, how to keep their space alive and interesting through the year. Designing the grain of a project means understanding how people like to sit, how light changes through the day, and how to combine a desk, a staircase and a planter into one seamless object.

Natural, eclectic interiors might be old news, but it’s still a joy to experience the grain of reclaimed timber, mesh and patinated metal, and (as a lover of brutalism) rough in-situ concrete. Building on the grain of natural materials, this year’s projects are using more layers to create depth – overlaying textured acoustic panels, printing patterns onto plywood boards and furniture, making layered ceiling-scapes with translucent and slatted rafts, and enriching spaces with the added grain of planting, dressing, art and collectables.

If we ever get tired of debating the virtues of sapele versus walnut, arguing whether rusty steel is a ‘natural’ material, or printing 15 samples of our wall patterns to test the scale, maybe we’ll be tired of interior design. Until then, it’s all about the grain.


John Avery, 
Director, LOM architecture and design





Hygge. The Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment.It is a philosophy of comfort and cosiness and it has become the inescapable ‘trend’ over the years, especially when the dark and cold days arrive. 

This Scandinavian lifestyle has indeed been taken over by every sector of design – graphic design, interiors, product and fashion. 

However, there maybe a misconception regarding the real meaning of Hygge and the ‘trend’ we should follow. 

You can’t buy Hygge. It is not a certain piece of Scandinavian furniture, not a certain colour, not a certain type of graphic and not a certain type of candle.

Since it is a feeling, it is about what makes you feel great in a certain environment. This is where, as interior designers, we can help to translate those emotions and sense of comfort into colours, textures, smells, sounds, to create your very own space.

After a trip to Copenhagen, discovering their environment and the way they live, I realised that Hygge is part of their culture and they translate it in many different ways and many different spaces, as I think there is also the perception that it can only apply to your home, in a quiet environment. 

It is a beautiful thing to share. It can be having a chat with a friend in a coffee shop or even in your workplace – just acknowledging the moment. 

Now, as we are on our way into Winter, let’s look around and ask ourselves what would make us feel better – more Hygge!


Chloe Cotard, 
Creative Director, Jolie Studio




The advent of the smartphone age has changed the way we all interact with the world – and that includes the workplace.  With an ever-growing focus on sustainability and efficiency, new building developments are taking advantage of technology advances to make their buildings as intelligent as possible. In so doing, a building’s ability to adapt to the users, rather than the other way around, makes for an enhanced working environment and improved wellbeing for staff. Mechanical systems have increased lifespans, energy bills are lower and the functionality improves, because intelligent buildings often focus on ensuring that their systems operate exactly when required, in exactly the way required, for exactly the duration required. It is this intelligence that will continue to enhance the working environment as the technology develops and becomes more readily available.


Elizabeth Dexter-Bond, 
Project Manager, JAC Group




The nascent years of new ways of working in the late 80s and early 90s coincided with a widely held but soon to be discarded belief that the Japanese had cracked management practices. It was inevitable that a system called Just In Time manufacturing – most famously applied in the factories of Toyota – should migrate to the new discipline of flexible working.

Just In Time describes the alignment of work processes with the supply of resources and materials as a way of increasing efficiency and minimising inventory. In a workplace setting this means only providing people with workstations when they need them, especially because it had become clear that desks were simply sitting around empty for most of each day.

The advent of mobile devices and the Internet made it very clear that the solution was to introduce a new type of workplace in which people were not assigned desks but had to find somewhere to work when they needed it.

This idea found various forms and names, including Just In Time, hot-desking, hotelling and free address, but all had the same problem. They were often introduced in a cack-handed way that fomented strife and left people feeling alienated and unloved.

No other firm characterised the problems of this confrontational approach to workplace design than the ad agency, Chiat Day, which had implemented it with a great deal of ballyhoo in its offices in LA and New York. The end result was described in a 1999 piece in Wired after the firm had abandoned the idea and its offices.

