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The 10 Hottest Workplace Design Trends

The days of office cubicle farms are quickly disappearing as companies embrace technology, collaboration, the environment and employee satisfaction.

Wired magazine recently reviewed some of the latest ways designers are revolutionizing the workplace. We’re taking a look a few of those, as well as other changes to office furniture, layout and design.

Check out the 10 hottest trends in workplace design to find out what could be coming to an office near you.


1. Virtually Friendly Office

While a virtual office is not new – anyone with a laptop and a wi-fi connection can have one of those –  designers are now attempting to create workspaces that improve the presentation of your virtual self during video conferencing. What does that mean? A desk with better lighting and acoustics to make it seem more like you’re meeting in person, rather than hundreds or thousands of miles away. The Living on Video workstation by Steelcase promises that the nuances of in-person communication (body language and facial expressions) will be just as obvious on video.


2. Standing/Walking/Anything-But-Sitting Desks

More than 1/3 of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and sedentary desk jobs aren’t helping us drop those extra pounds. Thankfully, plenty of office furniture designers are now designing desks that get workers on their feet. From desks that allow you work standing up to workstations attached to treadmills and stationary bikes, there’s no reason you can’t get your heart pumping while you’re bringing home the bacon. The latest addition to the non-sitting desk trend is Focal by Keen, which offers middle ground between sitting and standing in the form of a bike-seatesque contraption connected to a drafting table. Whether you go with a bike or just the bike seat, the bottom line is sitting at a desk for 8 to 12 hours at a stretch is a thing of the past.


3. Couch Cubicle

Between companies demanding more from employees and employees hoping to recession-proof their job security, workers are spending more and more hours at their desks. At least one designer has taken notice of the need for a little in-office R&R and has come up with a solution: The Integrated Workstation by Cranbrook for Herman Miller. Part desk, part couch, the workstation offers a spot for a tired employee to grab a quick nap to recharge or just kick their feet up. We’re still waiting for La-Z-Boy to get in on the office furniture gig.


4. Ergonomic Computers

Your HR rep has drilled into your head the importance of a perfectly positioned office chair, keyboard and monitor. Well, now your computer itself can provide friendly reminders to take care of your health. The new Phillips ErgoSensor use a camera to track your pupil movement and determine if you are working in the most ergonomically sound position. The computer not only reminds you to adjust your head, but also to take a break now and then. It even powers itself down when you’re away.


5. Raw Space

Tech and other youth-driven companies are more often finding homes in old warehouses replete with brick, concrete, and exposed beams, but not a whole lot else, which is just fine by their tenants. These open industrial spaces are the perfect canvas for creative employees to put their stamp on, which is exactly what business owners want. The likes of Facebook and other uber-hip startups encourage workers to make the office space their own with inspirational artwork (think graffiti and the like) and design a space perfect for fostering an innovative environment – making those generic starving-artist-sale abstract paintings and wilting office ferns a thing of the past.


6. Energy Efficiency

Companies continue to look for ways to reduce their environmental footprint by implementing cutting-edge green design. For instance, Bayer is currently spending $17 million to refurbish its campuses outside of Pittsburgh to be more environmentally friendly by using Energy Star-rated HVAC systems, low-flow plumbing and energy efficient windows, according to The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s headquarters in Annapolis, Md. features a rainwater collection system and composting toilets. And more offices across the country are filled with furniture and decorations made from recycled materials. But going green isn’t just good for the environment – increased natural light and open spaces with views to the outdoors make for happier employees, too.


7. Cutting-Edge Technology

“Minority Report” might not be far off in the future if this sophisticated workstation known as the BendDesk has anything to do with it. This 40×40 inch acrylic touch surface designed by Media Computing Group consists of a curved multitouch display that supports up to 10 touch points. The bottom part of the station can be used as a traditional desk – supporting a laptop and that antiquated pen and paper we just can’t seem to give up. According to, researchers are continuing to develop potential uses for the BendDesk. We just have one question: When can we get one?


8. Better Breakrooms

Companies want to find and retain talented and competitive employees, which means they need to make the office environment more appealing. One area that has gotten more focus recently is the communal break or lunchroom. No longer is it a dark enclave with a few tables and a microwave. Large tech corporations have gained notariety for providing enormous, full-service dining halls to their employees. Even smaller companies are re-imagining the space employees go to unwind during the day – creating areas that look more like the local Starbucks than a cafeteria, according to


9. Compact Desks

As more offices attempt to go paperless, or mostly paperless, businesses are recognizing there’s not as much need for bulky workstations with extra storage. In many companies, all that some employees require is a place to camp their laptop. Designers have been tasked with creating compact workstations for companies without making employees feel as if they’re wedged in a shoebox. The results have been clever doll house-inspired workspaces that afford some privacy and personality without giving up valuable real estate, like this station from Torafu Architects.


10. Open Spaces

While not a new trend – a recent New York Times article cited research that said 2/3 of American office space is a more open plan – getting rid of offices and high-walled cubicles continues to be popular. Companies trying to save money on overhead costs like office space while simultaneously promoting a more collaborative work environment are more often turning to nontraditional workspaces to fulfill both needs. Open offices also allow more natural light into the work space as well as offer greater flexibility for an increasingly mobile workforce. With the move to cloud computing, employees are no longer tethered to one specific workstation, which means they are free to roam around the office or even work remotely, requiring less assigned seating.

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