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How Our Workspaces Will Change in 2021

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

The shift we experienced in our work lives in 2020 was nothing short of colossal, as millions were suddenly forced into the unfamiliar territory of working from home. Followed shortly by the even stranger environment of working behind plexiglass screens, as the world came to consist of constant sanitising, and we adjusted to life behind a mask.

To say that this had an impact on how we design and behave in our workspaces is a grave understatement. Kim Williams – a Cape-Town based behavioural specialist and interior designer – is fascinated by just how much our perspective and therefore our behaviour was changed over the course of 2020.

In her years of experience, Kim has found that it is our perspective on what we need from a space that shapes great design. With 2020 seeing a large shift to a work-from-home model, many companies and professionals are striving for integration between the two spheres, as the lines between our professional and private lives blur.

Here are Kim’s core elements to incorporate into your corporate space in 2021:


The key to great design is a balance between functionality, behaviour, and emotion. Defined as separating spaces primarily according to their function, zoning can transform our workspaces into an environment that positively influences human behaviour and emotion.

Large spaces can be zoned to facilitate the new fluidity of self-managed schedules and also encourage flexibility. Zoned spaces can enable a more purposeful coming together for meetings while maintaining an inviting environment conducive to creativity. It also has the benefit of providing a change in scenery throughout the day which can be extremely invigorating for employees.


Home workspaces, due to their nature of being within our personal living areas, will become more comfortable as we go from temporary solutions to more permanent resolutions.

Kim predicts that they are likely to become more like our living space than the formal office space of old and will be furnished with familiar items such as comfortable chairs, round tables, and shared working stations.


A clear separation between our work and home spaces will be traded for more seamless integration to create fluidity and connection between how we work and how we play.

More fluid workspaces, such as smaller offices and co-working spaces, are likely to open for smaller businesses closer to their employees' homes and not necessarily in the Central Business Districts (CBD) of the past.

Encapsulate change

As we need to work closer to each other due to smaller office footprints, we also need to remain safe and focused, therefore our workspaces are likely to embrace capsule-like designs rather than the open desk environment.

Striking a balance between separation and connection will be key in 2021 and there will be more interaction with the objects in our space, such as moveable screening and modular furniture, to mould our space to fit our momentary need.


Not only are our workspaces set to embrace fluidity in the mind and design, but to facilitate physical movement as well.

The use of the daybed as a space to work in while using different body positions – standing, sitting, lying – is set to be a tool in new and different ways in the office. We have already seen its emersion in the home, but it will become much more of a reality in the future of our workspace.


The use of colour and the impact that it has on thinking will become important as it is a powerful inducer of emotion. Pink is calm, green facilitates concentration, blue radiates happiness, and white has been found to be bright and energising. Even darkness has its place in creating pockets where one can cocoon and focus.

Using all design dimensions

When it comes to engaging the senses beyond colour, the use of texture and shape will become much more popular in the workspace.

Shapes can be used to unite zoned spaces and create interest, and alternative ways of incorporating texture such as screens and curtains, create a barrier to induce a feeling of connection between people while keeping them sufficiently spaced out.

Bringing in nature

Be it in the form of a mural or bringing in plants, fake or real, integrating nature into our workspaces is integral to harnessing the powerful soothing impact they have.

Since it is well documented that increased stress leads to reduced productivity, it is no surprise that our workplaces need to facilitate stress management. Creating a feeling of being connected to the earth, and therefore the wider world is a great way to ease anxiety on a broad scale.

Playful balance

Unique objects, rounded shapes, and a ‘playful living’ approach combined with the increased use of colour to create energy in the workspace is already taking corporate design by storm.

Workspaces that are more interactive and playful – where you interact with the people and the environment around you – are shown to encourage creativity, so they are particularly favoured by the creative industry.

As we crave a sense of being together more than ever, our spaces are going to need to provide ways in which we can receive a feeling of connection in a safe way for us to be happy professionals. As it is scientifically proven that increased employee satisfaction leads to increased productivity, it seems that work environments that prioritise people make sense for the bottom line.

A move towards self-managed schedules, limited team meetings and smaller offices makes it imperative that we truly focus on the function we need our spaces to fill, as well as the emotions they induce in 2021 and beyond.

What is clear, is that people are prioritising their happiness within a space, and that casual, playful, and flexible workspaces facilitate happiness and therefore productivity. So, as we go into 2021 let happiness be our guiding factor. After all, happiness almost always leads to excellence.



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