‘For a brief, swirling period…the ad agency became engulfed in petty turf wars, kindergarten-variety subterfuge, incessant griping, management bullying, employee insurrections, internal chaos, and plummeting productivity. Worst of all, there was no damn place to sit.’


Mark Eltringham, 
Workplace Insight





The Japanese word kaizen means change for the better. The word refers to any improvement, singular or continuous, large or small. In Japan, it is customary to label industrial or business improvement techniques with the word kaizen. In English it is typically applied to measures for implementing continuous improvement.

Flow kaizen is oriented towards the flow of materials and information, and is often identified with the reorganisation of the production cycle in a company. Process kaizen refers to improving the way production workers do their job. The use of the kaizen model for continuous improvement demands that both flow and process kaizens are used. Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanises the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (muri) and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using rational testing methods and learning how to spot and eliminate waste in terms of time, space and human resources.

In all, the process suggests a humanised approach to workers and to increasing productivity and contributes towards what the Japanese call ikigai, which means a reason for living.

Kaizen techniques are available to analyse objective and subjective data and therefore are useful in POE analysis.

Kaizen cycle for continuous improvement and POE application:

1. Get occupants involved in identifying needs, issues and problems. 

2. Formulate a brief for a new build or a refurbishment plan.

3. Create possible solutions.

4. Measure, test and compare solutions.

5. Analyse the results. 

6. Study patterns, trends and outliers.

7. Iterate.

8. Recommendations. 

University of Reading





As the wellness movement dominates the industry and with light listed as one of its seven core concepts, promising to improve productivity and happiness of staff and visitors to buildings, lighting is a key element of office design. 

For years, uniform lighting in offices was a given and company leaders did not consider its wider role in their operations strategy – instead their main focus was on factors like air conditioning, infrastructure and ICT. This, however, is changing. This move comes from research supporting the theory that more natural daylight or mimicked natural light has a wealth of benefits, enhancing vision, wellbeing and performance for those in the building and improving energy and productivity. Human-centric lighting systems are the emerging trend to tackle this. Now a more accessible, cost-effective technology, the LEDs support our circadian rhythm, tuning light to the rhythm of natural daylight patterns through cool and warm white diodes.

A particular challenge we have come across is recreating natural light and appropriate light when repurposing and retrofitting buildings. For example, basements or traditionally used office archive spaces require a well thought out lighting system to become a comfortable modern office environment. 

It has been well documented that window views and natural lighting are beneficial for workers – however, glare, distraction and temperature monitoring are just some of the challenges that need to be overcome due to their effect on productivity. A focus for our projects is activity based design and localised lighting – providing bespoke lighting systems and palettes for the particular needs of the space. Our working styles are becoming more flexible, and so should the light that supports them. 

Whilst these opportunities are exciting, the most important thing for occupiers is the management of the systems. Facilities management need simple and clear interfaces that are easy to maintain and use – allowing for flexibility and for everyone in the building to feel the maximum benefit of these technological advances. 


Rachel Bishop, 
Project Director, tp bennett





The popularity of mindfulness has skyrocketed in recent years and its application in the office environment is increasing. The concept is nothing new, and can be traced back to the 5th century BC, when it appeared in the 37 Factors of Enlightenment – the Buddha’s most essential teachings. 

Mindfulness is not just a modern wellbeing buzzword; it is a movement, which is cultivated by a range of meditation practices that aims to bring a better awareness of thinking, leading to an expansion of choice and capacity in how we perceive the world. 

Unfortunately, as with the majority of social networks, mindfulness in the workplace is often portrayed as the idea of striving for individual perfection. But it should not be driven by a personal goal; it should be a holistic company approach, which aspires for a more mindful working environment.

The introduction of yoga classes and the creation of meditation spaces and prayer rooms in western businesses is a sign of the traction and popularity it has developed. As designers, we need to take the principles of mindfulness and apply them to each space we create, so that the end user can benefit from greater mental clarity, and care for themselves and others.

