Second Home co-working space London
Industry insights

Workspace design- the changing horizon of 2019

Read time 10 minutes

insights x eporta

Workspace design- once the land of cubicles, corner offices and stale boardrooms, now we live in a very different working landscape. With the introduction of a vocal millennial workforce, tech start-ups that grow and multiply staff overnight, along with a shift from the traditional working constructs of the 9-5, we have entered a new era of workspace design. 80% of offices in America are now open-plan, co-working spaces are white-labelling solutions for large corporations in a bid to inject innovation into their workforce and the free address approach of needing no fixed workstation is more popular than ever. In fact, a recent study by The Wall Street Journal found that 52% of companies planning to replace open plan workstations with a first come-first serve approach by 2021. Design plays a huge role in these shifts, both as a catalyst and facilitator, this article looks at what is on the horizon for the coming year.

Shared library space at The Wing via their website
Library created by Studio Jenny Jones for Accenture Fjord
Shared library space at The Wing via their website
Library created by Studio Jenny Jones for Accenture Fjord

Don't judge a book by it's cover

Investing in employees has long been a mainstay of great companies. It's how they attract and importantly retain great talent. In a world of ever-changing demands from a multi-age, ethnically diverse workforce how can this be done? One way, libraries, we've seen a growing number of workspaces incorporate anything from a reading chair to full-blown library within their office design. These spaces act like creativity incubators, where knowledge is shared and individuals feel like their growth is valued by the company. We've seen libraries designed in a number of ways, from the cocooning dark tones of Accenture Fjord's office by Jenny Jones, through to the colour coded pops of boldness by The Wing, female only co-working spaces in New York. And, with book sales booming around the world this design movement isn't happening in a silo. The tangibility of leafing through pages and taking ten minutes out to learn something new doesn't look like it's going anywhere soon.

Green with envy

The world has gone green, from fern wallpaper to real living walls, over the last five years the importance of plants in our living spaces has been growing on us, excuse the pun. As workspaces become more domesticated, devolving the traditional design concepts for a softer aesthetic that helps their employees feel at home, we have seen plants venture into the workspace too. For co-working spaces such as Second-home, their brand image has become synonymous with plant-filled hallways.

The terrace space at Canopy co-working space. Photo by Joe Fletcher via Dezeen.
The terrace space at Canopy co-working space. Photo by Joe Fletcher via Dezeen.

The merits of plant life are well documented, they help oxygenate spaces, they enhance a sense of well-being and relaxation, they also increase productivity by up to 15%. It's no surprise then that companies are taking this one step further and relocating to sites where their employees can enjoy nature by providing outside space. Canopy, another co-working space, have purposefully selected sites that allow their members to benefit from the great outdoors. Even 'corporates' such as Toyota have recognised the benefits to both themselves and their employees. With numerous courtyard gardens and a walking route around them, they offer meeting hubs, quiet spots for reflection and the opportunity to exercise, each is an extension to the internal office space, not an add on. So I guess to one extreme or the other workspace design in 2019/20 is getting green-fingered.

Space- the jack of all trades

Long have companies separated their functions, not just by team but by buildings, R&D in one location, customer support centres in another and head office somewhere else entirely. Companies like Bang & Olufsen are turning the tables on this approach. They have bought all their functions, except the production line, under one large and encompassing roof. Meaning that the workspace has to cater for R&D labs and workbenches alongside meeting spaces, break out areas and workstations. On a smaller scale, New York Architects BIG have made space for digital fabrication and assembly spaces, along with woodworking areas for models in their new office. We are going to see how co-working spaces can adapt to this growing need for seamless innovation over the next year or so. Their designs will need to incorporate a wider array of functions, such as prototyping spaces, studios and workbenches to cater to all the touch points of a product.

Flexible meeting spaces, with soundproof pods from Spacestor and larger table by Ton.
Flexible meeting spaces, with soundproof pods from Spacestor and larger table by Ton.

This all coincides with the title-less movement, Elon Musk recently discussed the diminishing need of a job title. There is a growing consensus that companies shouldn't be divided by function but by a project team, meaning individuals are seen as skill sets bought together to see a project through to completion. This strongly affects how we design workspaces, how we group together workstations and space plan for more collaborative spaces offering ideation sessions one minute, then solo work the next. Now more than ever spaces have to be flexible to the ever-changing needs of the company and the employees, meaning the design has to be too.

Ladies First

The last two years have seen a cataclysmic change and uptake in the feminist movement, campaigns such as #Timesup and the gender pay gap have highlighted the disparity most women face not just at home but in the workplace too. Companies like The Wing and All Bright are pioneering a new era in workspace design that solely reflects the needs, likes and dislikes of women. Their female-only co-working spaces are feminine not gender stereotypical, they are vibrant bold and empowering.

The Little Wing, in house nursery set up by The Wing, image via their website.
The Little Wing, in house nursery set up by The Wing, image via their website.

But there are rumblings of change throughout workspace design, it's just that co-working spaces are arguably leading the way in designing spaces that make women's lives easier. Such as, returning to work after childbirth and offering private breast pumping stations or soundproof spaces where employees can call their childminder. All the way through to fully integrated creche facilities that allow both mothers and fathers to visit their children during the working day, whilst helping with their expenditure on child care. The Wing offers Little Wing, fully supervised day nurseries for their members, as do places like Huckletree West and WeWork is going one step further by trialling WeGrow schools within their buildings. We are only just seeing the beginning of the design response to this call for female consideration, so watch this space.


The oh so frequently spotted acronym, meaning working from home. According to a study by IWG 70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week, and 53% do so for three or more days a week. Some choose to work in coffee shops or whilst travelling, but many work from a home office. The efficiency of employees who work from home some of the time can be notably higher, as they are relaxed, comfortable and have the privacy to work in a way that suits them. 2019 will see many more clients specifying the need for a home office.

Although, looking closely at just one factor of a home workspace design that we are seeing trending a lot is acoustics. The home office needs to have a sound barrier between itself and the rest of the house so that external noise is kept out and confidential information kept in. Also to create a natural boundary between work and life, stepping out of the room should feel different. Acoustic quality is one of the biggest complaints remote workers have about their space, but considering this early on in the design phase could provide the solution from sound blocking plasterboard to soft furnishings there are lots of fixes to shout about.

One to watch- Hide and seek tech

Companies have long been asking for integrated technology that powers their everyday tasks seamlessly. The number of suppliers doing so is growing but many aesthetically minded workspaces now want the tech to be silently hidden within the design of the piece. We're keeping an eye out for such product developments over the next 12 months.

With over 45,000 commercial grade products available to purchase on eporta there are solutions for every workspace design. Discover pieces for your next workplace design today.

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