2021 Office Design Trends

It’s no surprise that the office shake-up caused by COVID will continue to impact the workplace as we move into 2021. Terms like “Hybrid Workforce” and “Social Distancing” have become common vocabulary. While a vaccine may shift some of the office experience back to ‘pre-COVID’ normalcy, the pandemic will likely continue to impact how offices are designed and used in 2021.

Which office trends will continue into 2021? To provide a holistic view, we’ve asked experts in commercial development, architecture, furniture and AV about what office trends to expect in 2021.

Matt Huffield

Matt Huffield, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB
President & Managing Principal
Cole Architects

Cole Architects Logo

As architects, we anticipate several shifts in office design and layout. Some trends already being observed to provide more physical distancing will continue: increase in employees working remotely, reduced density in seating arrangements, reduction of full time use of office, and the reorganization of office space. 

This coming year we foresee a larger emphasis on indoor air quality, more dedicated outdoor air systems, increase use of copper and other antimicrobial finishes, and more careful design of shared spaces, such as break rooms, conference rooms, and lobbies.

Office design will incorporate higher cubicle partitions, more individual offices, glass and various material separations between individual workspaces, wider hallways, larger meeting rooms, and an increase in the need for audio and visual technology. Depending on the office discipline, lobbies may be completely eliminated. With the increase of remote employees, many employers may ultimately reduce the use of total office space—making flexibility the key element in office design.

Determining the future of office space after COVID-19 is constantly developing and changing. Building operators and developers will continue to adapt to the ever-changing environment of COVID from both a design and operations standpoint.

From an operations standpoint, owners and operators are implementing additional protocol to create a safer and cleaner environment.

Here are a few examples of what BVA Development has implemented in their buildings.

The work environment is constantly evolving. Events such as COVID-19 simply accelerates those trends.

Trever Nicoll

Trever Nicoll
Senior Leasing Associate
Ball Ventures Ahlquist

BVA logo

For every organization, 2021 will further redefine the purpose and importance of the physical office for the company. With more employees flexibly working from home, the workplace must become the central hub for culture and collaboration.

In order to achieve this goal, the integration of technology into the design of a space will be vital. Informal social spaces, such as lounge areas, will be more important than ever and will require integrated power options throughout, allowing employees to plug in anywhere. Additionally, conference rooms will be reconfigured and revamped to support virtual calls for both internal and external teams.

We also expect to see tweaks to workstations, such as adding glass stacks on top of panels or low-cost acrylic screens, to ensure employees health and safety. More than ever, in 2021, the need for flexible, reconfigurable furniture will help companies be nimble to the changing needs and requirements within this pandemic.

Video and audio collaboration spaces are becoming more critical. Workers adopted Zoom or Teams from home and expect a similar user experience in their meeting rooms when they return to the office. Antiquated, hard to use systems have quickly transitioned from an inconvenience to a strategic disadvantage for the hybrid workforce.

We expect to see a resurgence of interactive whiteboards, with people each using their own dedicated pen. Companies are realizing that flip-charts often can’t be seen by everyone on the video conference- it’s either too far away or the pen doesn’t show up against the paper. Interactive whiteboards integrate into the video conference and allow in-office and at home attendees to whiteboard ideas in real time.

We’re also seeing a bigger emphasis in quality AV in large meeting rooms and training rooms. With people socially distancing, it’s critical to have a well designed system. The technology in divisible and flex spaces needs to maintain the similar, simple user interface that exists across the rest of the organization’s meeting rooms.

Michael Fornander

Michael Fornander
CEO & Owner
Neurilink

Neurilink logo

Finally, we expect remote monitoring to become more popular in 2021. This will help organizations with device management, alerting and analytics when it comes to their AV systems.