With the common rhetoric of ‘switching off’, there is also an assumption that mindfulness and technology go hand-in-hand. Our ability to be mindful is constantly affected and regularly interrupted by the attention-based products we use. The challenge we face in 2019 is how to implement the ideas and practices of mindfulness into technology, so that the attention and wellbeing of the people who use it is best supported. 

Debbie Drake, 
Associate Director, KSS




Biophilic design is the philosophy of theming an interior around nature. For corporate environments, texture, natural light and materials are essential for this practice.

Biophilic design encourages a better sense of wellbeing, not only in the corporate workplace, but also within the healthcare and education sectors and is proven to increase wellbeing and productivity levels. People are happier when they are surrounded by nature, so it is woven into interiors, positively affecting those working in schools, universities, hospitals and offices.

We use biophilic theory by incorporating more indoor plants into our interior design projects, as seeing plants taps into our innate desire to be close to nature. We use colours, textures
and patterns that are reflective of nature,
especially tones of green, beige, grey and blue, as well as green walls – both real and faux. Materials such as moss, concrete, stone, metals, cork, brick and wood, particularly dark wood, are particularly popular.

The interior design industry follows trends, which are usually taken from fashion, technology and nature, so we continually apply inspiration taken from these trends and apply it to our work.


Cristina Riley, 
Senior Interior Designer, CPMG Architects




We are mooting the concept of an Operating System of the Workplace. This is the software that sits over your agile workplaces and enables office users to use the hardware that you have installed. The Workplace Operating System brings the office to life, allowing people to find the right space at the time of their need. It is tempting to do this with apps, however this has not worked in the past. Experience shows only around 40% of people download apps and the usage drops to sub 10% in six months. A different approach is needed. An OS has to be something that should be part of the infrastructure, not part of an employment contract! Our concept is to make it part of the built environment – making spaces intelligent using sensing capability such that the space is able to inform workplace users about its state of occupancy, comfort, activity and facilities. Such systems do exist and have been successfully deployed. Micro-sensing can be achieved without capturing the identity of the occupier, thereby avoiding personal data issues. Information presented simply shows if a space is free and simple rules determine when it  has been truly vacated and is available for re-use. This OS can also help occupiers to improve the space design over time so that it works for all the occupants by analysing usage patterns and taking action to continuously improve it.

CEO, Workplace Fabric





As private and professional lives continue to merge more intrinsically, workplace wellbeing has extended far beyond comfort during the working day. Of course, ergonomics are still instrumental in supporting the physical and mental health of workers. However, there is now a network of additional factors that mean workplace wellbeing begins long before – and continues long after – employees log on and off for the day. 

Steelcase champions a two-part approach to staff wellbeing, with one half manifesting in company culture and human-centric management, and the other being achieved through strategic workspace design and product implementation. 

This encompasses a holistic approach, which Steelcase has dubbed the Palette of Place, Posture and Presence.

Place– Designing an ecosystem of diverse settings, which cater for a variety of work modes, from collaboration to private focus. 

Posture– Furniture and design solutions, which encourage freedom of movement and support the plethora of postures, which have emerged on account of new technologies and devices. 

Presence– Seamlessly integrating a mixed-bag of presence experiences, be it face-to-face or virtual, to streamline information-sharing between both resident and mobile workers to boost ‘presence’ and engagement.  

These three different palettes embody the wider attitude towards modern working life, which has inspired the creation of new settings such as the WorkCafé – an innovative combination of dining area, social space and work environment, which is quickly and easily adapted to task or requirement. 

The workplace palette is all about striking this perfect balance in order to nurture a happy, healthy workforce who feel confident and motivated both in and out of work hours. 

