The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the world forever. We are likely to see the ripple effects for decades to come. Architects and designers must grapple with people’s shifting needs and wants, as they begin designing new spaces for a post-pandemic world. As more people work remotely, office spaces are changing too. Here’s a look at some macro trends, along with photos from the beautiful new Britehouse offices at The Campus in Bryanston. These offices make use of our latest Gallery Three range of MelaWood® colours, including Folkstone Grey, Brookhill and Normandy.

1 .Acceleration of existing trend, like workplace wellness

Before COVID-19, there was already a trend towards healthier workspaces, with better lighting, airflow and aesthetics. There was also a move towards remote collaboration and hotdesking (where shared office spaces are made available for people as and when they need them, rather than on a permanent basis). These changes continue, but more rapidly than previously, and companies may find themselves having to re-evaluate their workspaces in the wake of these shifts. Consider using warmer tones and natural textures to create a feeling of comfort and warmth in the office space, and incorporating as much natural light and ventilation as possible.

2. Increased focus on health and hygiene

Designers are opting for materials that are safer and more hygienic, such as copper, which has been shown to be a natural disinfectant. When it comes to cabinetry, desks and countertops, there are materials available like PG Bison’s MelaWood®, which now includes a special anti-bacterial additive that is blended into the locally manufactured melamine resin. This helps to destroy certain bacteria that may come to rest on the surface of the MelaWood® within hours. This additional built-in protective layer makes MelaWood® Anti-Bacterial the perfect solution for hygiene-sensitive, high-traffic areas where cleanliness alone is insufficient, such as office spaces. Designers are also working to improve health and hygiene by including social distancing measures into their designs for work spaces, whether in desk or communal areas. Companies are ensuring they protect their employees by prioritising proper cleaning. Access more information on cleaning worktops and cabinets.

3. Adaptable, multifunctional spaces

In a rapidly changing world, it makes sense to design flexible spaces that can adapt as required, whether at home, in existing offices or in new developments. From multi-use office furniture to a room in the home that doubles as an office and a guest bedroom or large corporate hot-desking workspaces, flexibility is a mega trend. As Steelcase notes in an article for Harvard Business Review, “Workplaces in the future will embrace multi-use spaces that can support diverse types of activities. Furnishings will easily move to allow spaces to expand and contract to support distancing needs or simply to accommodate different-size groups and activities. Physical and digital experiences will be seamlessly braided to support distributed collaboration as people work in a variety of locations.” In your company, that might mean designing spaces that can be used for meetings or as work stations; or building office furniture on casters to make it easy to move around as required. For your employees working remotely, it might mean investing in a comfortable office setup at home, complete with a work space, neat storage space and proper lighting.

4. Bringing nature into the office

Another trend that continues to grow is bringing nature indoors. This goes beyond the occasional corner plant to include things like indoor gardens, green partitions or walls, and even fish-life aquariums as a design feature. Of course, not every office has the budget for marine life (or the ongoing care and maintenance of it), but including more plants in your space is not only trendy, but helps to improve air quality and lift people’s moods.

Biomimicry is another major trend in architecture and design. It refers to design that simulates processes used in nature, such as solar panels that mimic the way that photosynthesis happens in plants, or ventilation designs based on the air-flow in termite mounds. Biomimicry can be found in everything from materials design to structural shapes and construction.

5. Sustainable design

Sustainable design goes beyond choosing sustainable materials to encompass maximising use of natural resources. This can be as simple as incorporating natural light into architectural designs to cut down on electricity use, and ensuring you’re managing office waste. Exterior sun shields are also on the up. These reduce the need for blinds and lessen dependency on air-conditioning. In terms of choosing materials, it’s important to investigate the bigger picture. For example, while a product like bamboo may be touted as an eco-friendly option, it is sourced from overseas and that creates a bigger carbon footprint, than using locally sourced materials. When evaluating materials and suppliers, it’s important to go beyond environmental green-washing to consider the full picture – a balance of environmental, social and economic sustainability.