This week, thousands of architects, designers, artists, and aficionados are flocking to Milan for the biggest design event in the world: Milan Design Week. With events all over the city, not to mention the main event – Salone Internazionale del Mobile – this is where design trends are born.
It’s no surprise, then, that amid the designer furniture launches and cutting-edge products, several workplace trends have already begun to emerge.
From invisible technology to stress-reducing design, here are the top four workplace trends from Milan Design Week 2017.
The office as a “permeable, dynamic habitat”
At Salone, an annual exhibit called Workplace 3.0 explores the ever-changing world of work, and this year’s workstation of the future was destructured, shared, nomadic, and highly customized.
A great example of this is Austrian furniture maker (and Workplace 3.0 exhibitor) Bene, which launched a customizable furniture system called Pixel (shown above). The collection is essentially a series of wooden boxes and metal frames that combine to make seating, storage, tables, platforms, and more – and they can be switched around and re-stacked at a moment’s notice.
“The most exciting innovations arise when you have the freedom to think playfully,” says Bene. “We need to create room for this once again in our day-to-day business, both from a cultural as well as a spatial perspective.”
Invisible technology making the office (even more) wire-free
We’ve been seeing the wireless office gain momentum over the last few years, but the latest product launches are going way beyond getting rid of charging cables.
For example, Bang & Olufsen’s new BeoSound Shape speakers look more like wall art than a wireless sound system.
They mount to the wall as hexagonal modules and even double as acoustic wall tiles – ideal for busy break and meeting rooms (plus, the colours can be customized to your branding or decor).
Another product poised to de-clutter the office is Humanscale’s new Quickstand Under Desk. The sit/stand desk system allows users to raise their monitor and keyboard up to standing height as needed, to seamlessly transition from position to position. But the latest version also tucks all the necessary mechanisms neatly underneath the desk for “unobstructed views” and a simple, clean-lined aesthetic.
Design conquering stress
A concept that isn’t brand new – but is ever evolving – is workplace wellness, and the role that design can play in employee well-being. In fact, an exhibit at Salone called “A joyful sense at work” explored this very topic.
As part of it, Dutch architectural firms UNStudio and Scape (along with experts in neurology, ambient Intelligence technology, and interaction design) created RESET: a responsive emotional transformation pod. The goal, according to UNStudio, is to “to empower people to deal with stress more effectively.”
The pod includes modules with “stress reduction experiences” based on six scientifically proven methods (like laughter, sound therapy, escape, and more). When a user goes into a module, they wear brain and heart sensors that monitor their reactions, and provide real-time feedback – in short, showing each user which stress reduction methods work best for them.
“In the ‘war for talent’, employers that actively demonstrate empathy for their employees will receive both cultural and financial benefits,” says the RESET team. “Stress management isn’t the only solution but plays a vital role in creating an environment employees want to be.”
Modular furniture making workspaces (even more) flexible
Another trend that came out of the Workplace 3.0 exhibit was “reconfigurable furnishings that cater to the needs of the moment.” For small but growing companies, modular, flexible furniture is crucial to getting the most out of every square centimetre of an office space – especially in shared areas that might do double or triple duty (a.k.a. breakout space-slash-reception-slash-meeting room).
Dedon’s new Brixx collection offers this multi-purpose functionality. Described by the manufacturer as, simply, a “flexible system of rectangular modules,” Brixx includes nine components, including three basic seats, a series of backrests and cushions, and a triangular side table.
Also catering to small businesses’ ever-changing needs is Boss Design’s Atom. The collection of seats, screens, and tables are designed to offer a “holistic aesthetic” across a wide range of working environments. “Change is perpetual within dynamic working environments,” says Boss Design’s design director, Mark Barrell. “And so flexible inclusive settings are essential in maximising employee effectiveness and wellbeing.”