Managing Director, Penketh Group




The advancement of workplace-related scientific methods and analytics has seen a trajectory towards understanding workplace performance in various aspects. It may be pursued in a form of quantifying employee experiences, cost associated with absenteeism and presenteeism, physical and mental health states via health monitoring systems, or more serious measures of their innovative performance. With a demanding need of evidence-based decisions in corporate environments, the field of workplace science is rapidly growing and being adopted in workplace design and management. Leading companies such as Boston Consulting Group, Google and Innovative Workplace Institute are integrating or offering scientific measures to understand diverse aspects of workplace performance. Workplace scientists are analysing employee behaviors such as interaction/collaboration nodes via software programmes like space syntax or spatial calculator. 

Neuroscientists are brought into the workplace research to understand employee behaviours, to provide workplaces more conducive to higher performance. Furthermore, in-house human resources departments in many companies are also linking workplace design and management to people analytics. All these efforts are part of the trend to provide 

the workplace that allows people to perform using their potential to their fullest extent. As we are further realising the complexity of the workplace, the future trend will rest in capturing the intricate system of the workplace and altering the conventional simple assessment mechanisms of human capital return on investment (ROI) to more accurate, multi-attribute assessment mechanisms, requiring a systems thinking perspective to truly evaluate human capital in the workplace.


Young Lee, 
Director, Innovative Workplace Institute, New York




People costs are the biggest, single business expense. Your most valuable asset is your people! Attracting top talent is evermore competitive so the need for a space in which humans can thrive is diamond clear. 

Companies used to build factories and offices to embed hierarchies or keep facility costs low. Today, when technology provides complete freedom, you can feel like you don’t even need an office – yet studies show that digital technology compounds loneliness and isolation.

A human-centric workplace promotes creativity and enhances productivity. A successful design has wellness at its core: promoting varying working styles; encouraging movement and interaction; fostering a sense of community and belonging, whilst ensuring the space meets the needs of a diverse demographic of end users.

Rather than a vast plain of identical desks, modern, innovative businesses need to create an experience that competes with the sociability of the coffee shop and the comfort of a home office. 

Our environments should allow people to personalise their working day – I might need a discreet place for a tough 1:1, a reconfigurable space for ideation or somewhere open, encouraging others to drop by.

The workplace today has to be all of these things for both it and your people to rise.


Anouschka Walker, 
Senior Interior Designer, HOK



Smart Building Technology

The integration of Smart Building Technology is key to more engaging experiences and a more fulfilled and happy workforce.

 The story starts outside of the office; individuals can communicate with their workplace via mobile apps to effectively curate their workday before arriving – to order breakfast, book meeting rooms or identify and locate available contacts. 

 Equally, smart building technology can improve the visitor experience. Wayfinding or locating a contact is no longer a challenge – key data for employees is available through the visitor’s smartphone, creating a feeling of integration with an organisation that leaves visitors with a positive impression of an efficient and forward-thinking business.

As always, data is king. Internet of Things allows us to harness detailed information related to how workplaces are actually used and unlocks a building’s potential through algorithms, predicted movements, identification of inefficiencies and core working patterns.

Access to real-time data can also influence the physical management of flexible working patterns to consolidate staff and open additional workspaces during busy periods. In a large scale campus environment we reference examples of entire buildings being closed on days when home working peaks, bringing obvious benefits to running costs and improved environmental credentials.

The building itself can also become more intelligent through user-driven fault identification – facilities become simplified and earlier identification of issues is achieved through mobile-logged alerts. Facilities managers benefit greatly from this level of self-diagnosis but also easily have instant access to warranty guides, help desk data and a 3D database of building management systems.

Smart building systems respond to real-time scenarios to create more human environments – buildings that respond directly to user needs to improve comfort, increase security and ultimately allow organisations to focus on culture – harnessing productivity, attracting and retaining employees and creating measurable efficiencies across their business.



Stuart Finnie, 
Head of Design, Tetris




Innovative, inspirational and fun interiors tailored to reflect a business’ personality and culture are on the up.

