The last year taught us so much about the way we work. We explored the different working styles from virtual conferencing to hybrid work culture in just one year. Now that the companies open office doors to their employees, they will go through a new phase backed by technological innovations and traditional shifts.

At the forefront of this shift are trends that will shape the future of office design and architecture. Let’s look at some of them:

1. Hot desking is here to stay

The current pandemic situation pushed many companies to experiment with hybrid work, but its success suggests that this model is likely to stay in the future as well.

As a result, a familiar concept is now emerging, known as hot-desking (as well as desk hoteling). It is a work method first tried in 1980, inspired by submariners who shared bunks. In this type of setting, an employee is assigned any available work desk instead of a permanent spot.

Even though hot desking is an old concept, it’s a pretty new avenue for the 21st Century, especially in times of Covid-19. Secondly, its popularity depends on each employee’s preference.

Some employees may find it hard to focus sitting at a new desk every day, while others are excited by the idea of changing their work environment boosts creativity.

In addition, companies must keep in mind the reason before assigning a desk to their employees. The best practice is to move co-workers based on their current projects (known as activity-based working) rather than placing them randomly in the office space. This practice helps further the working process and allows employees to complete the tasks more efficiently.

While hot-desking can turn out to be very beneficial for the working process, companies need to remind employees to follow appropriate safety rules. As different people will share the same desk, sanitizing is a must before and after using it.

2. Address employee safety with technology

Technology has become key to future-proofing the office. From smart self-cleaning devices to desk booking apps – it’s all about providing a safe, clean, and pleasant experience at the workplace.

Below are some cool tech solutions that will help you stay ahead of the game.

Have you ever imagined a self-cleaning door handle?

It sounds a little futuristic, but in fact, it’s very real.

Smart Hygiene’s LOOP is a self-cleaning handle that protects people from one of the great examples of infected spots in the office – a door handle.

The design of the LOOP is unique. It’s circular, and every time someone touches it to open the door, a sensor registers the touch and rotates it as soon as the door closes. It then passes through a disinfecting solution so that the next person touches a sanitized door handle. A technology of this caliber can prevent infections arising from asymptomatic employees or those who don’t follow covid protocols.

What about maintaining a safe distance in the office?

Tended, a safety solution company from France has the answer to this question. They’ve designed a wearable technology that vibrates every time employees are nearby. The device, worn as an armband, can accurately detect the distance between two employees and notify them if they cross the standard limit. It comes with a dashboard that also keeps track of distance breaching and assists with contact tracing. Such a device can be helpful in crowded places such as office cafeterias, meeting rooms, or lobbies.

The products developed by Tended and Smart Hygiene tell us that technology will play an integral role in the conceptualization of a modern office design. Employees’ safety will be the driving force behind any organization’s effort to make such changes.

What about managing the new hybrid way of working?

Although work from home is here to stay, many companies are returning to the office a few days per week – the so-called hybrid work model. But combining work from home and at the office creates plenty of operational struggles related to the use of desks and meeting rooms, having visibility on who’s in the office and when etc (we’ve covered these operational challenges in more detail in this in-depth eBook on making the hybrid model sustainable within your company).

These struggles create an extra layer of management complexity but there are plenty of technology solutions that can help you simplify the process – OfficeRnD Hybrid being one of them!

OfficeRnD Hybrid is a workplace management software that facilitates it all. It offers plenty of functionalities like a hot desk booking system, meeting room scheduling system, and visitor management apps which make the hybrid workplace experience safe, convenient and pleasant for all.

Employees can easily book resources from a visual floor plan and you can track who’s been in the office and when. You can set limitations for bookings – e.g. no more than 10 desks can be booked in a single day – to maintain occupancy of the workplace. If you want to learn more, feel free to book your demo and see the platform in action.

desk booking

3. Audit your office air ventilation

In 2015, a study conducted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment determined the impact of green buildings on our cognitive function. It revealed that indoor air quality (IAQ) affects a worker’s ability to think clearly. Participants in the study who worked inside a green architecture with adequate ventilation scored 101% higher marks in their cognitive test scores than participants working in a conventional workplace.

