Modern Office Design – 5 Concepts to Attract and Retain the Best Employees

While great pay remains a priority for today’s employees, they are also looking for a workplace that encourages creativity, collaboration, reduces stress and provides a comfortable place to work. Incorporating the hottest design trends is a way to not only make your business more comfortable and efficient for you and your employees. It’s also a way to attract the most desirable employees. When you want to bring in the best, particularly Millennials—who now make up the biggest portion of the workforce—good office design is a must.

The best modern office design concepts offer the ideal mix of form and function. They directly affect productivity by providing space both for collaboration and for privacy—flexibility that is key to meeting the needs of all employees. It is the effectiveness for attracting employees and for improving performance that makes modern office designs the choice for the most successful companies in the world, like those in Silicon Valley.

5 Office Workspace Designs to Improve Employee Attraction, Retention and Productivity

1. The Flexible Workspace

What is the Flexible Workspace?

One office workspace design concept that has become increasingly popular is what is known as the flexible workspace. As the name implies the design of the flexible workspace centres on flexibility. In practice, this means that the office furniture is made to be taken apart and reassembled to serve different purposes. For example, a meeting table can be resized to become a series of desks by adding modular office partitions. A variety of components may be changeable, including desks, chairs, tables and other pieces.

With a flexible workspace, desk layouts can be resized easily to suit different needs—transitioning from coworking to privacy and so on. Many companies that use flexible workspaces encourage hot desking, where employees do not have an assigned desk. They choose the spot and/or space they need based on the day’s activities.

Google Garage is probably the best known flexible workspace.

Advantages of a Flexible Workspace:
  • can be adapted as needed
  • Furniture can serve multiple purposes
Disadvantages of a Flexible Workspace:
  • Employees must learn how to alter layouts
  • Changing workspace layouts can be and requires effective workspace management
  • Some employees may not enjoy a regularly changing workspace

2. Activity Based Working

What is Activity Based Working?

One of the most popular design concepts for companies on the cutting edge, activity-based working allows employees to work in spaces that fit their specific activity. Open office design has shown to be unnecessarily challenging for some workplace activities, like those that need deep focus. Activity-based working incorporates shared office spaces, but it also includes spaces for activities that demand privacy.

For activities that require concentration, there are quiet focus areas. For activities that require collaboration, there are open office areas. Companies can create areas for any activity that is a priority.

Popular workspaces include:
  • Privacy Areas – These areas may be small spaces or isolated areas where employees can have private conversations, either on the phone or between a few people. Room dividers can be used to create individual spaces easily accessible for unexpected phone calls or two-person meetings, for example.
  • Quiet Focus Areas – Acoustic partitions and other noise dampening features are used to create spaces for deep focus on challenging problems.
  • Open Office Areas – Open office design definitely offers advantages for employee collaboration, which is why modern businesses include such designs in their overall layouts. Instead of using office partitions, desks are kept open to create a shared office space.
  • Meeting Areas – Meeting areas are separated from the rest of the office for privacy and noise reduction. They can be big rooms or smaller rooms—the biggest concern is that they are designed to facilitate collaboration.
  • Café Areas – Many modern offices include one or more café areas where employees can get food and drinks.
Advantages of Activity Based Working:
  • Allows for open collaboration
  • Office dividers allow for private space designed for deeper focus
  • With each room divider, spaces are established for different purposes—with no need to reconfigure office partitions or furniture
  • Hot desking can be adopted throughout, or there can be specific hot desks with other desks reserved for individuals
  • Freedom to design spaces for every major need
Disadvantages of Activity Based Working:
  • Requires planning for what spaces will be used ahead of time
  • Standard partitions may not be as easy to relocate as portable partitions—but they can be reconfigured if needed

3. Biophilic Design

What is Biophilic Design?

The Biophilia hypothesis suggests that there is an innate connection between humans and nature. The more we are able to connect with nature, the better we tend to feel both physically and mentally. When it comes to office design, the Biophilic approach is one where nature is brought into the office—using plants, natural materials, water features and other natural additions.

Why would you customise an office space using Biophilic Design?

The more you can incorporate nature design into your office, the better you can expect the human’s in that office to feel. And the better your employees feel, the more productive you can expect them to be. The theory behind Biophilic design has been backed up by real-world research. For example, the study found that 33 percent of those surveyed would choose to work at a company based on the way the office was designed.

