By Catherine Chea

This post is sponsored by Global Furniture Group, a supplier of office, education and health-care furniture.

Office trends are always creeping up, but will they last? Unlike fashion on and off the runway which can be avant-garde or challenging, office trends are “in-style” because of the problems they solve. Office spaces enable businesses to be productive, and are meant to be pragmatic and functional. So how does working in a non-traditional space change this? If anything, breaking from the norm could only invigorate thought, providing a creative space for creative minds. Below are five non-traditional workplace trends that you can expect to see more of this year.

1. The ‘Coffice’

Coworking space in Devonshire Square
Coworking space

For many people, being at the office from 9-to-5 is emotionally draining. To get away, more and more people are working in coffices (part coffee shops and part offices), where they can finish a report or test a program over coffee, or even a scone. Unlike regular cafés, coffices are designed as an alternative workspace where people aren’t required to buy something in order to stay.

For instance, one office building in Toronto has a unique coffice space on the first floor, where people have lunch, talk to colleagues or clients, and get work done. There’s also a café on this floor where people can buy drinks and croissants.

Montréal, also has a variety of coffices, including Café Coffice, where customers have access to a printer and the option to rent a conference room, and Anticafé, where patrons are required to pay $3 for the first hour at the space and $2 for subsequent hours.

It’s unclear when exactly this trend came about. Some say it’s as old as free Wi-Fi. Even coffee chains, such as Starbucks, can be classified as coffices since many people bring their laptops in to get work done while drinking a Venti latte.

An example of a coffice at a coffee shop
A coffice at a coffee shop

The rise of freelancing has also led to the demand for more co-working spaces. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers. In Canada, freelancers already make up more than 10% of all the employed population in 2015. Many freelancers need a space outside of home to work in order to focus and minimize distractions. So you can expect to see more co-working spaces—including coffices—emerging this year.

2. Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace

Artificial Intelligence in the workplace
Artificial Intelligence in the workplace

In 2018, we can expect to see even more Artificial Intelligence integrated in our workforce. From personal scheduling assistants to chatbots, to human resources software, Artificial Intelligence is replacing many jobs that’s been done by humans. These new developments in technology are enabling us to “think of work in more innovative ways” by giving us more time to focus on primary job duties. It’s also facilitating an increasingly mobile workforce, where people don’t need to be at the office all the time. Before you know it, it’ll be well-accepted that your colleague, Andrew, is not a person but an AI personal assistant.

3. Home-Sweet Offices

Employers are challenged to create a workplace where people want to be. Because of this, office designs are now transforming to feel more like homes. Instead of stale and antiseptic designs in the office, office interiors are becoming more warm and inviting. For instance, one of Amazon’s conference rooms in Seattle has been described as “more of a living room than a conference room.”

An example of a homelike office
A homelike office

Many workplaces now feature an office bar, something that’s unheard-of over a decade ago. These bars are ideal spots for unwinding and socializing with colleagues after a long day in the office. Because of this, these types of offices are comfy places that allow employees to relax; at least enough to feel less anxious or stressed, and enable them to do their best work.

Comfortable and relaxing office
Comfortable and relaxing office

4. Green Offices (Biophilic Designs)

A green office
A green office

You may have heard about Amazon’s Biospheres that’s opening this year or the moss walls that are among the latest trends in green offices spaces. Designers and builders are looking for even more innovative ways to fill an office space with plants. Having more plants is always a good thing: they help reduce stress, improve air quality – and most importantly, makes the office feel more relaxed, taking it away from the cooped-up cubicle spaces of the past.

Speaking of cubicles, plant dividers are a great alternative to traditional cubicles and walls. Bringing in green wall dividers provides additional privacy, gives visual stimulation to the room, and enhances the overall feel of the office by providing greenery.

A green office
A green waiting room

Not only can you create a wall with plants, but great ceiling décor can also be done by hanging or installing plants above.

A green workspace with an open floor plan
A green workspace with an open floor plan

The biophilic design trend also encourages designers and builders to create an open space that maximizes natural lighting, using glass partitions and large glass paneling to allow more light in.

5. Acoustic Furniture and Rooms

The popular open-plan offices saw much criticism in recent years. For many, the noise and distraction that comes with these co-working environments can hinder productivity. This has led to an increasing demand for more private and quiet office spaces.

Open-plan offices are now transforming into hybrid offices. These offices are designed to meet employees’ diverse needs, featuring a variety of rooms and amenities including common-spaces, conference rooms and soundproof enclaves.

A open-plan office that limits distractions
A open-plan office that limits distractions

The soundproof enclaves can be created with a variety of acoustic furniture, from mini-booths to chairs that have a high back that act as an enclosure, such as this River chair.

Photo: River chair by Global Furniture
River chair by Global Furniture

By introducing more quiet spaces in the office, employees can work autonomously with less distractions.

A Lifestyle Workspace

Workspaces are changing to make work fit into people’s lifestyle. As more people have the option to work remotely and opt for flexibility over pay, offices are not only places to get work done, but are also places for creativity, inspiration, relaxation, socialization, and entertainment. This year, you can expect to see even more innovative ways businesses are making people feel at home in the workspace. After all, home is where we strive for comfort and our best selves; qualities that can only enhance work output when brought into offices and workstations.