Office design trends in 2021

Office design trends in 2021

Working from home may be continuing for many, but employers are utilising this time to renovate or relocate their office spaces to gear up for a return back to the office. And of course where working from home isn’t feasible, business owners are turning to office design experts for inspiration on how to implement social distancing in the workplace.

Employers in between lockdowns are seeing the benefits of alternating office days and work-from-home days. They’re also realising that their office spaces need to be more than just a place to get a job done. They need to attract workers, act as safe spaces and give perks that working from home can’t compete with. 

Before the first lockdown earlier last year, we were looking at the office design trends for 2020, which looked at human-centric office design, collaborative features and even spaces for sleep and meditation in the office! This year, it’s looking quite different. We go through the office design and office refurbishment trends for the year to see how businesses are adapting.

Office hygiene innovations

It should come as no surprise that improving and maintaining office hygiene is a priority for business owners and it’s the same for office design. New policies and social distancing measures are being put into place as companies focus on making offices more COVID-secure. 

Aside from hand sanitising stations, antibacterial wipes and more rigorous cleaning plans, office hygiene is becoming more smart and advanced than ever before with emerging technologies. Take the world’s first self-cleaning door handle, for instance, from Tweaq. This smart, innovative piece of technology is engineered to reduce the passing of germs and spread of illnesses between staff in an office by improving hygiene with clean touchpoints. With innovations like this, the working world is set to better accommodate workers for if or when another pandemic hits. 

Giovanni Barilla, CEO at Tweaq, gives some insight into the up-and-coming trends in office hygiene technologies: “Offices looking to improve hygiene can replace common touchpoints with hands-free alternatives where they are possible. Lights will work on sensors, hand sanitisers will also work on sensors or foot pedals. Keyless entry will replace locks on doors and shared appliances will be controlled via an app rather than using physical buttons. 

“Desks are being equipped with devices to provide IoT connectivity in order to inform other employees when they are in use – improving office efficiency and comfortability. AI is being used to monitor energy consumption and working with smart bulbs and smart air conditioning units to be more energy efficient. 

“IoT and AI are becoming key, and combining them with hygienic solutions is the future. Businesses do not expect COVID-19 to go away any time soon, and so they need to be prepared. The goal is to bring back employees to the office, and keep them there. Use of facial recognition is also on the up, too.” 

“Offices will display distance markers across office floors as well as more signage to encourage personal hygiene standards and appropriate social distancing – similar to those currently used in supermarkets. Signs pointing towards cleaning points will also be used so all employees are aware of where they can sanitise equipment or their hands. Old-style office cubicles may also return in the form of perspex partitions between desks.”


Partitions and social distancing protective screens are a big trend to combat bad office hygiene and the spreading of germs and viruses. And as Barilla noted, 2021 hasn’t seen the back of COVID-19 just yet, so we have to be more prepared, not just to deal with this pandemic, but for any more in the future; so it would be a worthy investment to improve office hygiene technologies and measures.

Video conferencing for flexible working

2020 saw a great shift from the office to the kitchen table or spare room at home. Although things are looking more hopeful this year with vaccine approval, businesses are continuing to adapt by providing more flexible working. This means offices are being updated with video conferencing facilities. Some businesses are alternating office days to reduce contact with a focus on technology that is first-class to maintain effective communication between all employees. Expect to see bigger screens and more of them, with better cameras and equipment to make video conferencing and virtual meetings more productive.

Division and safetySenator social distancing desks

Whether it’s an open-plan layout or a smaller office space, good workplace safety and office hygiene has obviously been a key focus for office designers and employers to implement. Protective screens and partitions are invaluable, especially for compact spaces, with businesses opting for fabric partitions to bring cosier and brighter work environments. Where spaces are more open, businesses still need to provide effective social distancing with markers, signs and stickers being used to steer workers in the right areas and to keep offices safer. 

Plant walls

Bringing more greenery into the workplace isn’t a new trend – we’re no strangers to biophilic design – but with studies showing that office workers surrounded by natural elements reported a 15% higher level of wellbeing and a 6% higher level of productivity, businesses are looking for new ways to use greenery in their office spaces. 

Added to this, 50% of workers from Bloom & Wild’s ‘Flower Power’ experiment said they felt more productive when they had flowers in their workspace. With flowers boosting productivity and doing wonders for the brain and mental wellbeing, employers are turning to flowers over general office plants to spruce up office spaces. With flower walls on the rise in the hospitality scene, designers are introducing them into workplaces to help attract new talent and boost staff wellbeing. You could even have a flower room for a pleasant break time for staff – blooming marvellous!