As Millennials and Generation Z gather influence in the workplace, savvy employers are increasingly recognising the need to exceed their expectations by providing truly inspirational, ‘cool’ work environments that will act as talent magnets and boost happiness, productivity and wellbeing to boot. Style, it seems, is increasingly having an impact on the substance of a business. 

For this reason, companies of all sizes are increasingly seeing the value of tailor-made workspaces that can act as a key differentiator from the competition. However, carefully curating an office space that reflects your brand takes time, money, effort and, frankly, isn’t always something that lies in the average business leader’s skillset. For this reason, many businesses are turning to specialists to help them create and run a commercial space that makes ‘who they are’ part of the fabric of their workspace and adds that all-important ‘wow’ factor. And, with added extras available as part of these tailored packages, everything – from furniture leasing to Internet services or cleaning – can be bolted on, meaning it really is the most hassle-free way to run an efficient and eye-catching office space.

Property company Bruntwood, for example, has recently launched a new managed office product which allows businesses to
tailor-make, design and configure their own bespoke workplace. Allowing a high level of personalisation, brands can not only choose things like colour, furniture and configuration but also benefit from a ‘rentalised’ model, which means design and fit-out costs are absorbed into the ongoing monthly fee. The company says that this will enable businesses of all sizes and budgets to have the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from bespoke workspace, tailor-made to their brief.


Ciara Keeling,
CEO, Bruntwood Works




In 2018, we’re unafraid and confident to try new things in our workplace and disrupt the traditional career hierarchy. The no-barriers approach to career progression has seen an end to the ‘corner office’ goal and its replacement by a ‘role in securing, nurturing and developing the talent pipeline in the organisation’. This ongoing cultural shift is supported by big name employers like PwC and Deloitte – who are making major investment in their apprenticeship and learning and development programmes for their people.

Upskilling in the workplace is a lot more than an antidote to the skills crisis. Yes, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right people with the right skills but – against the bigger picture of rapid change and innovation in the business world – firms are compelled to invest in team development to stay agile, competitive and responsive, primed and ready for success in a dynamic market

The virtuous circle created through upskilling by organisation-specific learning and development programmes, apprenticeships, peer mentoring and online learning results in engaged and inspired staff who are embedded in a culture of learning.


Director, Specialist Joinery Group




Business unit managers and the real estate team are often at loggerheads to determine how much space is needed for staff to perform efficiently. It often becomes an exercise in hearsay and department politics to ensure everyone is happy. Getting to the optimal occupancy strategy is an ongoing battle, usage data is gathered and changes are made – but as soon as this is done, the next round of organisational changes happen and the whole process starts over again.

Why do we keep going around in circles? Because it is impossible to define a fixed workplace design for what is becoming a dynamic working environment. Modern collaborative working styles require meetings with little notice, with different people, in different settings. Designers have responded with flexible solutions, however the challenge of knowing which space is available at any time of the day is an office user’s nightmare. This is where Visualisation of the Live Floor can make a dramatic difference. Using real time sensing capability, available spaces can be shown to users at the time of need. Users navigate the space with this information and obey simple rules that determine how spaces get released after use. Another huge benefit of this approach is there is no more argument about utilisation, as the historic data is available to all. This approach has been successfully used at major organisations like Willis Towers Watson, BDO and Adobe. 


Management Consultant and Executive Coach, AWA




Wellbeing in the workplace is not just a trend, it is here to stay. As companies are starting to understand the impact of ill health on staff satisfaction and productivity, the topic of wellbeing is making headway to the top of organisations’ strategic agendas. 

