The 2 Most Important Office Design Trends in 2020

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In the business of hard-working workspaces, there is a unique opportunity to see shifts in how people work on a larger scale.

From startups to enterprise occupiers, employees are increasingly empowered to work how they want. In turn, the response by organizations to their end-user is constantly changing the landscape of office design trends.

So, here are the top two things we’ve gleaned from watching that dynamic. As far as office design trends in 2020 are concerned: we predict organizations will be catering to the “weisure” class and combatting the “privacy crisis”.

Catering to the “Weisure” Class

As life and work continually merge, the demand for less traditional incentives increases. “Younger generations are spending a lot of time at work, so we’re trying to create a residential vibe,” says Primo Orpilla, founder of Office O+A, which has designed interiors for tech giants ranging from Uber to Microsoft. “The blurring of work and life is at an all-time high. For younger generations, work represents who they know and how they socialize.”

An Arms Race to Perk Design

The ease with which one can extend the workday is not, in fact, a perk at all. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best office is one at which you look forward to arriving, and don’t feel bad about leaving.” (Simone Stolzhoff, QZ)

In a war for talent (employers) and tenants (occupiers), office space amenities have skyrocketed up the list of office design trends for the built environment. However, amenities aren’t about escaping work—they’re about optimizing it.

According to Leesman, the highest-ranked amenities aren’t extravagant: they represent basic human needs. And we support those findings; in our experience, people want three things at a base level. People want their work to be convenient, to belong to a community and to take care of themselves.

Thus, we think the best amenity strategies prioritize anywhere working, creating hybrid settings that deliver both an amenity and a workspace. And, more often than not, only a portion of that has to do with the built environment.

Fixed Space Amenities

Besides individual workstation components, spaces to collaborate and learn are among the top-ranked physical features of the workplace according to Leesman.

Service Amenities

65% of occupiers regard service-oriented workplace amenities as more important than fixed space amenities. Put simply, the value of good coffee, tidiness and reliable Wifi cannot be understated.

External Amenities

In a 2018 survey by CBRE, more than a third of respondents rank public transportation and quality of environment among the top three most important aspects of a workplace.

Behavioral Amenities

Today’s workforce is both more connected and health-conscious than ever before. The successful behavioral amenities we’ve seen encourage activity, enable collaboration and promote general wellbeing.

Craft is on the rise, and we’re not talking about coffee or your beer. The blend of residential and commercial design mimics colors, patterns and materials more commonly found at home. These elements all represent a dichotomy of comfort and stimuli. Earthy, natural tones and prominence of soft seating demonstrate the comfort component. Tactile surfaces (wood, stone, etc.) and textured upholstery balance the relaxed atmosphere with enough acute stimuli for the most fidgety occupant.

Humanscale’s Director of Industrial Design identifies the main drivers in the adoption of resimercial office design trends: fueled by the rise of mobility and different work modes, employees are frequently given the choice of where to work. Given that option, it’s understandable that preference is placed on more comfortable environments. And these office design trends are more prevalent than the mid-century living room stuff you might have in mind.

The task chair chosen for 12,000 workstations in Apple Park represents a significant departure from the exoskeleton-look that has dominated offices for roughly thirty years.

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Combatting the “Privacy Crisis”

When it comes to the open office, people have strong opinions. While open office design trends may offer the benefit of smoother hierarchies and greater face-to-face time, they were primarily a response to rising real estate costs. Consequently, that densification created a need for more privacy. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that businesses have too much nuance to invest in fully private or fully open offices. Since hardly anyone works in a polar environment, we believe it’s paramount to strike a balance between the two.

“Agile” is a development philosophy that roughly equates to adaptability. It describes a flexible way of working that focuses on peoples’ needs and how to give them more control. So, when we talk about agile office design trends, we’re describing spaces that enable collaboration and focus work simultaneously.

Ideally, agile work environments afford end-users the ability to work where they want, when they want on what they want.

While most of that flexibility has to do with integrating agile principles into employees’ behavior, we find these flexible office design trends to have the greatest effect on organizations’ agile efforts:

open plan office furniture

In Leesman’s 2018 Employee Experience Index, end-users’ ability to personalize their workstation for their desired way of working was ranked in the most important aspects of a workplace. This supports the notion that employees may work more productively while exercising a degree of control.


According to HOK, the average conference room is empty more than 70% of the day. Additionally, the average conference room is designed for 6-20 people. However, nearly 75% of meetings are attended by two to four people, and only 34% of meetings take place in a planned way. So, striking the right balance in availability of work environments (especially for collaboration) is paramount for efficient space utilization.


In a 2018 study by CBRE, 52% of respondents anticipate implementing some level of unassigned seating to promote efficiency and flexibility. Hot-desking and reservable conference rooms are both easily-achievable implements for undesignated work environments.

Third Place

“Third places are important crossroads for people throughout the organization to come together and feel a sense of belonging. The space not only encourages social interaction which is vital for employee engagement, but also makes it easier for people to meet and collaborate while still enjoying the vibrant buzz of the environment.” Steelcase

“Third place” refers to a space beyond home and work where people can pause, gather, connect and refresh – and it hardly needs a sales pitch.

30%+ of respondents in a survey by K2 Space believe introducing informal spaces for working and collaborating would improve their office and the quality of meetings, specifically. Additionally, over 35% of Millennials and 25% of Baby Boomers desire private areas for taking calls. Paired with 50% of respondents in another survey claiming that modern office design was a key reason for accepting a previous position, the value of informal spaces is self-evident.

To illustrate, here are three examples of successful implementation in the realm of “third place” office design trends from our friends at Freightwaves:

Privacy Pods

One of Freightwaves‘ main goals was to have an officeless workspace – which doesn’t allow for much workstation privacy. A row of phone booths provides quiet enclosures for personal calls, solo focus, etc.

Social Hubs

Freightwaves‘ office bar, open to employees and guests promotes casual interaction and provides a more social atmosphere for informal meetings.

Breakout Spaces

Reservable conference rooms of varying sizes lining the perimeter of Freightwaves‘ officeless workspace allocate space for collaboration without dividing the open plan.

While we hope this list of office design trends helps you navigate your way through the new year, we don’t want anyone to think this is a compulsory list for cultivating effective workplaces. Like we said – your business is too nuanced to fit in a mold, and you deserve a more thorough approach than “one or the other”.