2021 Office Trends to Look Out For; Predicting the Future of the Workspace

Across the board, 2020 was truly unpredictable. What will 2021 hold in the world of interior and workspace design? We ask experts for their thoughts.

Last year, we took a shot at predicting some of the office trends for 2020 that would make an impact in the world of workspace design. Unfortunately, our crystal ball came up short at anticipating a global pandemic that would forever alter the landscape of how and where we work. Having begun a transition to an ecosystem where we work from anywhere, we now set our sights on 2021, looking ahead to how the workplace will be transformed this upcoming year.

To do this even better, we brought in some expert voices from outside our team. Our local community is filled with so many skilled, trusted partners in architecture and interior design, so we asked them what they see in the future of workspaces trending this year. Here’s what they said:

Kara Parce, Senior Interior Designer, Lombard/Conrad Architects

“The current pandemic that the world is in the midst of has drastically changed our typical working environment. While much of the workforce once longed to work remote, a staggering number, now surprisingly, prefers in-person team collaboration. We have all realized the tremendous hit our calendars have taken as a result of us all working from home. Collaboration, spontaneous brainstorming, and just simple team huddles require a scheduled meeting in this remote world. As humans, we have an innate drive to have connection with our peers. To see each other, read body language, observe facial expressions, and just be in the same room with each other.  

Over the next year, as employees filter back into the office, post-vaccine distribution and when it is safe, I believe we will see a cautious yet strong desire for teams to come together to create, develop, and bond within the same space. This may entail smaller gatherings in larger collaborative environments like training rooms, but huddle alcoves and employee lounge spaces will also still be utilized through smarter practices. Perhaps this means only 1-2 persons physically position in a touchdown space or spread amongst several nearby perch points. Designing these spaces will require great thought in how each ‘space’ functions independently and commutatively amongst joining spaces. As existing and new ‘desk spaces’ may require reconfiguration or desktop screens to ensure wellness, cluster and breakout spaces for gathering will become ever more vital for collaboration and connections.”

Randi Thomas, Senior Interior Designer, Cushing Terrell

“Mobility is the new flexibility.

Our current work-from-home-in-a-crisis situation has one silver lining: flexibility in schedule and achieving the ever-elusive work/life balance. While we may be taking more schedule liberties working from home, we are also maintaining and often increasing productivity. As work migrates back to the office in 2021 and beyond, we will need to maintain this newfound freedom. Work happens at home, at the office, and at third, fourth, and fifth places. More so than ever, work can be done anywhere. This idea isn’t new, but it is now a firmly cemented fact. Flexibility has been a buzzword for a while, but, while still important, it doesn’t seem to encompass the full breadth of our new normal. Enter “mobility.”

What does that mean in workspace design? The main role of the office is to support human socialization and connection to a company’s culture. It needs to prioritize thoughtfully and thoroughly to achieve this goal while still efficiently supporting the traditional office functions. We predict we will continue to see emphasis on social spaces as well as greater variety and creativity in types of work zones. We will see meeting rooms begin to take on more specific uses, as traditional meetings will be taken virtually from anywhere. Unassigned, drop-in, or hoteling workstations will take priority over traditional assigned layouts. Mobile people will always have a place to land within the office that suits their current need, but they can freely move to outside work spaces. This also means that workspace design will permeate and blend with the outside world; we need technology and ergonomic setups at home and at all of the alternate places too.”

Katy Hoxsey, Partner + Interior Designer, Design Vim

“For 2021 we are seeing our clients and ourselves continue to strive for thoughtful and intentional spaces. Though the workplace has been forced to adapt to everything this year, in-person interactions are still occurring just with a knowledge that we have to be ready for an instant about-face and change to a virtual continuation of business. It was fun to have beachy backdrops for a meeting in 2020, but we have always responded to a need for authenticity, and we are creating a well styled, usable and true work space ready for all types of meetings. 

Branding Design is also on the forefront with our clients; their brand needs to be recognizable, durable, and exciting on all platforms. Our own office buzzes with physical samples for our clients to touch and feel. Sometimes we meet in person, sometimes we mail or drop them off, and sometimes we have to ask carriers to come back another time. For 2021, we will continue to be so grateful for an effective and flexible office that we can showcase as an example of forward thinking business.”

Kelli Fry, Interior Designer, Hummel Architects

“From the fluctuating social distancing rules and regulations as a result of COVID-19, we have seen an increased call to action on how to repurpose current workstations and systems furniture so that companies don’t have to completely replace their furniture to comply with new regulations and social standards. The need for small additions to existing workstations has been the popular vote across all markets. 

In addition to reconfiguration, the need for flexible spaces has become more prevalent than ever. From at-home work setups (task chairs and a functional worktop/desk) to socially distant and safe conferencing spaces, clients are asking for budget-friendly ways to provide the best solutions for their employees without breaking the bank or comprising productivity.”

"The main role of the office [in 2021] is to support human socialization and connection to a company’s culture. It needs to prioritize thoughtfully and thoroughly to achieve this goal while still efficiently supporting the traditional office functions. "

– Randi Thomas, Senior Interior Designer, Cushing Terrell

A Few Other Trends We Expect for 2021 Workspaces

Our expert architecture firm partners covered so much of what we also expect to see this upcoming year. A few additional things we are anticipating include:

1. Acoustic and Technological Considerations in Conference and Breakout Rooms

With the unprecedented rise of the Zoom call this past year, many, if not most, client meetings will continue to happen virtually. Employees in 2021 will want closed door spaces with amazing acoustics and easy to use technology to plug in and lead or participate in these meetings, rather than sitting at their open office workstations. If you need some inspiration on acoustics, we remodeled our showroom this past year to include a number of acoustic solutions throughout our space.

2. The Workspace Will Be an Even Greater Differentiator for Employee Acquisition/Retention

Thanks to 2020, competition for top talent just became even tougher. With remote work becoming more accessible, employees have a significantly wider pool to choose from when it comes to who they want to work for. Geography bears even less significance on workplace choice than it did before. Because of this, companies who want to attract the top talent from their local market will need a workspace that screams company culture and oozes collaboration. It will need to be a physical space that employees feel is “worth it” to come to regularly.

3. A Continued Blending of the Home and the Office, Both in Style and Function

As mentioned by some of our partners above, bringing office furniture, like a task chair and height-adjustable desk, into the home is key for continued employee productivity. Conversely, as employees have gotten used to working from their couches in their pajamas, the office will need to embrace more lounge areas and social spaces that mirror the comfort of home. “Resimercial” style furniture is nothing new, but 2021 will bring a resurgence to the importance of it at work. 

If 2020 taught us only one thing, it’s that we can never truly know what’s coming in the world of workspace and interior design. That’s why, as Idaho’s premier commercial furniture dealer, we focus on partnership with our clients, rather than just selling products. We help our clients stay informed on the latest trends and research, all while maintaining an agile yet extensive portfolio of products and manufacturers to support any organization’s ever changing needs. If you are looking for a commercial furniture partner in 2021, we would love to help you however we can.

Looking for a Furniture Partner in 2021?

The changing world of work will be a challenge for your company and your employees to overcome in 2021. But, we are here for you.