Editor's note: This is a contributed piece by Matt Ferstler, co-founder and CEO of Firmspace, a luxury coworking company for upscale professionals.
Once upon a time not so long ago, most corporate offices were designed as bland and uninspiring cubicle farms. Aside from lacking visual appeal, cubicle farms separated employees, which simultaneously prevented collaboration and denied employees personal privacy.
Many bright-eyed, eager tech startups and coworking companies stepped in and decided to replace the cubicle farms with open floor plans featuring neon wallpaper and cafeteria tables to encourage creativity and collaboration.
And while open offices do inspire more creativity than cubicle farms, many employers are realizing that they also can reduce overall employee productivity and feelings of accomplishment.
Efforts to reap the benefits of the cubicle farm and the open office floor plan without the downsides mean that 2018 will be the year that employers attempt to find balance when it comes to office space. To do so, they'll likely focus on a few other key areas to improve employee productivity, creativity and mental health:
More natural light. Fluorescent? Incandescent? LED? While some employees may not take note of the quality of office lighting, studies studies show that natural light improves mood through vitamin D exposure, increases productivity and can benefit employees' vision. Employers are finally beginning to take these findings to heart and designing spaces with tall ceilings, floor-length windows and hallways facing floor-length windows. Businesses located in older buildings can remove blinds, move desks and look for other ways to emphasize natural light.
Privacy and collaboration. Those who have suffered through cubicle farms may rejoice as this outmoded office layout is falling by the wayside. But another trendy idea, the open-office plan, is also up for debate this year. While many agree that the cubicle farms were too uniform and uninspiring for creativity, they're also realizing that the majority of employees work more productively in a dedicated, private space with the opportunity to work in a common area as desired. Expect to see more companies recognizing the advantages of combined office spaces — dedicated private offices with common work areas — in 2018.
Increased security. Unfortunately, 2017 revealed a need to improve security. From building entry technology systems to individual office security, private network VPNs to cyber malware software programs, 2018 will be a year that employers focus heavily on the safety and security of their employees both online and in the office. An increased focus on security will give employees peace of mind while they're at work.
On-site fitness facilities. The cognitive benefits of exercise are well established; improved concentration, faster learning and enhanced creativity are just a few of the positive results cited by Harvard Business Review. Many employers recognize these benefits and have gym membership stipends or discounted exercises classes. They've also begun to recognize, however, that many employees don’t have time in their day to travel to an outside fitness studio; in 2018, we'll see more employers providing on-site fitness facilities for their staff.
Making room for fun. Companies are still trying to find the right balance between offering on-site entertainment to boost morale and avoiding interfering with employees that are deeply focused on doing their work. In 2018, we’ll see more dedicated break rooms, entertainment rooms and game rooms that allow employees to recharge their batteries without bothering coworkers. Similar to the on-site gyms, this move helps employees view their workplace as more than just a place of serious work, but a place where they can be both professionally and mentally productive.
Coworking spaces. As a provider of coworking spaces, we're seeing more employers opt to use them as satellite offices for remote workers, employees with long commutes and those on business trips. We expect to see more of this hybrid model in 2018, where coworking spaces are used to complement a company's headquarters.
While only time will tell what else 2018 brings, the growing trend of crafting intentional office environments is a welcomed one. Sit up and take note of the changes you see around you — and see how you, too, can craft a workplace that boosts mental wellness.