In today’s post, I’m going to discuss office-space trends for 2016 with a bit of a twist. Usually we would just discuss the office design changes and what’s driving them. In our last post “Canadian businesses are having a 30% off sale” we discussed what should happen when the Canadian dollar falls to the levels it currently sits at.

Where are the U.S. businesses we expected?

Canadian economists and business people have been waiting for this phenomenon to kick in and everyone is a little perplexed that it’s either slow in coming or that things have changed considerably since the “great recession.” IMO, an opinion which is not widely held, I believe there are new factors at play that will see old trends in the way U.S. business people and consumers react to “Putting Canada on Sale.” We at Telsec Business Centres are mixed in our opinions as to whether U.S. business people will look to Canada to expand markets and whether consumers will buy more Canadian products.

There are those among us who expect U.S. businesses to start contacting us soon, and others who believe that the global economy, NAFTA and other changes have rendered Canada less competitive – and therefore the businesses who would have looked to Canada in the past have far more alternatives for sourcing or relocating manufacturing. This is primarily due to higher costs for wages, electricity and new pensions in Ontario that have increased costs for manufacturers to relocate to Ontario/Canada. Also, our manufacturers do not have the ability to compete with Mexican-made and others products that have lower input costs for labour and most other business expenses.

As I began to research this topic, one of the first search results I came across was from the February Commercial Real Estate Report from TREB (Toronto Real Estate Board). Their report indicated that there was an uptrend for industrial space, but there was a noticeable fall in office space leased and the $/sq ft. year over year. TREB saw this as a positive sign that there is either new demand for industrial space for manufacturers (whether that was an uptick in U.S.-based demand, or Canadian companies saw new opportunities open up in U.S. and other markets), or that the U.S. consumer has indeed begun to buy Canadian goods due to lower prices caused by the U.S. $’s rise.

2016 Trends in Office Space Design

The trends for office space design continue to see the office and workplace philosophies further departing from the traditional cubicle and offices, to one where space is more versatile, thus enabling companies to develop multi-purpose workspaces and non-assigned seating. The force behind this change is hugely influenced by the shift from management comprised of mainly baby boomers, to management seeing more and more millennials moving into these positions.

This infographic from Brighton School of Business and Management looks at workplace trends – such as more than 1 in 4 ‘Millennials’ will become managers in 2016, while office space is shrinking and will continue to do so in 2016. Another interesting fact from the infographic was their statement that, by 2020, the average sq. ft. requirements for employees will decrease to 150 sq. ft. from 400 in 1985!

The paper, Ethonomics: Designing For The Principles Of The Modern Workplace (authored by Teknion, in collaboration with design experts like Joan Blumenfeld, principal of Perkins+Will, one of this year’s Most Innovative Companies) revealed that the workplace is ripe for reinvention. As Blumenfeld recently told Fast Company:

“Workspaces should flex to provide a variety of spaces and destinations for workers to inhabit that promote movement throughout the day. While many companies are doing a good job of incorporating some of these elements into their workplace design, there’s a need for more awareness and implementation of this way of thinking holistically about the workplace.”

The paper also mentions the following as the trends to watch for in 2016:

  • Hiding the Wires: Open space can look very disorganized with wires for technology everywhere. So businesses and manufacturers are facilitating this by finding ways to hide wires into desk and furniture construction.
  • Bringing the outdoors indoors: Not only are designs adding more windows for natural lighting, but more organic construction materials and fabrics (including flora patterns) are bringing the outdoors indoors!
  • Multi-purpose work spaces: Utilizing multi-purpose work spaces results in not just better collaboration, but saves you money as well with the square footage/employee falling quickly.
  • Designated lounge areas: These have been a trend for a few years, but that seems to be still growing at a good pace.
  • Offices organized by colour: Herman Miller, who’s now Vice President of Design at Poppin added: “I’m a strong believer that if you organize your work environment with colour, it will help your thoughts be more organized and colourful.”
  • Community tables: A symbol of kinship or alliance that’s now becoming an important part of the work environment. Delfino of Technion adds: “Today, the table emerges as a relevant feature of an evolving workplace that now exhibits many of the characteristics of a domicile – more relaxed, more congenial and collaborative.”
  • Mix of different textures: Increased emphasis on using varied materials throughout the workplace to create environments that influence wellness and productivity.
  • End of permanent layouts: Permanent layouts are giving way to the needs of an ever-changing workplace landscape. Modular components can be mixed, stacked and moved around, offering innumerable combinations for a dynamic and collaborative workplace.


Although the jury is out on whether or not U.S. consumers and businesses will take advantage of a strong dollar to locate offices in Canada and buy more of our goods and services, it’s clear that millennials continue to change the workplace philosophy and therefore office-space designs. Co-working and an increased need for closer collaboration are desires of the millennials in management positions – and their expectations of the workplace continue to drive changes in traditional office design.