RIP workplace cubicles! Workplace design trends are evolving to better engage how people work. One thing’s for sure: decades of cubicle domination are coming to an end.1  This change is happening at a surprisingly fast rate. Top talent simply refuses to be constrained by congested cubicles.

Employers that understand this will dominate in the competition to attract talent in a shrinking labor force. The fight for top talent has generated a rapid transformation in workplace design. Knowing how modern office design stimulates collaboration and engages employees is key. 

Workplace design trends are focused on the changes needed by a younger, more technological work force. The promise of modern workplace design: improved employee engagement and retention.

modern business office workers

Competing for top talent is one thing. Retaining them using modern office design is the goal. Here’s a look at the Top 5 Workplace Design Trends for boosting employee engagement.

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Workplace Design Trend No. 1: Flexible, Future-focused Design

Traditional office spaces are designed for a fixed use. This model no longer works for today’s business challenges. Modular, adaptable workspaces offer a solution. Flexibility for today and tomorrow is today’s leading workplace design trend. Flexible-use spaces make it easy to adapt to changing employee, project and company needs. It’s an ideal solution for a rapidly changing world, where many essential positions didn’t exist five years ago and companies are hard-pressed to predict the job functions they’ll need in future years.2

Flexible space and adaptable furniture make it easy to integrate new technology. This increases the longevity of workspace investments. Modularity is also an ideal fit for the social, team-based work styles of Millennials and Gen Z workers. For example, movable furnishings that fit together in many ways enable a more dynamic, interactive setting. It’s a workplace design trend with no end in sight.

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Workplace Design Trend No. 2: Blended, Activity-based Design

Up-and-coming generations thrive in social, collaborative environments. Nonetheless, there’s still a need for privacy and focus. Open floor plans with a variety of functional spaces can provide an ideal solution. This idea of mixed-use space is the basis for workplace design trend number two. Blended offices offer a mix of private, semi-private and open workspaces. This makes to most of the benefits of each type of space.3

Also called activity-based design, blended paces are also typically modular and adaptable as well. Blended offices divide and define spaces for work styles and tasks. Most modern workplaces include one or more common areas, meeting rooms, unenclosed breakout areas, and casual seating groups.

The most common types of zone spaces include:

Multipurpose Workspaces – Multipurpose spaces offer easy-access options for interaction.4 These spaces include conference rooms, project rooms, huddle spaces and unassigned workstation seating. Personal offices with oval desks and community tables also fit the bill. Sizes are trending small. Huddle rooms continue to overtake the traditional conference room in popularity. Data indicate that 75% of meeting rooms are now designed for four people or fewer. Recognizing the continued need for some larger spaces, the ability to join rooms or open spaces is another growing trend.5
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Lounges – These comfortable spaces stimulate relaxed, impromptu collaboration.6 Social hubs of the modern workspace, lounges are a new norm and a recognized zone for meetings-of-the mind between departments and project groups.
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Client Lounges – Many companies offer separate lounge-style spaces to facilitate more casual client and visitor interactions.
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Shrinking Personal Workspaces – Mobility, ever-smaller technology, and the prevalence of huddle spaces have led to a decrease in size of personal workspaces. At an average of 300 square feet per person in 2001, personal workspace size fell to 225 square feet by 2012. Continued shrinkage is expected to condense it to a tight 100 square feet per person.7
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Privacy Pods – These individual spaces provide a peaceful oasis for focus within open offices. They’re often strategically placed to block background noise and interruptions from passersby.8
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Quiet Zones –Amidst the buzz of collaboration-minded workplaces, companies are providing silent areas as part of activity-based office designs. These zones indicate the desire to avoid spontaneous conversation and concentrate without interruptions.9
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Collaboration Centers –Two-thirds of today’s workers say that they are more efficient when working closely with others. By providing collaboration enclaves with appropriate furnishings, acoustics and technology, companies can maximize engagement and productivity.10
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Neighborhoods – Hierarchy is no longer a defining factor in workplace design. Function has usurped job title for space allotment. Forward-thinking companies are taking this concept further by grouping workers into broad zones. The goal is to encourage a shift from identifying the area as “my space” to embracing it as “our space,” creating a sense of belonging in a unique workplace neighborhood. Designers suggest using distinctive furnishings, lighting, and colors to brand each neighborhood with its own visual identity.11
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Color Coded Zones – Harnessing the power of color to boost happiness, productivity and creativity, companies are increasingly using color to define and organize functional spaces within offices.12
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people in a Multi-purpose workspace
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modern business lounge area
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small glass privacy pod
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business common area