Therefore, irrespective of the pandemic, companies should invest in a proper ventilation system. To do that, Alan Wozniak – CEO of Pure Air Control Service Inc, recommends companies ask questions such as –

  • Did the building experience a prolonged shutdown?
  • Did the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system experience an extended shutdown in the last 18 months?
  • What are some effective practices the company follows?

After getting the necessary details, the organization can reach out to professional IAQ firms to audit the installed HVAC system. As it’s a complex procedure, hiring firms with employees qualified in microbiology, mechanical engineering, building sciences, and industrial hygiene is preferable. Alan Wozniak also says that switching on the HVAC system without a cleaning session could be harmful.

If they are shut for a prolonged period, they become a breeding ground for deadly pathogens because of their increased moisture content and zero to less outside air intake.

In the coming months, if you plan to see filled cubicles, it is advisable to audit your HVAC or any other ventilating system that is in place. This will be an effective measure to ensure your employees breathe quality air.

4. Say hello to virtual meeting rooms

The virtual work culture has evolved rapidly over the last year. Many companies are tapping into this trend to create technologies that favor long-distance meetings and brainstorming sessions. Just like Facebook’s latest VR invention, Horizon Workrooms. It is an exciting idea for companies to conduct meetings virtually in a digitally sophisticated manner.

This tool is a very pragmatic interface to conduct meetings. Your employees can attend meetings inside a virtual space by creating their avatars. This feature makes work from home even more engaging.

“It works across both virtual reality and the web and is designed to improve your team’s ability to collaborate, communicate, and connect remotely through the power of VR,” explains Facebook’s virtual reality division Oculus. It offers a wide range of features such as:

  • Selecting your avatar
  • Virtual whiteboard to present or draw ideas
  • A virtual desk
  • Spatial audio
  • Customize your virtual rooms.

VR meeting rooms are a giant leap in terms of distorting the borders between humans and technology. An innovation like Horizon Workrooms can bring employees closer and let them interact creatively.

In the current context, companies can address two critical aspects of efficient work culture. One, VR meeting rooms set a new precedent in how a business conducts itself technologically. Second, eliminating the fear of “too many people inside a room” amongst its employees. As a result, organizations can win the race on both fronts.

5. Design a smarter workplace

Planning your company’s office to suit post-pandemic work culture is essential in hiring the right talent and safeguarding their health. Тhe fear of working in congested areas will force organizations to rethink their workplace design ideas.

How can companies change the old ways of work and motivate employees to be back in the office without hesitation?

Ensuring a space that suits different activities is one way to look at it. It consists of isolated rooms, shared/standing desks, and team rooms. These options allow workers to be fluid and work in an environment best for their job role. For example, if someone wants to code, which requires a high level of focus, they can move to an isolated room. Similarly, if colleagues want to brainstorm, they can shift to an area dedicated to discussions.

This type of arrangement is a modified version of an open or traditional office. It eliminates shortcomings encountered in traditional offices like no noise barriers, high levels of distractions, and much more. Activity-based working brings together the best of all scenarios in a strategically designed office.

Looking forward

Interior designers, architects, managers, and HR must consider the long-term effect of a workplace design on employees. As restrictions become lenient, we can expect people to spend a significant amount of time with colleagues under one roof. Designing a place where your people feel at home and safe should be one of your main priorities irrespective of the pandemic. If you are on your way to creating the office of the future, rest assured, that the top talent will walk in happily.

Want to learn more about the latest hybrid work trends? Check them out here.

Want to know more about managing a hybrid workplace? See our Ultimate Guide to Hybrid Workplace Management for an in-depth look at what it takes to succeed!

We are team OfficeRnD! We build software to run hybrid workplaces, coworking spaces, and all kinds of flex spaces. We power flexible working! We love writing about everything that relates to the future of work, flexible work, and working from anywhere.