Office Amenity & Ceiling Trends – Winter 2024
12 11 2023
How to get the workforce back into the office has been a major talking point for a while now. As we usher in the new year, Samantha Butcher, Senior Interior Designer at Arium AE, shares some of the top amenity trends that will usher your employees out of their house and back to the office.
OFFICE AMENITY TRENDS
In May 2023, the Biden administration officially ended the nation’s COVID-19 public health emergency. Since then, many companies have enforced a “return to office” policy. There are several reasons for this push to return: the amount of money companies have invested in office real estate, increased productivity, in-person collaboration, and strengthening the company’s culture. No matter the reason why, there are amenities that tenants and employees say they want to see upon their return to the office, and they are centered around well-being, convenience, and social interaction.
Flexible Office Spaces
The pandemic made hybrid work models a norm, and employees want this to continue. Employers also like this trend because it is a way to get more done in a small footprint, meaning lower office rent. Flexible office spaces can mean anything from multi-use conference areas to hot-desking, with an emerging trend to provide a space that facilitates connection between in-person and virtual workers. It is important to note that “flexible office space” means different things to different people. For companies with employees working remotely, this can mean providing various ways to work: coworking spaces, hot desks, and private meeting rooms. For companies with employees working in the office, flexible space can take the form of multi-use meeting rooms, enlarged social spaces, or executive suite rentals.
Coffee Shops and/or Grab-N-Go Food Options
While working from home, employees could run to the kitchen whenever they wanted. As they return to the office, they want the same “ease of access” to drinks and food. So much so that, in a recent industry survey, 87% of respondents said this is a “must have” (1). Employees also want their options to be healthy and varied.
A quiet “lounge” is a dedicated space where employees can go to step away from the stresses of the workday. These spaces typically have some established rules that prevent noise, eating, phones, or other items that might cause coworkers to become distracted or uncomfortable.
Access to the outdoors is a top priority for tenants. Older, existing buildings may require some modifications to offer balcony areas or landscaped gardens while many new buildings are providing peristyles that offer a green space inside. Either way, it is important to remember that openness is key to these spaces being enjoyable.
(1) Information is from the GSA 2023 Workplace Amenities Report that spanned 19 states and four generation groups (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z). 87% of respondents were from the daily convenience category.
While the ceiling is an area that often gets overlooked, it is one of the largest areas of a space and should not be forgotten. The ceiling has been referred to as the fifth wall, and as such, we want to recognize the potential of this available space.
Ceiling design refers to the appearance and materials used for the ceiling. The ceiling should not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also improve the space. When designed correctly, a ceiling can create an inviting feeling, offer insulative properties, help disperse sound, define the space, and offer good lighting.
In commercial applications, exposed, false, and cloud ceilings are the most commonly used designs, and there are numerous ways to make them unique.
Exposed ceilings are exactly what they sound like . . . Exposed. There is nothing “hiding” duct-work, wiring, or pipes that provides an industrial feel to the space. Exposing the ceiling elements adds an element of personality to the space and embraces the building architecture. Most exposed ceilings and MEP equipment are typically painted the same color (typically white or black), but exposed ductwork is a great place to add a pop of color.
A false ceiling is a type of construction that involves the installation of a secondary ceiling below the original ceiling. False ceilings are also known as dropped ceilings or suspended ceilings since they are literally hung from the main ceiling. They can be constructed from a wide range of materials with metal grid and mineral fiber tiles being the most common in commercial spaces.
Cloud ceilings are technically false ceilings as they are ceiling panels that sit beneath the structural ceiling of a room. The NFPA 13 defines cloud ceilings as “any ceiling system, not including sloped ceilings, installed in the same plane with horizontal openings to the structure above on all sides.” Cloud ceilings come in many shapes, styles, and materials, so they can be customized to your space.
Color and Combinations
Remember that ceilings can be any color you want. White is commonly used because it will reflect the light and make a space feel brighter and larger; however, color can affect productivity, creativity, mood, and well-being. Biophilic colors connect us to the outdoors, so consider colors that compliment nature, like calming blues and natural greens, or go more literal and use wood or wood-look acoustics. Light pastels, including warm beiges and soft grays, promote a sense of comfort and tranquility in a space. Dark colors add warmth and make your ceiling appear lower. Be adventuresome and use a color other than black.
Don’t be afraid to combine ceiling designs. Mixing different ceiling designs can create visually interesting spaces, add noise reduction and insulation to a space, and add color and texture to the fifth wall.
Arium AE offers a full-service, integrated design practice that balances sophisticated design and functional solutions. Our collaborative studio brings together 38 architects, interior designers, electrical and mechanical engineers, planners, and green professionals. We’d love to hear about your next project; contact us at email@example.com.