Workplace Design Trend No. 3: Designing for Well-being

The evidence continues to mount. Without a doubt, our surroundings affect our health. Design for wellbeing is a top priority for many businesses. Among the findings: prolonged sitting be a profound hazard to health. (You know, sitting is the new smoking.) On the upside, natural light and other elements of nature can improve health and productivity.
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One suggested fix is to design spaces to promote movement throughout the day.13 Ideal features include sit-stand desks and strategic placement of end points.  Sit-stand desks promote overall health and can reduce back, neck and shoulder pain. They’ve also been shown to cut stress and boost productivity. Placing stairs, lounges and restrooms away from work spaces encourages movement.14 It’s the same idea as the parking your car at the far side of the lot.

Biophilic design is a subset of the well-being trend. It brings natural materials, light, greenery and views into building design. 15 The popular plant wall is an example. Don’t be fooled. This is more than an aesthetic trend. The use of biophilic design can improve productivity and creativity.16 It’s a workplace design trend with the potential to make a major mark on business success.

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Biophilic design business area

Workplace Design Trend No. 4: Employee Appeal

Recruiting and retaining top talent is a prime business concern. Millennials in particular seek workplaces that support their lifestyle. This often means jobs with inspiring, fun, comfortable facilities. Favored amenities include common areas and appealing food offerings. Workout rooms, outdoor break areas and recreational chances also make the list. Modern furnishings and advanced tech can further sway an applicant’s mind. Combined, these features send the message that employers care about the well-being of their employees.17 For much of the talent pool, this workplace design trend can make all the difference in their job selection.
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modern business common area

Workplace Design Trend No. 5: Integrating Technology

Technology in the workplace is nothing new. The trend here is to design offices that integrate digital-based business processes and tech. A top concern is concealing the masses of wires that accompany tech. In a Fast Company list of top workplace design trends, hiding wires topped the list. One designer quoted said that eliminating wires and clutter from desktops and conference rooms was a top client concern.18

Companies are also seeking easier content sharing solutions. A chief concern is device-agnostic sharing, for hassle-free meeting collaboration. By integrating tech into the environment, employees can get down to business quickly.

Wasting time in meetings is a chief concern in workplace design. Especially, the time wasted setting up for a meeting. Proper integration ushers in the business benefits of videoconferencing.

Getting setup without the need to fiddle with equipment is key. Furniture, workstations, lounges and huddle rooms must be created with connectivity and set up in mind. Common tech integration elements include19,20:

  • Built-in power and data
  • Integrated wireless charging
  • Interactive displays
  • Easy-connect technology touch points
  • Table-top touchscreens
  • Articulated monitor arms
  • Wireless streaming dongles
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Workplace Design Trends with Impact

Our workplaces are in a state of rapid change. The reasons are complex. New generations of professionals. Faster, smaller and more capable technologies. Greater insight into the impact of design. All this contributes to the direction of change. Companies seeking to maximize efficiency, productivity and profit will benefit from implementing flexible, activity-based workspaces designed to easily integrate technology and maximize employee well-being.
(From the editor: This article was originally published on ViewSonic Library.)
1, 3, 4, 6, 12,13, 18 Dishman, Lydia. 8 Top Office Design Trends For 2016. 12.18.15. Accessed 1.17.17 at:
2, 5, 7, 11, 17 Sullivan, C.C. and Horowitz-Bennett, Barbara. Workplace design trends: Make way for the Millennials. MAY 19, 2014. Accessed 1.17.17 at:
8, 9, 10, 14, 20,Essential Workplace Design Developments for 2017 & Beyond. Accessed 1.17.17 at:
15 Bloomberg, Lindsey. What is biophilic design in architecture? 09/04/2015. Accessed 1.17.17 at:
16 The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace. Accessed 1.17.17 at: