In recent years, the workplace has witnessed dramatic changes, reflecting developments in the way we work. More companies are opting for open office designs and are encouraging employees to personalise their workspaces. This is no surprise given a recent University of Exeter study in the UK of 2,000 office workers that found employees who were allowed to design their own workspaces were 32 per cent more productive than those who weren’t. Whether or not employees will be designing their workplace or the workplace is simply reworked to better suit the workforce an organisation plans to attract or retain, Frazer Butcher, Humanscale’s MENA Managing Director, predicts five main office trends we can expect to see in 2019: 

Better breakout spaces

In an effort to buck the trend towards shorter employee lifecycles, companies should prepare for a new generation of workers and an increasingly mobile workforce. Businesses need to respond to lower engagement and younger employees who are more likely to leave a job within five years than stay for the long-haul. Among both the modern workforce and progressive employers, there is an acceptance that work should not be a daily grind. Rather, the office should be a pleasant space that motivates and encourages employees, making the job more enjoyable and helping to boost morale. To this end, offices are incorporating more breakout spaces to give employees a chance to take a breather and return to their work refreshed. Breakout areas featuring bright, stimulating colours and exciting design features will be more common this year, with organisations embracing the examples set by tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, by creating lounges and even games rooms for their staff to improve employee satisfaction and wellbeing.

Healthier workplaces

There is no let-up in the move towards more health-focused workplaces and active office furniture. Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the important role they have to play in creating a healthy work environment that encourages more active lifestyles amongst employees. While no longer new, sit-stand furniture continues to increase in popularity because it encourages greater levels of activity, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity as well as musculoskeletal problems, such as back and neck pain. This improvement in wellbeing has been shown to boost motivation, productivity, creativity and job satisfaction, which has a positive effect both for the individual and the business. Doctors advise we stand for 15 minutes for every hour that we sit during our office work. On average, we spend at least eight hours a day sitting at our desks, be it at work or home, resulting in an increasing number of work injury complaints and a significant decrease in personal wellness. The Arabian Healthcare Group estimates lack of activity in the workplace could increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes by 40 per cent. Adjustable desks allow employees to change the height of their desks in seconds, so they can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. This increased movement can boost mood and productivity, reducing the adverse effects of sedentary behaviour. There is no doubt 2019 will see companies striving for increased employee well-being and utilising ergonomics as a preventative rather than a curative measure. More offices will invest in ergonomic seating and surfaces. Forward-thinking employers will also encourage healthy behaviours such as taking regular screen breaks and being more active throughout the day.

In addition, as part of the wellbeing movement, biophilic design will continue to play a more significant role in corporate environments, so expect greenery and more impressive examples of plant-based design to become more prominent in 2019. In a recent Human Spaces report on biophilic design, data shows employees who work in offices with natural elements – including natural light – reported a 15 per cent higher level of wellbeing and were 15 per cent more creative.

More multi-functional workspaces and furniture

As firms seek out ways to maximise profits and decrease costs, commercial real estate is one area that presents the potential to reduce outgoings dramatically. In addition to the increased popularity of hot desking, companies will look to cut down the space each employee requires while at the office, minimising the space required. As a result, there will be an increasing demand for spaces and furniture that can adapt to different needs in the office, creating more flexible workspaces. The same trend will be seen in the furniture itself, with an increased demand for multi-purpose pieces, such as sofa pods with built-in tables and conference tables that can also be used as bench desking.

Make work cooler for the kids

The oldest members of Gen Z are only 23 years old. However, experts estimate that they will represent over a third of the total global workforce by 2020. Organisations need to adapt recruitment strategies to attract and retain these younger employees who expect sophisticated software and technology strategies. Attracting the best talent from Gen Z is competitive and technology and gadgets are seen as a key way of engaging the cream of the crop. Installing relatively inexpensive gadget additions to workspaces, such as advanced monitor arms and USB docking stations, such as M/Connect, can propel the daily working environment into the next decade. Companies need to adapt their people and environment strategies to attract and retain young digital-savvy employees who expect strategic use of software and technology in the workplace.

Home offices

As more employees enjoy the benefits of flexible hours and remote working, home is becoming the new workplace for many. According to the latest statistics from Global Workplace Analytics, regular work-at-home among the non-self-employed has increased by 140 per cent since 2005 and 4.3 million employees now work for home at least half of the time. From our experience, we can confirm the UAE statistics are similar to global trends and, according to a 2018 study by International Workplace Group, 60 per cent of UAE employees work remotely at least one day each week. To facilitate this shift, employees are seeking out shared spaces to work in or utilising home offices. As employers continue to seek out top talent, many are offering remote working and flexible hours as an incentive, which is reflected upon by the demand for the burgeoning variety of home office furniture solutions on the market. Increasing numbers of companies will offer more flexible working solutions like this in 2019 in order to remain competitive and maximise job satisfaction for their top people.