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Industry Events

A-Z of trends: E-H

Discussing trends in 2019 has arguably never been as poignant, as the workplace sector has rarely been at a more interesting point. Here are letters E to H in our annual A-Z of trends.

13/11/2019 4 min read

E – Enhanced Workplace

Gone are the days of formal cubicles, uninspiring reception areas and even less inspiring canteen lunches. These days, at The Furniture Practice, we’re finding that workplace projects share more similarities with the hospitality industry than the traditional office block.

As working solutions become more flexible, so does the concept of the workspace itself, expanding beyond mere practicality to instead reflect the creativity, philosophy and concept of the business it houses. Functionality, though still very important, is more prettily wrapped: interiors are taking on more considered colour palettes, materials and fabrics are becoming softer and more tactile, while furnishings are more focused on design and experience.

Employers are beginning to understand that work quality isn’t always a direct reflection of the hours spent at a desk, either. People need to feel inspired to be both productive and creative and professionals are now demanding the freedom to work in ways that best suit their needs. Home, work and leisure spaces are now less defined thanks to the fact that technology advancement allows us to work from anywhere, so from state-of-the-art on-site gyms to multi-functional social spaces, the workplace is evolving to reflect the changing culture of work itself. Not only an effective form of organic marketing for potential clients, these enhanced workspaces are great for staff retention too: smart businesses understand that employees want a more holistic approach to balancing work and life and are seeking out employers who can provide this through the best workplace possible.

Jennifer Dunn, Head of TFP Manchester, The Furniture Practice

Jennifer Dunn, The Furniture Practice

F – Flexibility

When, where and how we work is changing. Timewise found that a staggering 87% of people want to work flexibly. Working flexibly, whether through working compressed hours, working a couple of days from home or using agile workspaces to work in the best environment for the task in hand, can bring many benefits to employees and, by default, to the organisation.

There has been an explosion of brilliantly and beautifully designed flexible workspaces. But we need to think carefully about how we support and manage people working in them. For flexible workspaces to deliver benefits to wellbeing and productivity, a number of things need to happen: people need to be measured on their outputs, rather than time spent at their desk; managers need the skills, time and resources to manage people working at different times and in different locations and, as people increasingly work flexibly from home, workplaces will need more informal spaces for colleagues to make connections. We are currently working with people from across professions involved in workspace and work culture to find out what makes flexibility work.

Jo Yarker, Senior Lecturer, Birkbeck, University of London

G – Gender Inclusivity

Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in any workplace, but for many companies it’s all talk and no action. This is staggering, especially given how important an accepting culture is for colleague attraction, retention and productivity.

The challenge, however, is creating a culture that is genuinely inclusive, where everyone feels welcome and truly comfortable in their own skin.

As designers, we can play a key role in this, so it’s important that we design workplaces that go beyond the traditional office, to meet a wider range of employee needs.

For example, we can acknowledge people’s religious beliefs by including prayer and contemplation rooms, or respect gender identity with gender-neutral toilets. Elsewhere, we can look at mothering rooms to support women returning to work, or provide breakout areas and rest spaces to help colleagues manage their mental health. Examples like this act as visual and practical reminders of our commitment to supporting colleagues.

Of course, this works best when designers are working alongside other teams, all focused on promoting diversity and inclusion. Genuine engagement from leaders is essential for success, and this is something we’ve seen first-hand at Bupa.

Leaders who promote strategies that bring out the best in people, or recognise and reward without bias, act as a solid a role model to the organisation. Of course, it’s not just leadership that should be adopting this outlook – it’s something we can all do.

By working together, and supporting our people-focused strategies with sensitive and thoughtful design, we can create a workplace where everyone’s happy and comfortable in being themselves.

Karen Broadbent, Business Change Manager, Bupa

Karen Broadbent, Bupa

H – Humanise

The clash of the digital revolution and the human condition is a constant debate. How do we humanise the office, how do we enable people to thrive at work? We are entering into a discussion that is not just about pay or privilege, location or building flexibility or carbon counting. Our focus with many of our clients has been more holistic – whilst we still want the efficient and the cost effective, we also want to develop buildings and spaces with identity through real human values. The trend to create a sense of place is on course via increased psychological understanding. Our knowledge of sensory factors and good design relationships is improving, while our clients’ awareness of good cultural values with matching management procedures is high on the agenda.

Our design solutions are increasingly human-centric and client responses are increasingly philanthropic. To humanise is to successfully provide a workplace environment that is connected with the human spirit, making workers cosy and comfortable in surroundings that invoke an inner sense of contentment and wellbeing.

It seems to me that good design, centred on real and tangible human values, is a trend that we cannot ignore. Actually, it shouldn’t be a trend – it should always be a beginning.

Steve Dickson, Senior Associate, FaulknerBrowns Architects

Steve Brown, FaulknerBrowns Architects

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