After taking a brief hiatus from attending NeoCon in the wake of the pandemic, I was thrilled to be presented with the opportunity of returning to the show as a first-time Best of NeoCon juror. I’m pleased to say the experience did not disappoint. As I arrived early to the show, I was able to get a sneak peek and in-person look at a plethora of innovative solutions and discover the commercial design industry’s biggest trends. Throughout the show floors, the emphasis on workplace agility in particular struck a chord with me, as it’s the answer to a challenge I have encountered often in my own work at NELSON Worldwide.

NELSON has been designing future-oriented workplaces for over 10 years and yet what the pandemic reinforced was that people will always want the ability to personalize their workspaces. Not only having the option to work from home, but the ability to control the environment at the office to make it conducive to each individual’s work style. Our mission at NELSON is to boldly transform the human experience, but in order to transform experience, we must prioritize empathy and understand there is no “one-size-fits-all” user experience.

When we began working from home, people missed collaborating and socializing with coworkers. However, they quickly discovered they now had more flexibility, as they were able to work from the couch or squeeze in a quick workout over their lunch hour. With this in mind, amenities like fitness and reflection rooms, social and collaboration spaces, quiet zones and phone booths have become a big part of our vision for the future of work. Hospitality-like elements like fireplaces and comfortable soft seating, as well as wellness considerations like natural light and biophilic design are also key features in the workplace of tomorrow.

A challenge prior to the pandemic was that the tools available to us limited our design capabilities. For example, it was nearly impossible to create a space with flexible workstation furniture that accommodated both team collaboration AND also individual heads-down time. While I encountered many cutting-edge introductions at this year’s show, I found Haworth’s Compose Echo to be particularly ideal for meeting this market demand. With this flexible workstation system, teammates can come together for a quick morning kick-off and break away for individual work. This is made possible because, while the height adjustable table component is hinged to the spline of the workstation, it also has a clever tether element, which allows users to split off for focused heads-down tasks. Because the whole system is anchored the space stays organized and well-maintained but grants just enough mobility to give users a sense of customization and ownership over their environment. Products like these illustrate that a major silver lining amid the challenges of the past few years is that it accelerated innovation and put us on a faster path to better workplace environments.