The Good, The Bad and The Ugly In Office Design

Over the years office design has changed, in some cases dramatically, and rapidly. In a previous article, we looked at the ways office design and layouts had transformed over the last 100 years. In this article we’ll look at what we think has been the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of office design over the years.

Following The Office Design Trend

It’s part of JBH Refurbishment’s job to keep up to date with the latest office design trends and to advise our clients on what would work for them when they come to redesign or refurbish their office space.

Office design trends come and go, some are good, some are bad, some are ugly, some are quirky and “trendy,” some just look aesthetically pleasing, others are based in logic and science. Whatever the reason, design will continue to guide office refurbishments for a long time to come.

The Good

Biophilic Design

Biophilia (“an innate tendency to seek connections with nature”) has galvanised office designers to think about ways of introducing natural elements into office designs. Science has shown that we are hard-wired to feel, prefer and perform better in natural settings and the pull we feel towards nature can be somewhat assuaged by bringing the outdoors indoors through the use of natural light and office planting e.g. plant walls, moss walls, living walls, hanging plants, containers and cabinet planting resulting in improved cognitive performance and reduced stress.

Standing Up

Sitting in front of a computer all day isn’t good for your health. It can cause increased risks of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, backache, dementia, depression and muscle degeneration so anything that’s introduced into the office that can get people moving or standing instead of sitting, can only be a good thing.

The Get Britain Standing campaign encouraged the adoption of sitting/standing desks and  many companies quickly moved to making standing desks the norm for their staff.

Breakout Spaces

Recognising the importance of having breakout spaces within the office has been a major breakthrough in office design.

In the past it was only larger brands that invested in breakout areas for their staff. This was partly due to cost and was seen as a perk of working for a big company. In some cases, it was viewed as the latest trend in trying to recruit new employees. However, breakout areas have become increasingly important in smaller companies too.

Research has shown that breakout areas can help to deliver improved creativity and productivity and prevent decision fatigue where it becomes harder to make good decisions, the longer we are working.

We all know that if we work too long without a break it can become harder to concentrate and it’s sometimes only after we have walked away and taken some time to refresh and give our brains a rest, that we can view a problem from a different angle and see a solution.

Artwork and Graffiti

Numerous studies have shown that colour in work environment plays a significant role in human perception and can have a huge impact on creativity, mood, motivation, productivity, and well-being. Colour psychology is also well documented and can be used in your office design to enhance your office to provide a welcoming, creative and productive environment.

A simple touch of colour, a piece of art or graffiti that’s relevant to a business can provide that touch of needed colour and bring a workplace to life.

Sustainable Office Design

Sustainability has become more important in terms of office design over the last few years.

A sustainable office is more than just about the design the office, it starts with the materials being used. Any office design and build or refurbishment must embrace the use of materials that promote environmental balance at the same time ensuring the minimal amount of materials are used. This helps to avoid the generation of pollution and waste and the depletion of natural resources. It’s also important to ensure that any resources used are renewable and can be recycled or properly disposed of at the end of their natural life.

Smart Office Design

The use of smart technology in office design brings with it numerous benefits. By incorporating smart technology into the office environment, it can allow different systems to “talk” to each other and enable them to optimise the lighting, air quality, air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems which in turn can lead to improvements in the well-being of office staff as well as savings in energy usage.

Frictionless access, desk booking, smart lighting and easy to access conferencing systems can allow staff to make the most of hybrid working practices and therefore be more flexible in terms of remote working, allowing businesses to be more resilient in times of trouble.

Smart technology can also help to inform businesses about how their office space is being used and allow them to change and adapt as required.

The Bad

No Privacy

There’s nothing wrong with open plan office designs. The problem arises where an office allows for no privacy and staff can’t break away to a quiet area for some downtime. We know from studies that lack of privacy or the ability to take some time out in areas designed to allow staff to “get away” and recharge can lead to an increase in health and well-being issues.

Themed Office Space

Office “themes” can work well if done right but all too often an office is designed with a theme that’s seen to be fashionable but has no bearing on the company that will be using the space. Take for example the “industrial” look. It may be relevant to the business that will be occupying the space but if not done correctly it can create a stark, unfeeling office environment that gives the impression of being cold and unloved rather than the trendy look the designers may have been going for.

Impractical Fun

Having areas where staff can relax and have some fun needs to be practical too. The use of slides or poles to get to and from different areas may seem cool but ultimately, it’s going to outgrow its welcome and end up not being used. Office space is valuable so when its being used in the pursuit of fun its worth using it in a way that will benefit staff for the foreseeable future.

The Ugly

Colour Gone Mad

As we know colour plays a major role in office design and can have a huge impact on what people think of an office space. Some colours work with each other, others clash. Get your colour scheme wrong and it can make for an uncomfortable, unsightly space that does nothing for your business.

Office spaces that are all one colour can be overwhelming, especially if the colour is dark. Dark-coloured spaces or spaces which lack light, can also come across as gloomy and depressing as well as difficult to work in.

Over the Top Themes

Over the top themes can also make for ugly, chaotic, jumbled, messy spaces that don’t do anything in terms of bringing a feel-good factor to the office or take into account staff health and well-being.

Old Style Desk Layout

Having rows and rows of the same drab looking desks or cubicles jammed into an office space is a recipe for disaster. You maybe able to cram more staff into a smaller space but it will impact on health, well-being, and productivity. There’s nothing less inviting or inspiring than this type of office environment and it will lead to staff feeling claustrophobic and wanting to move on.

Breaking up rows and moving desks so they have more space between them, and utilising partitioning or plant cabinets to give some privacy will allow for more breathing room, the feeling of having some privacy and a much happier workforce.

Do You Always Need To Follow The Latest Ideas In Office Design?

When  it comes to office design it’s all too easy to look at the latest ideas or trends and think that perhaps you need to be following them too – just to stay current or hip. However, that’s not something we’d recommend. In fact, it should be your own business that drives your office design requirements and sets the expectation of what you need so that it works for your business and staff. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other office designs but no-one knows your business better than you. Given that, you can start to shape how your office design should look.

By following your business needs rather than looking at the latest trends you may in fact set a new office design trend yourself.

How Can JBH Refurbishments Help?

JBH Refurbishments have many years experience in office design and can advise on all aspects of your Kent or London office refurbishment. Contact us via our contact form or by calling us on 0333 207 0339.


Know How

Overcoming Office Design Challenges Across Kent and London

Kent and London office space need office design to get the most out of the available space and balance business objectives and staff needs.

London Office Refurbishments Continue To Power The London Office Market

The Deloitte Summer 2024 Edition of the London Office Crane Survey finds developers are turning to refurbishments over new builds.