Why have offices changed? Among other things, modern office design is setting itself apart from the traditional cubicle office because it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the old model has become ineffective, and a hindrance to productivity – particularly for today’s workforce.
But why? And why do modern concepts like collaborative spaces and flexible offices matter more today than before?
The answer is complex, but two factors that should be heavily considered are:
- The internet
- Economic instability
Both give us clues as to how to improve worker morale and boost productivity – and why these modern office design trends are integral in achieving this.
Why Flexibility is Key in Modern Office Design
A considerable chunk of today and tomorrow’s workforce grew up in a time when the most important technology of the century was making annual leaps in terms of connectivity and possibility.
Concepts like e-commerce and telecommunication existed mostly on paper only a few decades ago – today, they’re commonplace and virtually irreplaceable. We’ve gone from clunky and immovable workstations with barely more than a few megabytes of memory to thousands of times the same processing power within the palm of our hand.
Our idea of the modern office must adjust accordingly. There is no need to keep workers chained to inefficient cubicles and maintain a stifling work environment.
A design based around the same principles as the internet can not only improve productivity, but boost morale – people expect the following:
- To be connected 24/7
- The ability for collaborating and withdrawing to individual corners in a matter of seconds
- Having the flexibility to work from anywhere in a varied and refreshing office space, rather than spending eight hours at a single desk
Today’s Workers are Worried and Stressed
The second factor also translates immediately into why a comforting design philosophy, high morale, and appropriately employee-centric company vision plays such a critical role in productivity.
The idea of the stable, safe job with benefits and a clear future is dead to many. Adults who are entering the workforce today vividly remember the lasting effects of the great recession and are aware of how the rise in a gig-based economy has led to an increased focus on providing transitory spaces and an emphasis on outsourced talent rather than investing heavily in in-house talent.
Many workers are paranoid that they simply won’t be with any one company for very long, and they are often uniquely aware of their own expendability, working hard to prune and perfect an ever-growing virtual portfolio and social presence, mixing their work life with their personal life online, and marketing a personal brand.
They understand the importance of the bottom line and have little faith in a company to prioritize their wellbeing. This is just one major factor that makes it hard for many to genuinely give a company their all – they don’t feel valued, and experience has taught them to expect little.
Why You Need to Care About Employee Morale
Happy workers are effective workers.
But to be happy, workers need to be positively motivated, and in a good mood. It doesn’t help to create an atmosphere of terror at the workplace, one where everyone is out to compete against one another. A productive workplace must provide collaborative opportunities for its workers, and it must motivate them through a potential long-term career.
There’s little value for workers in free training and experience when it is plain as day to them that they don’t have a future at any given firm. For startups, companies that give workers little control or insight over the future of the company gives them little reason to care about the work they do, and how it affects the business.
Most people say they care about money, but most people really care about more than just money. They yearn to be a part of something greater, and see their input translate directly into tangible results, not just in the form of a great paycheck, but something they can be proud of.
Design plays a critical role in motivating people to be more productive; it helps make them feel like they are a part of something important. Here are a few simple yet critical modern office design trends that cater to this shift.
1. Create Flexible Spaces
It’s clear that cubicles do much more harm than good. It’s simply not productive to stay stuck to a single spot for hours at a time for days, weeks, and months on end. Flexible office spaces eliminate static desks and workspaces, instead replacing them with common areas and shared spaces.
Need time alone to work on a project?
- Go into a soundproof room or a meeting room and get to work.
Out of ideas?
- Head to the break room for a while.
Just want to engage others and maybe work on a new project?
- Find one of several different collaborative spaces and just listen in and engage.
Coworking or flexible spaces allow people to work on their own stations, or on their laptops, or their phones – alongside others, or alone, on a sofa, or by a window. It is the most popular modern office design trend that we are seeing.
2. Utilize Collaborative Furniture
Collaborative furniture is the exact opposite of a cubicle, tearing down the four gray walls and replacing them with scattered coffee tables, larger collaborative meeting tables, and sofas instead of single office chairs. Comfort over formality, and community over strict individuality.
Some key features to collaborative furniture include sockets and lightning options, adjustable heights, large interactive monitors to easily launch and present quick pitches and ideas, or just a whiteboard/blackboard and a few comfortable couches or bean bag chairs.
3. Make the Break Room Fun
Break rooms should be more than just a simple kitchen with a semi-functioning coffee machine. Rather than picking a boring stereotype, build a break room you and your employees would genuinely enjoy – one you can drop by in for a quick five-minute refresher, or a somewhat longer recharge.
It shouldn’t be a total game room – a workplace is ultimately still for work, and if an employee is having a day when just nothing is getting done, it might be more productive for them to take the day off and have a break at home – but the break room should still be something tailored specifically to your company.
4. Implement Biophilic Design
Less to do with flexibility, collaboration, and individual creativity, biophilic design simply aims to make the most of the aspects of the natural world that enhance our creativity and make us feel more at ease.
The calming effects of forests and other nature-filled spaces have been recorded in the past. Now, biophilic modern office design tries to incorporate this through more:
- Natural light
- Certain colors
- Decors, materials, and furniture
The result is an interesting blend of modernity and nature. One that is meant to improve productivity by reducing unneeded stress.
5. It’s More Than Aesthetics
Designing an office space is understanding that our environments shape us, both actively and passively. It’s not just surface-level stuff, with empty platitudes and color schemes pulled straight off a pop psych magazine.
An effective modern office design ultimately strives to get at the root of what makes employees and workers anxious. It then aims to eliminate these factors. From there, they can focus on doing what fulfills them and makes them proud of their hard work.
Common Questions About Modern Office Design
Why Have “Traditional Offices” Changed?
Modern office design sets itself apart as we see the traditional model has become ineffective. It is a hindrance to productivity, and lessens employee morale.
Why Is Employee Morale Important?
Happy workers are effective workers. Producing an office design that continually inspires, allows for collaboration, and motivates people leads to more productivity and success.
How Can You Improve Employee Morale with Office Design?
You can improve morale through design by: implementing flexible offices, utilizing collaborative furniture, creating a fun and creative break room, using biophilic design, and reducing worker anxiety through design.
Offices should aim to help workers feel comfortable in their downtime and motivated in their working time. They should be sterile or staid, but they shouldn’t simply be playful for no reason.
Implementing these modern office design trends properly means understanding what your workers need and working with professionals to fulfill those needs.