The benefits of plant walls for offices are many:

  • They bring the outside in
  • Great for staff well-being
  • Teams get access (visually) to nature
  • Softens the work environment
  • Acoustic properties of foliage
  • Visually pleasing
  • Cleaning air properties (for live plants)
  • Gives an instant, refreshing office look

Digital signage

New technologies are coming into the workplace with digital signage playing an important role in helping employees return to the workplace safely. Steve Franklin, Executive Director of Cinos, says: 

“Displays can be positioned throughout the office to ensure employees can view instructions relevant to the area they work in and be kept up to date with important information, such as social distancing and safety measures. There is likely to be an upswing in the adoption of desk booking systems, so that when a user books a single desk, the surrounding desks or space are automatically booked out too – helping to further ensure social distancing measures. This type of functionality allows staff to pre-plan visits to the office and be sure they have a safe environment to work for both employees and guests.”

Corporate art trends for 2021

Another way to attract employees into your office is to make them more arty and appealing. Working from home has allowed people to work in comfy settings surrounded by their own art, so offices can compete by offering beautiful workplace scenery and spaces with up-and-coming artists to showcase work. Offices can offer galleries and start conversations by displaying either local or international artists’ work that can reflect corporate cultures and values or add to global conversations.

Shutterstock’s data on creative trends also shows a rise in searches for tie-dye and Inkscape patterns, as well as ‘surreal faces’. Shutterstock searches for ‘alcohol ink’ were up 381% this year with searches for fluid art up 247%. Shutterstock also saw ‘liquid marble’ as a new search term. These search trends often lead the way in new art and interior design trends with paintings reflecting newly popular designs. Businesses looking for art and office design inspiration can certainly use this data to spark creative juices.

Office tile trends for 2021

Terrazzo tile finishes are on-trend this year and can brighten up the aesthetic of many office environments or grand public spaces and are able to withstand heavy footfall. CTD Architectural Tiles knows a thing or two about tile trends:

“Tiles form a key part of an office interior scheme. On-trend finishes, such as terrazzo, offer an aesthetic office solution. The popular tile trend will help bring the office to life alongside adding colour and interest to the space. 

“Additionally, tiles with a wooden effect have increased in popularity, as many businesses look at ways to bring the outside in – replicating the visual characteristics of natural wood, including shade variation and grain. The eye-catching tile has all the practical benefits of a porcelain floor tile, making it an ideal choice for the commercial environment.”

Earthy, wooden and natural tones are growing in popularity it seems and tiles with the wooden effect can work well with flower walls and biophilic design. Bringing the outside in and breathing life back into the office is a key trend this year. 

End of hot-desking with more personalised spaces

Allowing employees to share desk spaces on rota systems rather than assigning each individual with their own desk is falling into the shadows. With office hygiene being the highest priority, employers are swapping hot-desking with assigned workstations so that each employee can have more control over their own work area. 

Alongside this, employers are also providing each workstation with a hygiene kit full of antibacterial wipes, hand sanitising wipes and face masks as well as improving cleaning protocols. Individual, assigned desks also allow workers to personalise them, by adding their own unique touches. Employers are seeing the benefit of allowing workers to add their own individual styles to their work areas as we’ve gotten more used to working around our own comforts. Expect to see more casual vibes and designs to attract and retain workers.

Hotbox personalised deskBetter mobility with sit-stand desks

Even though we’ve been warned time and again about the dangers of prolonged sitting – with it even being linked to increased premature mortality risk – many employers and employees often forget. However, with us being more aware of our health these days, employers are recognising the importance of mobility in the office. Expect to see a rise in the use of sit-stand desks, which can help staff break up unhealthy sedentary positions as well as improve productivity

Brighter colours and more individuality

Gone are the days of clinical colours – the greys, whites and beiges. Offices are brightening up their workplaces to attract and retain staff. Neutral tones may suit some brands and workplaces, but businesses are looking to inject more life and more of their brand into their office spaces with the best use of colour. And especially when flexible working has gone up, bringing workers back into the workplace with dreary surroundings over their own homely surroundings is going to be a turn-off. Think quirky wall art, more cosy areas and niche perks being brought into offices. 

Echoing this list of office design trends is Nick Pollitt, Managing Director of Diamond Interiors

“We are definitely seeing a shift in focus on how to improve social distancing and office hygiene which is set to continue throughout 2021. It’s also exciting for us to work on even more creative projects, as we’re noticing employers are valuing designs integrating branding and niche perks more to attract workers back into the office (so long as it’s safe). 

“They’re also understanding more seriously that they need to update offices and workplaces to better accommodate their staff with safety and wellbeing in mind. It’s more about personalisation – with both the brand and its employees – and assigned workstations to reassure workers that hygiene is a priority and that the office can be just as comfortable as working from home, with the added benefits of increased productivity, communication, focus and social interactivity.”

Have you got some time to transform your office space? Maybe your workplace needs to adapt? Contact our office design and fit out specialists today for a friendly chat.