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Office Trends in 2021

The last twelve months have been a generationally defining period that highlights just how unpredictable the world can be.

Certainly, there’s a lot to be gained by analyzing the successes and mistakes of this period, but there’s much more to be gained by looking forward instead. We can’t change the past, but we can use its lessons to make bold, flexible, and effective decisions as we recreate the kind of office environment the future demands. 

1. Neurodiversity

In the decades-long debate about corporate culture and how to shape it, one reality stands out in recent years: diverse companies do better in the modern world. Yes, building a strong, effective corporate culture is one of the keys to success, but some organizations fall into the trap of confusing culture with total homogenous thought. 

This tendency towards sameness developed in a world that changed slowly. The stakes were low when one year was indistinguishable from another and disrupting events happened on the scale of decades, rather than months. But in a modern business environment, your company needs people who think, work, and learn in diverse ways. Change comes rapidly and predicting and navigating that change requires novel thought and unique perspectives. From identifying problems to crafting creative solutions, Neurodiversity is a cornerstone of any growing, successful organization. 

2. Being Responsible Global Citizens

Modern companies understand the importance of environmentally responsible behavior. Yes, there’s a moral component to the argument, but there’s also a series of practical reasons for corporate environmentalism. Though Science Fiction is entertaining and the possibility of limitless worlds on which to live is comforting, the truth is that we currently know of exactly one habitable, reachable planet that can support human life. Since we’ve only got one, it makes sense to take care of it. 

Shunning single-use plastic, pursuing energy-efficient equipment, using furniture made of sustainable materials, encouraging the use of public transportation or bikes, and using glass walls to let in natural light are just a few ways companies can help the environment while also helping their long-term bottom line.

3. Embracing the Smart Office

Sometimes it seems like every week there’s a new tool, piece of software, or gadget that promises to revolutionize the office space environment. Certainly, it can be daunting to navigate through all the options, but the reward for finding technology that moves your business forward is entirely worth it.

Integrated technology that checks on air quality, light, occupancy, and temperature can automatically improve the workplace experience while saving your company money. Even more importantly, in the increasingly common hybrid work environment where working from home and working at the office blur into each other, communication technology that enables fast, reliable interaction is more crucial than ever.

4. Make Yourself At Home

Yes, impressive-looking offices with the right blend of comfort, utility, and modern feel are useful for impressing clients, but people often forget that a well-designed workspace also has a massive impact on productivity. One of the most underrated developments from the Covid work-from-home period is the realization that comfort is not just a luxury, it’s also a productivity booster.

Being able to ditch the office chair and sit on a nice couch to brainstorm, going into a different room to change perspectives, access to kitchen snacks to keep blood sugar up during long work hours, and the availability of multiple workspaces while at home have shown people that not every task is best suited to a standard chair and desk.

5. Flexibility. Flexibility. Flexibility.

Flexibility is the underlying key at the heart of the modern office space. This begins with understanding that diverse thoughts and work styles make a company stronger.  Catering to that neurodiversity starts with embracing new technology and creating workspaces that cater to diverse needs. It continues with the realization that environmental consciousness has both practical and marketing benefits that boost your bottom line while keeping the world safe for future generations. 

The extent to which modern businesses can have the flexibility to outshine their competitors depends largely on the flexibility of their physical space. Open concept offices as well as traditional permanent wall offices require a problematic level of mental sameness that doesn’t operate well in the modern world. Not only do both styles look and feel dated, but they make change difficult in the face of unpredictable years like the one we’ve just had. 

No one knows exactly what the world will look like a year from now, but the ability to adapt to new realities because your office has moveable glass walls confers a serious competitive advantage, on top of the other practical, productive, and health benefits. The world is always changing. Will your company be ready?

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