Design Challenges for Our Informal Workspaces in the Future

Great spaces inspire people to do their best work with a 32% increase in productivity, when we get it right 

Twenty years ago, companies designed static office spaces for their employees. However, today’s worker experiences greater freedom to define where they prefer to complete their tasks – and this flexibility will only continue to expand. The resulting shift in employee expectations has made way for corporate designers to develop a new kind of office with a variety of informal layouts accommodating the growing trend of professional nomads. These spaces still need to empower creativity, movement, and collaboration, since human interaction is a necessity in any setting. The science behind improving inspiration supports the ever-changing nature of our workspaces and challenges designers to create multi-use environments that are welcoming and productive.

Office collaboration area with black bookcase, long meeting table, wooden stools, and wall-mounted whiteboard

Transforming workspaces 

Previously, if a workspace had 50 employees, then there were 50 desks and chairs. Today, this is not the case. In 2020, employers should consider offering different workspaces to accommodate a variety of tasks and postures that enhance productivity. In a recent article in ambius, they note that “designing office spaces today and for the future, is no easy task” with the demands for well-balanced designs that are flexible and progressive. The “one size fits all” types of spaces need to be transformed.


Multicolored sectional couch inside office lounge area with bench seating, side tables, and monitor mounted to wall

Dr. Jack Lewis studies the development and functionality of the nervous system to attempt to forecast the office of the future. Concepts such as the constantly moving ‘hot desk’ philosophy, interactive colored orb indicators in your open area workspaces to show others if you can be interrupted or not, and the addition of plants and living walls to increase oxygen levels aiding creativity and concentration. These futuristic concepts will support mindfulness, enhance physical health and cognitive development to make employees more effective thinkers.


Office cafe space with arched picture window, wooden bench seating, and potted plantsDesign can help or hinder our workforce efficiency
Great spaces inspire people to do their best work. Kursty Groves, author of I Wish I Worked There!, notes that when employees are given the choice of where to work, it can increase productivity by 32% when it is an engaging and collaborative environment. Groves designs spaces that allow employees to ‘self-cater’ to work areas with diverse uses for either collaboration or concentration. She suggests 5 key themes to consider when creating an informal space: Efficiency, Effectiveness, Expression, an Empowered Environment, and Evolution.

Office study room with yellow furniture, white cabinets, and wall mounted monitor

Collaborating in a 2020 workplace 

When designers and organizations are planning workspaces, collaborative writing surfaces are often an afterthought in the process. At PolyVision, we strive to encourage designers to integrate functional tools like writing surfaces into their initial plans to allow the effective and efficient interaction of people in collaborative informal spaces. Because whiteboards are viewed as accessories, they aren’t purchased until teams are in the space and budgets are spent. Collaborative writing surfaces need to be thought of early in the process, as part of the building investment and added into the concept & design. By utilizing writing surfaces like Sans™ frameless whiteboards or Flow™ dry erase wall panels, designers can facilitate the integration of aesthetically pleasing design while accommodating the needs for a functional and collaborative space.

View of office shared space with magnetic whiteboard, long conference room table, side seating, and monitor on wall

When asked his view on the necessity of including collaborative worktools in the design process, PolyVision Business Development Manager Philippe Leynen said “Collaboration tools should be a balanced mix of digital and analog instruments as both are mainly used simultaneously. This needs to be done at the time of investment planning & workplace design. Both should be part of the early design process to ensure that right balance.” Regardless of the space you choose to work in, whether in single cell pods or common areas like cafes, work environments should be thoughtfully designed to allow the integration of functional tools for collaboration including writing surfaces in optimal locations.


  1. Johan says:

    December 13th, 2019 at 1:15 AM

    Great message! Exactly the story the PolyVision APAC team tries to support and add to what Steelcase APAC offers to their clients. Leverage the vertical plain, make use of it and contribute to the efficiency and well being of people in their work- and collaborative environment.

Leave a Response