Five global workplace trends to discover

The Times They Are A Changin’. The tech revolution has already changed the way we live and work – and more is to come. Future workplace design will look very different from today. In Kinnarps’ second Trend Report we’ve identified five important trends that will have great impact on the way we work – and play.

Our world today is mashed up and multifaceted, with borders and barriers becoming blurred at all levels. 

Geography is no longer a factor – the issue is identifying talent, and keeping it, wherever found – no matter what age, gender or culture. This increasing openness and connectedness has created one vital focus area where we must concentrate our creative thinking: diversity. Understanding our minds and bodies is now a prerequisite for understanding and building a modern work life environment. So, what are the workplace design opportunities of the diverse decade? For this report, we were allowed to pick the brains of a specially selected group of inspiring minds representing architecture, design, tech and innovation. We identified five strong trends that will in many ways fundamentally change our work lives, each and every day, and discovered that smart design will be a key to creating workplaces and life spaces tailored for the diverse decade.


How can we design workplaces to meet the needs of the many?

Looking into the future, design equality and inclusive environments will be a matter of course in all workplaces. We can see three major shifts taking place.

1. For the first time in history, we will have four generations working side by side, meaning that their different ways of thinking and acting must be taken into consideration when designing working environments.

2. The struggle for equality between women and men in our professional lives is entering a new phase. Questioning the existing design status quo from a gender perspective will be a driver for creating a truly inclusive workplace environment.

3. Everyone has a different way of thinking to find solutions and solve problems. A main difference is the one between the introvert and the extrovert personality, and the future workplace should cater to both.

These three main shifts, coupled with the more global workforce, create a true cultural melting pot. Together, they drive the demand for design that caters for all types of physical differences while underlining the need for inclusive design: design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.


How to create a sustainable and ergonomic professional environment?

Health is wealth, they say. Today, our cognitive cogs, and the diversity between them, are being increasingly seen as equally important to our physical needs in the workplace. In order to build a strong employer brand for the future, companies have to offer work environments adapted to both our bodies and our minds.

By creating ergonomic workplaces that actively make users move around, like sit/stand desks and ergonomic FreeMotion-office chairs the risks for work related injuries are effectively reduced. What about the mind? How do we offer a mindful workplace when technology is evolving at a ferocious pace, turning the working situation upside down for most people?Research shows that boring offices that do not work are a downright health hazard and result in more days off work sick. Our surroundings have the greatest impact on our brains. In a mindful workplace where people are in focus, there is an understanding that soft values play a vital role when it comes to well-being and that design and psychology are interlinked.

The obvious solution is to put the requirements and needs of the individual employee in focus, letting people choose their own combinations of interactions and environments at work. To avoid tech fatigue we could take lessons from a company like Google that has decided to introduce technology-free meetings where both laptops and mobiles are not allowed.


How can we use analogue and digital architecture to create the new workplace?

The interaction between technology and architecture is called techiture, and is a main driver in the next great design shift.Digital solutions for more seamless ways of work are already here, making those who seize these opportunities winners in the coming decade of diversity. The art of designing for workplaces adapted to human relevance, not hardware dominance, is key to the future employee environment.

Future corporate workspaces will look and operate in fundamentally different ways from how they have in the past. Internet of things, connectivity and big data are cutting us loose from geography making it possible to move freely. The traditional office is slowly disappearing and successful companies have to be open to accept many different workplace solutions. Suddenly all the rigid requirements for standardised computer cables, floor panels, lighting and air conditioning are gone. The working environments of the future are going to be characterised by workplaces customised with people in mind and not hardware. The goal is to create environments that are as interactive as possible. The workplace should not only be a place where employees sit passively, receiving hoards of information, but should be a place where you can build living environments that encourage debate and creativity. A high-tech lifestyle in an apparently relaxed environment.


How can we collaborate without borders?

How will tomorrow's companies work? The days of companies trying to hide their methods of production behind closed doors are a thing of the past. Instead companies and customers collaborate to drive the design process. The main issue for companies is to become transparent, to build trust and create a design dialogue together with employees and collaborators around the world.

Collaborating and creating together – from anywhere, at any time, in small companies as well as large corporations – is becoming simpler and smoother, and these new possibilities are impacting the design of everything from small objects to work stations and whole buildings. This will also of course change and place entirely new demands on our workplaces.

Building a modern workplace is an extensive process for the entire company. To build a collaborative organisation you need to nurture a collaborative culture. There's no simple formula, the challenge we face is taking all facets of a company and tailoring spaces accordingly. Organisation, technology and leadership must play a part in the process. This also means that organisations will need to adjust and design their physical workplaces with multi-use spaces, project designated zones and up to date technology.


Where has the workforce gone?

 Borderlessness distinguishes the modern workforce, with people constantly moving from one place to another and the task at hand being accessible through the virtual cloud across continents and countries. This drives a change where the growth of independent workers – freelancers, the self-employed, consultants and contractors – reflects an entrepreneurial surge of start-ups and sole proprietorships. In search of supportive places to work beyond home offices and Internet cafés, this brings the emergence of a new category of workspace, and design will follow suit. The liquid work space manifests itself in for example the form of home offices, pop up-workplaces and co-working communities.

To effectively redesign the workplace one must rethink the way we live and work on a much broader level since this era of multi-micronational co-workers is changing the way our society is built. Society is in turn built on community, and those set on designing for co-working do best in focusing on community to attract the diversity that interdisciplinary collaboration requires.

This means that our view of the traditional workplace is changing. Why should we be satisfied with boring furnishings and grey metal filing cabinets just because we are at work? Instead our workplaces must be more and more like home to attract skilled employees, and offer freelancers and temporary workers the opportunity to blend into with company staff. People want their workplaces to offer the same comforts that they would have at home, regardless of whether it is having a place to store their things, allowing personal space or creating a sense of community.


Do you want to know more about the future?
You’ll find the complete Kinnarps Trend Report here.

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Do you want to share your thoughts and questions regarding the future, or your future, office?

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