Karen Bala of Dyer Brown shares how developments in technology and design for healthcare will influence the workplace in 2022.
– Stay tuned as we share more 2022 workplaces trends for the entire month of December –
The universe of workplace design continues to be crowded with various insights, trends and buzzwords, which are often in conflict and frequently confusing for decision-makers. But the goal is always the same: create the most productive space possible. This is why certain trends emerge as being likely to actually take off and endure.
Designing for employee comfort and wellbeing is a great example – while the attention paid to this idea expanded significantly in the last few years, it just makes sense that people are going to be more productive in environments built with their health and satisfaction in mind. Going into 2022, we expect that reducing obstacles to productivity will take a prominent position in discussions with clients, thanks to parallel developments in technology and in design for healthcare that have brought this notion to the forefront.
In technology, the attention of website and software developers has turned squarely to addressing questions of accessibility, thanks to an increased focus on DEI. Many now refer to this collection of issues as DEI-A, adding accessibility to the discussion as a critical component for solutions to impediments around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Technology experts are creating better voice-integration solutions to support users with impairments that prevent them from typing, for example. Likewise, more and more websites and apps are being developed to support use by the colorblind – a very real and quite common impairment that is essentially invisible from the outside.
This is influencing how we think about the workplaces we design and how to support our clients’ productivity goals. There are great resources for online accessibility – one of the most helpful is actually free from the federal government, and there are privately developed resources as well – which we now consider and refer to when developing palettes of colors, finishes, and materials. Design guidelines for universal access in information and communication technology turn out to have wider applications, and hold promise for creating truly supportive and inclusive workplaces where everyone is optimally productive.
Along similar lines, we are paying close attention to trends in healthcare driving the conversation back to workspace. Hospitals have started to think about creating spaces that present fewer challenging stimuli, to avoid cognitive overload which can be detrimental to a healthcare mission. These design trends apply not only to patient rooms and treatment areas but to spaces used by family members and visitors. There is research showing that keeping the cognitive load low by applying palettes, finishes and graphic choices that tend toward the neutral can contribute to improvements in patient outcomes, presumably by reducing the amount of anxiety-inducing stimuli, and perhaps even more importantly, distractions.
We expect to see these principles migrating into the workplace world as designers and their clients become more aware of the impact of the environment on the ability of employees to do what they need to do in a timely fashion, without distractions or unnecessary stress. Reducing the number of challenges and impediments to productivity so that employees can focus on individual or group tasks will be a big part of the conversation in 2022, dovetailing with current trends in supporting wellbeing and emerging trends in accessibility.