2018 and a Half Workplace Trends

WDM Publisher, Bob Fox checks in on his initial 2018 trend predictions to investigate how they are measuring up against what he’s are seeing in current projects and products.

Trend Check

At the end of last year, I queried several of my colleagues and peers and asked them what trends they were seeing that would inform workplace design in the coming months. We are half-way through 2018 and six months of workplace related events, so I went back and re-examined our initial predictions to investigate how they are measuring up against what we are seeing with projects currently being published and products that are entering the marketplace.


What we predicted:

Employers are realizing the value of ensuring employee health and wellness in the workplace. In return, they are integrating features to motivate movement, providing healthier food options, places to take a break, more choice in work environments and paying closer attention to the inclusion of natural light and elements into their spaces.

What we are seeing:

“Wellbeing” is the concept building the most momentum

Wellbeing” is the new “Sit to Stand” and the mantra for thinking holistically about the work environment. Designers are integrating design features that consciously or unconsciously promote health benefits.


What we predicted:

The co-working trend has disrupted and energized the commercial real estate and other industries. It has forced the re-examination of how space is leased, consumed and built. It has provided alternatives for people to choose where and how they work and has manifesting itself in all kinds of locations, targeted to all types of workers, entrepreneurs, and corporate entities. A commonality among all is the concept of not just providing space but creating and curating a community.

What we are seeing:

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

While the office has always been a place of community, it’s clear that sharing a space is about sharing ideas and providing a space where that sense of community can grow and be nurtured. This aligns with the wellbeing aspect and the recognition that we are better together.

Flexible Workplaces

What we predicted:

Rigid workplace standards that reflect the hierarchy of the organizational chart are no longer viable. The realization that there can be more dynamic interaction where there is increased opportunity for people to come together, rather than work in siloed enclaves.

What we are seeing: 

We saw multiple furniture solutions specifically designed to be easily reconfigured by office occupants, in real time, as needs change through the day or week.

Leadership Drives Culture

What we predicted:

Leadership recognizes they should take the initiative to drive changes in the workplace. The most successful workspace migrations are defined by a clear message from the executive team outlining how and why changes to their physical space aligns with their corporate culture and business goals. Workspace adds value in ways that were not previously measured or appreciated. High performing spaces positively affect employee engagement as well as the bottom line.

What we are seeing:

The executive office circa 1954 from the film “Sabrina” illustrates the “old school” thinking on office design

The executive office is no longer the large, isolated, self-contained suite. More executives are choosing a central, visible and open location, and in many cases, they are forgoing a private office altogether. One of the executives we recently interviewed noted that he could do everything he needed to do from his phone. Since abandoning his private office, he realized his work was not defined by his space and he now has the freedom to do what he needed to do, wherever he needed to do it.

It’s Not About Open vs. Closed

 What we predicted:

A never-ending conversation: the move to open offices was originally driven by the desire to consolidate real estate and reduce costs. But the human factors involved necessitate a discussion of what type of workspace will work best for a company – which should be based on their own unique corporate goals and workstyle. We stick with the “one size does not fit all” concept.

What we are seeing:

Image from the film “The Apartment” is the quintessential image that depicts the evilness of open plan design.

 Smart companies engage in robust discussions that transcend the boundaries of more traditional real estate transactions. While the “deal” is still often the driver, there is more consideration of location, amenities, employee wants/needs, and broader engagement with HR to ensure that the space selected and design solutions more clearly reflect the goals of the company.

Graphics at this year’s NeoCon reinforced that workplace design needs to be inclusive and acknowledges that there are many ways to set up space for work –Image courtesy of Work Design Magazine

Data, What Data? Alexa and Siri are the new employees

What we predicted:

Technology is the big driver of change. As it continues to drive workplace success and efficiency, I expect to see a rise in ubiquitous technology, including work-related apps. Increased dependency on wearable tech, virtual assistants, and the integration of these devices to help us navigate through the workday will only increase.

What we are seeing:

There is an app for everything including reminders to move around during the day

Technology is not only being integrated into our spaces and devices, but our “stuff” is getting smarter too. The speed at which technology will inform workplace designs will only accelerate. 

All of our predicted trends are connected and create informed, interactive, productive, technologically advanced and healthier workplaces. The options are limitless and give architects and designers a toolkit of ideas to design at a high level and meet the individual needs of each client.

We anticipate the remainder of the year will see an increased focus on wellbeing and wellness in the workplace, as well as the increasing use of data gathering tools to facilitate the design process and manage metrics on how we use space. We foresee an increased integration of technology through multiple platforms as we design and implement new work environments. The workplace will continue to evolve as environmental and social factors are taking precedence in our continuing discussions of what makes a creative and productive workspace.

Do you agree with the predictions above? Let us know what you think in the comments!
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  • A really informative article. I agree, we’re seeing a lot of businesses placing more importance on staff wellbeing in a bid to boost productivity. In fact, it’s a mystery as to why it has taken so long.

    If you’re looking for ways to improve staff wellbeing through your office interior design scheme, then you might find our own blog interesting. Have a read of ‘6 Ways to Improve Staff Mental Health Through Office Design’ here: http://bit.ly/2LAHkDl

  • Bob, as always, you and WorkDesign are right on target. You have the pulse. Only element that I think you are missing Is the fusion of the digital and physical workplace. Technology is becoming seamlessly integrated within the workplace fiber.

    Thanks for your continued forward thinking and leadership within our industry.

  • Spot on article! Minor adds one could add would be technology empowering globally distributed teams and the raise of independent freelancers as the main workforce. Fast forward to the future!

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