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Workplace Design Trends: Looking Ahead to 2021

Believe it or not, 2020 is almost over. While the past nine or so months have been challenging, frustrating, and even frightening for many professionals, the arrival of the New Year offers everyone hope for a better future. Just what 2021 will bring for business leaders and professionals still remains to be seen. However, today we’re going to review the current state of office design and take a look at some key workplace design trends that we expect to see both long term and short term. 

Long-Term Office Design Trends

The long and short of it is that COVID-19 will likely dictate much of the design-based decisions business leaders make in 2021. It is worth remembering though, that COVID-19 will not last forever. At some point, businesses will be able to resume “normal” practices. And when that happens, expect a number of new trends to take hold. 

For reference, consider that in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, many businesses decided to renovate their workspace and adopt a new, restoration-hardware style. Similarly, it’s fair to predict that many businesses will be ready for a fresh start in a post-pandemic world –– whenever that becomes a reality. The design world will come up with something to reinvent itself sooner than later, that’s for sure.

Just what those long-term office design trends will be is difficult, if not impossible, to say at the moment. Some remote tech trends will probably stay in place, but employees will likely relish the chance to collaborate in person again. In the same vein, individuals may spend more time in the office in the future, but they may no longer value the residential nature of certain commercial spaces. To explain further, a big design trend before the COVID shutdown was “resimercial” (residential & commercial), meaning that new build outs were trying to make their businesses feel more like home by adding residential touches. It remains to be seen what will happen with the world when people return to offices but we have found some patterns in our research when it comes to 2021 design trends.

Short Term: Creating a Safe Workplace in the Era of COVID-19

Recent scientific breakthroughs relating to a possible COVID-19 vaccine have, understandably, given many reason to be optimistic about their professional prospects in 2021. However, for at least the next few months –– and likely through a large part of 2021 –– many businesses will need to make changes to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. COVID-19 is still going to be with us for a while longer. 

The good news on this front is that many businesses have already taken certain steps to rethink their office space to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection and spread. Some elemental design aspects that companies may incorporate moving into 2021 include: 

    • Increased separation between employees. This could take several forms. Some companies may decide to revert to cubicle-style seating. Others may decide to install dedicated workstations with temporary (or permanent) paneling. Open benching and a ton of shared space is on hold for the time being. 
    • Greater use of virtual technology. Odds are, most professionals have already adopted new tech tools to stay connected remotely. Expect this trend to continue even as more and more businesses “open up” again. If your team doesn’t already have access to spaces that allow them to comfortably communicate virtually, it may be time to create smaller meeting spaces where an employee can take video conference calls privately. Or by switching to cubicle-style seating, employees can have more privacy at their desks for video calls and virtual conferencing.
    • Contrary to popular belief, Hot-desking is not necessarily over. This is because the concept means that your space is more flexible. When you have different shifts of employees coming in on different days, you don’t need as many desks – even after allowing for social distancing. Adding sanitizing supplies to each desk will help eliminate fears of passing germs from one desk user to the next.
  • More employee autonomy & flexibility. Though professionals may not be able to engage with each other directly, new office protocols will almost certainly give employees greater personal autonomy. This means that pros may be able to set their own schedules, work remotely, and prioritize their desk as they see fit. With more employees working from home, it may be time to evaluate how much office space you really need and ensure that every portion of your office functions efficiently.

Contact Us

At Key Interiors, we have years of experience working with businesses of all sizes and in a wide range of industries. We may not be able to predict the future, but we can help your organization design, build, and furnish an office space that perfectly suits your needs today and tomorrow. Contact us here to learn more and to implement the 2021 design trends.