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Workplace trends for 2017

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Bruntwood's head of design Franky Rousell looks at workplace designs we are expecting to see in 2017. Over the past few decades, the workplace has changed remarkably in the UK. We've moved away from the stereotypical notion of a stuffy office filled with partitions and cubicles, and into a world where people, collaboration and experience are at the forefront of design.

This has meant that we've seen new emerging trends, with workplaces creating open plan designs that encourage people to mix and move around. Large companies like Google and Innocent are promoting a new type of workplace culture, with things such as slides instead of stairs and park benches in place of traditional desks, bringing a new atmosphere of belonging to the office.

It's not hard to see why trends like these, along with things like increases in green walls and plant installations in office spaces, became more prominent in the last few years. It's all about a move towards people, which has helped to drive changes in workplace design.

Employees driving change

One of the biggest focuses for any company is to make sure that staff turnover and retention is well controlled. Losing skilled employees is one of the largest costs that businesses face and companies need to make sure that employee experience is as much of a concern as things like pay and other material benefits, in order to boost retention levels.

Recruitment firm Monster reports that the average turnover rate in the UK is around 15 per cent. When we consider the Oxford Economics report that says it costs on average over £30,614 to replace a skilled member of staff, it's no surprise that companies are looking to make retention and staff happiness an important part of their design strategies.

The rise of Generation Z, who first started to enter the workplace in 2015, has seen a push towards experience at work. With this group less salary focused than those that came before them, more value is placed on their impact in their position and finding the dream job. While it will be some time until Gen Z make up the majority of the workforce, their changing desires and needs are something that companies can prepare for and adapt to early.

Franky Rousell, head of design at Bruntwood, said that flexible and open hot desking areas should be used to promote collaboration and teamwork. “Spaces designed to encourage healthy debate, learning and the sharing of ideas are going to be important in keeping staff happy and motivated at work.”

She also said that companies not only knowing, but owning their own brand identity, is a key driver for workplace design, and is likely to continue to be for some time.

"Authentic design is a big driver for Gen Z where they feel the core values of the business should be reflected in the workspace, and from walking in the front door these should be apparent," said Franky.

"Keeping spaces open for personalisation between key teams can assist with identities, for example providing home touches such as bookshelves, or changing the look, feel or colour scheme between core teams. It’s also useful to engage the workforce in the design early on through open and engaging feedback sessions."

Bringing the outside in

One of the biggest changes that has been seen in recent years when it comes to workplace design has been a focus on the wellbeing of those working there.

A study by Harvard Business Review stated that cognitive performance, and by extension workplace performance, is increased by as much as 101 per cent when working in greener, healthier workplaces, meaning companies are putting more focus on the wellbeing of staff when they come to work.

This is something Bruntwood believes will continue to be a focus in 2017, with wellbeing potentially having even more impact on design than it has had in recent years.

In the creative sectors in particular, more companies are likely to focus on greenery in the workplace, which not only improves air quality and reduces stress, but also creates a more aesthetically pleasing atmosphere, boosting happiness and health.

Franky said: "Wellbeing in the workplace taps into all the senses: touch, sound, smell, sight and taste, and now the figures back it up. I think more workforces will start to invest.

"Mental wellbeing is also being talked about more, as companies start to become more comfortable with breaking down this barrier and addressing the need to consider this topic. Therefore allowing for spaces in which to hold private yet comfortable conversations is crucial."

Changing influences

Over the last few years, British offices have drawn much of their influence from American tech giants like Google and Facebook. While the 'campus style' of their office spaces promotes collaboration, Franky believes in the year ahead we will see a shift in influences with more companies looking a little closer to home when redesigning.

"I envision that this year, a celebration of all things European will take hold, with trends from Scandinavia taking over due to the increase in importance of wellbeing," she said.

"With more influence than ever coming over from Scandinavia, a minimalist design with bold features will allow you to attract and retain talent."

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