The impact of ill health on the economy is evident: In 2014/2015, the HSE reported that businesses were losing around £5.2 billion annually due to work related stress, anxiety and depression. Similarly, the 2015/2016 Labour Force Survey estimated that 11.7 million working days were lost and that 0.5 million employees were suffering from mental health problems. Without a doubt, these statistics provide the business case for raising awareness and positioning wellbeing as a priority. Whilst these figures indicate the importance of protecting and enhancing mental wellbeing at work, it is imperative that a holistic view is taken on wellbeing in the workplace to achieve sustainable results.  

Indeed, successful case studies show that promoting wellbeing is not just a case of having a confidential helpline in place or providing fresh fruit to staff as healthy snack alternatives; it’s about looking at the bigger picture. Broadly, two types of influencing factors have been identified to predict employee wellbeing, satisfaction and performance. Organisational factors include managerial support, job control, autonomy, demand and cultural norms. Environmental factors, such as light, ventilation and air quality, have been found to be key predictors from the perspective of the physical workspace. 

As diverse as the factors influencing wellbeing are, employee wellbeing itself goes beyond physiological outcomes such as health and fitness. To understand wellbeing truly holistically, we also need to take into account social, material, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual wellbeing. All these areas need to be integrated to ensure a healthy, productive working environment.

Kelly Derbyshire,




I read about the phrase ‘Xennial’ recently, which was coined to describe a micro-generation born between 1977 and 1983. This group – defined by watching films such as The Goonies, making mix tapes for their Walkmans and remembering the frustrations of dial-up Internet – weren’t seen to easily fit within the common demographics of Generation X, Y and Z. This suite of terminology reveals a willingness to label each generation and their distinct identities – but what does this tell us about the workplace?   

Labelling generations is undoubtedly incredibly generalised but it does emphasise the generational mix of people that can be brought together in our workplaces – and perhaps their different expectations of what an office should be. For example, if an organisation would like to attract the best graduate talent, how are they going to accommodate their view of what a working environment should be? 

The transition between university and commercial workplace is particularly interesting, with the corporate world looking to offer the energy and flexibility of educational life within their office. This is a response to seeing the workplace not as a fixed ‘one size fits all’, but an environment that is tuned to different demographics and, by offering genuine choice and diversity, can help bring different generations together.

Associate Partner, Sheppard Robson Architects




Be the change: look after yourself, look after your friends, your family and your colleagues. Make sure you are talking to people in your workplace and listening to what they have to say. This is the first and most important step in finding out where problems lie that may be holding you or your company back. Ultimately, all the design in the world will not change your happiness at work or the productiveness of your company. You will.


Gary Helm,
Director, OBO




If light is – as leading physician and sleep researcher Prof. Charles Czeisler says – a drug, then surely one must ask the question, do you really want your workforce to be on drugs? The claimed benefits of human-centric lighting could just as easily be achieved by giving your workforce amphetamine in the morning, cannabis in the afternoon, a sleeping pill at night and have your night shift take a wake-promoting agent. Such a suggestion is clearly nonsensical. While any drug has benefits, they also have negative side effects, and obviously light, if it is a ‘drug’, must also have unwanted negative effects – and this is particularly relevant in terms of sleep. 

Sunlight is the primary zeitgeber (time giver) and the sleep/wake cycle is controlled to a huge degree by the light/dark cycle. Thus, using light to modify workplace behaviour/productivity without taking into consideration its probable effects on sleep is unwise. 

We are told that it can take up to three days to adapt to the simple one-hour clock change in spring and autumn, so imagine how much greater an effect there is when travelling to work on a dark December morning and entering an office flooded with 6000K light. Given our different innate chronotypes and the wide variation in our circadian and ultradian rhythms, there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to lighting – any lighting schemes will, by necessity, be a compromise, which at best will be sub-optimal and, at worse, actually negative for the majority of people working under that scheme. Good sleep is important to business performance and leadership skills, as well as good physical, mental and emotional health and it would be incorrect to believe that we can use lighting during the day to improve performance and alertness without potentially impacting on sleep.

Dr Neil Stanley,
Sleep Consultant, FUTURE Designs