Welcome to our Future of Workplace Design 2021 series! We asked our expert design team to share their thoughts on what topics and trends we’re likely to see impacting the workplace in 2021...

Design director Kathryn O'Callaghan-Mills describes how the negatives of 2020 such as the physical detachment from colleagues, the virtual collaboration and the endless screen time are being flipped into exciting opportunities of what the new workplace will be shaped into:  

Well 2021 you’re looking much brighter! Never before has the importance of the office been more prevalent. The physical detachment from colleagues, the virtual collaboration, the endless screen time – all of the negatives are being flipped into exciting opportunities of what the new Workplace will be shaped into. Face to face collaboration, learning and development, focus time, I ask clients to think about what they’ve missed most & we’re creating new hubs to satisfy the new requirements we have as beings. The beauty of this being agility & flexibility, we will always be ever changing. Now more than ever, the importance of collaboration, homification, purposeful focus zones and stimulation (colours, textures, lighting and biophilia) in the workplace has never been more important."

Project designer Gabi Kennett shares her thoughts on texture:

"In 2021, textures will play a key role in the workplace to create diverse sensory experiences to help shift the mood and energy of the traditional office and help to distinguish a company culture. Textures can be an element that gets overlooked in importance, but they can be a highly effective way of accentuating features (or hiding them) and adding visual depth in small or large areas. Finishes can add impact to walls, flooring, furniture and even ceilings so don’t be afraid to get creative! Not all texture needs to be in colour for impact, some of my favourite are monochromatic and can subtly complement a colour scheme, rather than commanding all of the attention." 

Head of 3D Visualisation for Area's Regions team, Viktor Cemboran, share this thoughts on the latest innovations in architectural visualisation:

“In 2021 the quality of architectural visualisation will continue to move forward. With new graphic cards and RTX technologies, we will be able to use Raytracing for real-time reflections, shadows, and textures. We will also be able to render animations faster which will allow us more time to better present project schemes and ideas to our clients. Lastly, using photo scanned textures, we will be able to create realistic materials and move realism up a level. I believe 2021 will bring us new possibilities and new ideas!

Senior designer Sam House speaks about the importance of workplace wellbeing in 2021:

"In 2021 wellbeing will become even more prevalent than in 2020, with companies revaluating their real estate future strategies, wellbeing will be at the top of a lot of clients lists! After a turbulent year our wellbeing has been at the fourfront of people’s minds, and it’s clear this isn’t just about being active but keeping our social, mental and physical health in check. With a mixture of people working from home or slowly returning to the office, there are some simple ways we can help our wellbeing in the workplace. From the introduction of biophilia with the design scheme to having yoga lunch breaks. Going forward I think we will all lead a much more balanced attitude towards work and home life with many elements crossing over between the two!"

Project designer Sam Feeney shares her thoughts on how soft, calming colour palettes will be popular in 2021:

"In 2021, the importance of colour in the workplace and how we use it, will be more prevalent. After a turbulent year, the colour palettes we are seeing from our textile and flooring suppliers are of softer, calmer tones. Even Pantone, who have just announced their colour(s) of the year for 2021; ‘Ultimate Grey’ alongside ‘Illuminating’, they have described the combination as ‘practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic’. This year has also lead other companies to choose similarly affirming shades as their 2021 colours of the year.  

For projects we design in the UK and across Europe, grey tones almost always feature as a base colour in our palettes, typically ranging from darker to cool greys, but now we are beginning to see more and more warmer greys - or ‘greige’.

There’s also an ongoing debate that certain colours can affect your moods and due to the rise of biophilia in the office, colours that connect to nature will continue to thrive."

This year, where so much of our time has been spent indoors and at home, senior designer Angelia Liard explains how important it is to have access to the right type of light.

"We need access to varying light levels depending on the task at hand. The bedside lamp we use to read a book is very different to the task light we need when working on a laptop for most of the day. And let’s not forget about the right lighting for those online video calls!

LIGHT, whether it be natural or artificial, can have a huge impact on people’s mood and productivity. It can energise or relax and be used to create a certain atmosphere.

In workplace design, we already see a big focus on providing a variety of spaces within the office to give people the choice of where to work. In 2021, with wellbeing being such an important topic, I see this trend continuing but with even more emphasis being placed on how light is used, featured and manipulated in our workplaces.

Access to outdoor space will be hugely important and if that’s not possible, work areas positioned around external windows to let in the daylight and soak in some of that Vitamin D! Correct light levels for focussed work to keep staff energised and most intimate lighting for relaxed spaces. The use of materials that change the way light is affected in the space; these could be curtains – voiles or blackout, mirrors, reflective surfaces and planting that creates dappled lighting effects."

Lauren Deane, senior designer for Area's Region's team, talks homification:

"I love interpreting our client’s aspirations and translating them into a design which reflects the company’s vision, culture and personality.  I’m particularly interested in the Homification or domestication of workplaces and how it will be even more prevalent in 2021 than ever before.  When not designing I spend most of my time running after my bubbly 5 year old daughter and sprinting after her free spirited 1 and a half year old sister!  

2020 has forced us to embrace remote working and appreciate the benefits of doing so with control over our environment featuring high on the list.  In office environments designed by Area this theme has been front and centre in the quest to create modern workplaces that embody the values of wellness as well as creating places that enable workers to maximise productivity for theirs and their employers benefit.  I believe Homification in the workplace will aid and ease our return to our offices. Key points to consider include:

  • Aesthetics - colour of walls, choice of materials and artwork, mixed furniture styles, the number of indoor plants. 
  • Natural light - complemented with mixed types of artificial lighting for focused work, back ground and mood lighting to soften and create ambience.
  • Choice of space based on our activity - study, dining table, lounge with easy access to outside space. 
  • Animal friends - it’s no coincidence there has been a surge in pet ownership during the pandemic, and thankfully employers are embracing pets at work!   

Our enforced time of home working has also made it acutely evident what we are all craving to get back to our workplaces for, a sense of community, belonging, camaraderie and ease to collaborate.  We can’t wait to explore more ways in which we can integrate homifcation into workplaces in 2021."   

For more information on the future of work and how businesses can manage a safe return to the workplace, click here.

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