As office spaces continue to evolve, so does modern office furniture design. Although you can still find traditional metal or wooden office desks with a basic height adjustable office chair, there are increasingly more options available for outfitting your corporate workspace or home office. Various factors, such as the turn towards shared workspaces, technological advancements in desk design, and including elements of nature in the office will impact the shape these new office furniture options take.
Looking forward to 2021, here are our predictions for top trends in modern office furniture.
Shared Office Space Furniture
In 2017, it was estimated that there were 13,800 coworking spaces worldwide. Free-lancers, small businesses, remote employees, and others are flocking to shared workspaces as a convenient, low-cost option for spending their working hours. With that number increasing in 2018, what does the future hold for office furniture?
With hot desking and telecommuting becoming more popular, one might imagine desk drawers and filing cabinets becoming superfluous. Ironically, coworking spaces—a completely new business model born out of the flexible work culture that brought us hot desking—are providing personal filing cabinets as part of their dedicated desk rental. This allows you to leave your belongings overnight and return to the same desk the next day. It turns out, people love convenience as well as flexibility.
Shared workspaces are also known for large common areas and lounges, and are always looking for reception area furniture, tables, and desks. Co-working leaders like WeWork often include sleek, modern couches and lounge chairs in their common areas. These spaces tend to exude a casual vibe and emphasize comfort, which is itself another trend in office furniture.
Casual Work Stations and Lounge Areas
More and more leading companies, especially in the tech world, are providing comfortable ‘living-room-like” work areas for employees. Couches, lounge chairs, pillows, and more—these furniture elements help make employees feel at home and foster creativity and relationship-building in the workplace. Just as we predicted in our previous piece on office furniture trends.
Some traditionalists may balk at the idea of a workspace being turned into a living room, but these areas are not designed for longer work sessions or as a replacement to traditional work configurations—they’re there to provide space for casual meetups and short breaks.
‘Smart’ Office Furniture
There was once a time when office furniture tech integrations meant housing electrical plug-ins in your tabletop or providing cable management for your cords. Now, a new wave of tech integrations is flooding the market with the power to transform the way we interact with our desks, including:
- Bluetooth-enabled standing desk controllers that connect to mobile apps
- Tabletop-embedded ‘personal assistant’ touchscreens
- Air-charging ports for mobile devices
- Magnetic cable management equipment
- Under-desk mounted CPU holders
These tech advancements are making it easier to integrate our digital lives with our desks. Bluetooth-enabled standing desks send push notifications to your phone reminding you to stand. A popular standing desk model even features a touchscreen embedded in the tabletop, which acts as your ‘personal assistant’, prompting you when it’s time for lunch.
You’ll find accessories like air-charging ports now make it possible to charge your mobile devices cord-free, while new cable management products inconspicuously adorn height-adjustable desk legs, and under-desk mounted CPU holders for standing desks save floor space. It’s not unreasonable to expect voice-activated standing desks to become popular in the next few years, as our desks continue to develop into key components in our digital lives.
Private (and Productive) Work Spaces
The trend towards open, collaborative workspaces makes finding ways to eliminate distractions at work a priority for many employers. Dedicated conference rooms featuring large meeting tables (with plenty of built-in charging ports) are welcome havens from noisy common areas. Increasingly popular height-adjustable meeting tables add an ‘active’ element to conference rooms and may be accompanied by a collection of sit-stand stools.
Limiting distraction at individual workstations is accomplished through the addition of privacy panels. While not new in concept, privacy panels are increasingly easy to install and adjust—on nearly any desk. They come in a wider variety of colors and sizes and are more lightweight and inexpensive than previous generations. Many are now made of a special sound-dampening material and are especially effective for eliminating distraction and enhancing productivity in open floor plan workspaces.
Nature and Furniture Design
Simply being in the proximity of plants, shrubs, water features, and other forms of organic life in the office is energizing. Oftentimes a sterile, corporate work environment can be transformed by including biophilic design elements. Surprisingly some of the big tech firms, including Microsoft and Amazon, are leading the charge by creating new workspaces that give the feel of the outdoors and include natural elements like real wood furniture.
The best-known example is perhaps Amazon’s botanical workspace in Seattle, nicknamed the Spheres, which is essentially a greenhouse that includes more than 3,000 species of plants, many of them endangered, as well as real wood furniture sprinkled throughout. The space serves as a welcome escape for city-dwelling employees in need of a rejuvenating encounter with nature.
While “botanical offices” may not be realistic for most businesses, the introduction of natural elements like office plants, water features, real wood desks, and other wood furniture can go a long way towards making a work environment feel more earthy and energizing. One example would be woodgrain laminates and wood veneer tabletops, popular and cost-effective ways to achieve a more natural look on office desks and tables.
2021 and Beyond
The office furniture trends outlined above will continue to shape office furniture design into 2021 and beyond. Technological innovations are set to transform our desks into fully-functioning devices in our digital ecosystem. A call to return to nature counteracts this trend and emphasizes including organic elements in office layouts. This push and pull dynamic between the virtual and the natural could be a defining trend for office design in the years to come.