For decades the average office worker was expected to witter away their obligatory 9 to 5 in pens as confining as any battery farm, sentenced to a life of uninspired drudgery.

Finally over the last decade we’ve seen a revolution! The office farm has gone Free Range. More and more, employers are recognising that habitats should be designed to nurture and grow employees to their maturity – rather than simply coop them up during the daylight hours and ensure they are too dispirited to escape.

This change in the dynamic has arguably been led from the fabled creative incubators of Google and the early adopting tech empires of Palo Alto, then championed by the design industry and adopted with alacrity by corporate hipsters the world over. It is indubitable: re-thinking the office space might make for happier and more productive employees.

So rejoice office workers! Herewith the top 2016 office design trends that will help you not only work better…but also live better. 

Number 1: A moveable (work) force

Once upon a time, we all had our assigned seat in the office, where we gathered moss and our belongings slowly encroached into the next workspace, along with a battalion of mouldering mugs and questionable fruit products. Such an environment can only breed mental stagnation, not to mention bacteria.

Many offices have nixed this nesting syndrome in the bud by introducing the ‘clean desk’ and ‘hot desk’ policies. No assigned seating, all belongings go with you at the end of the day. First in, first served for the best seat in the morning, desks clean, a fresh slate every day. Farewell constant annoying office neighbour whose gossip interferes with your project planning (although there’s always the risk that the office pest goes on tour). Farewell sheafs of notebooks of ‘ideas’ you haven’t looked at for months. Ideas are moveable and so are you.

Number 2: Find your ‘third space’

‘Working from home’ (or ‘WFH today’ in the shorthand email acronym popularly sent at 8.45am) has been a growing part of work culture for some time, no longer confined just to senior management. Studies have shown that employees work best in a three-dimensional split: 50% of time spent in the office, 25% at home, and 25% in a ‘third space’. This third space might be a favourite café or a library – or even the quiet room of an art gallery. With telecommunications and laptops, we can now choose where we work best. Even moving about the office has been shown to increase productivity. So find your quiet place, plug in Spotify and GO. Just be sure to tell your line manager where you are. Unfortunately rooftop drinking terraces in summer are generally questioned.

Number 3: Chill out. Green out

While some offices are still stuck with plastic palms in reception as their nod to nature, there is a flowering effort to introduce inspiring green plant life.

Plants not only improve air quality, they lift the spirits and soothe the soul. An enviable trifector if ever there was one. Google’s Headquarters in Tel Aviv (below) is a triumph for the office green thumb.

Google, Tel Aviv

Google, Tel Aviv

Number 4: “Sitting is the new smoking”

2015 saw some lively social media chatter around the palpable dangers of sitting all day. ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ was coined by Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, also the inventor of the terrifying-sounding ‘treadmill desk’. The dangers of a predominantly sedentary lifestyle are apparently irreversible by exercise and can only be combated by completely overhauling our work and social habits.

As a result, the furniture design industry has erupted with a slew of ‘standing desks’. New workplace designers are also listening. Standing benches are being introduced instead of traditional conference tables so that teams can hold ‘standing meetings’. In the future, we will be healthier, stand up and look each other in the eye. We just won’t be allowed to sit down. Ever.

 Number 5: Community bench space is the future. Still.

Community bench space in staff kitchens and breakout areas were at the forefront of new wave office design back in the nineties. It is still proving one of the best ways to actually get colleagues – eek! – talking to each other. As opposed to the sleeping and isolation pods, which have been shown to have the opposite effect.

Facebook cafe

Facebook cafe

Looking for inspiration for your office? Visit Australia’s No.1 interiors events, Decor + Design and the Australian International Furniture Fair, 21 – 24 July in Melbourne. Over 250 exhibitors will showcase their latest wares to 10,000+ trade visitors over the four days.