Components of Biophilic Design utilised in modern office design

Some common components that are utilised in modern office design include:

  • Natural Light – Large windows, glass ceilings other transparent materials let light into the office. Translucent office partitions can be used to provide different, flexible areas that remain bathed in natural light. The darker an office, the less energised employees can feel.
  • Plants – Adding greenery to office spaces makes them more comfortable for the people that use the space.
  • Natural Materials – Materials like stone and wood are generally more appealing for everyday use than synthetics.
  • Water Features – Fountains and streams are pleasant to listen to and tend to make people feel more relaxed.
Advantages of Biophilic Design:
  • Reduces stress
  • Makes office more attractive to potential employees
  • Can be incorporated with other design philosophies
Disadvantages of Biophilic Design:
  • Not all patterns in nature are comforting, so care must be taken in the
  • Privacy is still needed in the office. You can incorporate semi-transparent or translucent office partitions to deliver privacy without disrupting the overall design

4. Ergonomic Workstations

What are Ergonomic Workstations?

Ergonomic workstations attempt to minimise the negative health impacts that are common in offices. Ergonomics used to centre around things like proper seat height to minimise wrist compression for typing and sitting in a correct posture to minimise back pain. But recently ergonomics have expanded to reconsider sitting in general, as sitting for too long at a computer desk can have negative health impacts.

What types of Ergonomic Workstations are available on the market?

Some ergonomic options used in today’s offices include:

  • Sit/Stand Desks – A sit to stand workstation desk provides options for sitting and for standing. The best offer mechanical and/or electrical methods for adjusting desk height on demand.
  • Ergonomic Chairs – These ergonomic office chairs are designed to be adjustable for different size users. They may include lumbar support of the low back and adjustable armrests.
  • Exercises Ball Chairs – Some people prefer sitting on exercise balls because they require you to use your full body to maintain a good posture. Others find them too difficult for all day use.
  • Desk Adjustments – Risers can be used to make standard desks into more ergonomic workstations, such as with the addition of a computer stand or a standing addition to a computer workstation.
What is the impact of Ergonomic Workstations on employee health?

The need for ergonomic workstations is undeniable. Safe Work Australia offers a variety of recommendations to improve workplace safety and workplace design. It also provides studies showing the negative impacts of poor workplace design and the benefits of good design.

Positive consequences on employee health:
  • Workstation ergonomics reduce injuries, which means more time being productive at work
  • Cost savings for employee medical issues
  • Ergonomics in the office can be incorporated into other office designs
Negative consequences:
  • An ergonomic assessment requires initial planning to ensure all the ergonomic requirements of employees are accounted for
  • Fitting out an office with full ergonomic workstations is a very costly process

5. Home-Like Office Space

What is Home-Like Office Space design?

The idea behind this design concept is to try and make work feel more like home. It can range from adding ping-pong to the office to bringing in sofas and lounge chairs. Feelings about home-like design are mixed, as it is questionable how it affects workplace productivity.

Advantages of a home like office space:
  • Brings the comfort of home into the office
  • Employees can truly relax in areas designed for relaxation
  • Can be incorporated into other office designs
Disadvantages of a home like office space:
  • Too much comfort may not be conducive to getting work done
  • What is comfortable to one employee may not be comfortable to another
Which Office Space is Right for You?

Every company is unique, which means that there are differing ideas on which is the best office space design. It seems that most of the top businesses are focusing on activity based workspaces, as they offer the right balance of flexibility with consistency. They provide spaces for collaboration and creativity while also providing spaces for focus and privacy.

Criteria that can be useful in your decision include:
  • Firmographic Criteria: number of employees, revenue, number of office locations, industry sector
  • Architectural Criteria: number of squared metres available, number of walls, number of meeting rooms, number of workstations
  • Employee Activity Criteria: how employees need to work, how employees prefer to work


Everyone has different ideas on what the best office space will be to attract and retain the best staff. Currently, it seems that activity based designs are the most effective for achieving this goal.

For many companies, it makes sense to start with a foundation of activity based, and to then incorporate other desired designs, like Biophilic, to round out the overall feel of the office. In the end, it is up to you which design makes the most sense for your business needs and objectives.