Top Trends of NeoCon 2022

The 53rd annual NeoCon returned to theMART in downtown Chicago, Illinois back in June. Thousands of manufacturers, dealers, architects, designers, end-users, design organizations, and media convened at the exhibition to see the latest in commercial design. According to NeoCon, close to 40,000 design professionals and more than 400 leading companies were in attendance.

Every year the newest products and services stand side-by-side with emerging trends and technology. In this blog, we take a look at the top 8 trends of NeoCon 2022.

Space Variety

One of the biggest trends of NeoCon 2022 as a result of the pandemic has been “space variety.” This means there is a heavy focus on balancing both collaboration space and private space which means you should expect to see more individual workstation pods and dens, occasional tables for collaborative areas, and highly functional meeting spaces coupled with quiet booths. A key driver behind employees returning to the office is the availability of working experiences they can’t have at home. The goal is to give workers a variety of space options that give them different places to go during the work day. The fluidity of a space is critical and expanding our thinking of where work should happen and what that looks like is imperative to design moving forward. Modular furniture is one way that fluidity can be easily incorporated into design. Take a look at this blog to read up on all the pros and cons of modular furniture solutions. 


Reimaging Office Design

Another big trend of NeoCon 2022 was the incorporation of a more “home-like” feel to office spaces through lighting, colors, and textures — comfort was a key factor that led to many of the trends. Design experts at NeoCon this year emphasized different textures to elevate and contemporize a space. There has been a shift away from primarily neutral color usage and instead, the use of bold, bright colors is being praised. Touches of residential, and even hospitality design have become big trends in recent years, which highlights the importance of experience and comfort in the workspace. Comfortable, yet sophisticated designs that nod to home and hospitality make the space more inviting and flexible for the wave of Millennial and Gen Z employees shifting into the majority of the global workforce. Read more about how Millennials and Gen Z employees are influencing future office design here.

Attendee sitting on a lounge chair at NeoCon (Photo courtesy of NeoCon)


Flexible Furniture

The idea of returning to an office to sit at a desk all day doesn’t sound appealing to most employees anymore. One of the biggest reasons people have enjoyed working from home is that they felt more comfortable. So, how do employees emulate this? Through design and more specifically flexible furniture. This is a combination of the two trends detailed above — space variety and the creation of more “cozy” spaces. Flexible furniture pieces, including desks, chairs, workstations, and tables, placed throughout an office to accommodate different working styles and preferences was a repeated trend at NeoCon 2022 and will be seen in office design in the foreseeable future. A big emphasis has been placed on allowing employees the ability to change their scenery during the workday and more organizations are looking to allow their employees to essentially “build your workspace” and user adjustability is the name of the game.

Seamless Tech Experience

Whether in a conference room, working outside, or collaborating with a small group in a cafe near the office — there is a growing demand for a seamless tech experience beyond just powering up at a table. NeoCon 2022 gave us a look at what a fully tech-friendly, modernized workplace could look like, one that would allow your employees to maximize their productivity wherever and however they’re the most adept. This includes power connections on tables, desks, and seating areas that are hidden away or achieved through wireless charges, easy-to-use tools for video conferencing, cross-device integrations, and cloud-based and virtual collaboration opportunities for the employees on the move. AIS featured a PET Wire Manager with a flip-down design to give users easy access to placement and adjustment of cords — marrying aesthetic design with functionality.


Equity for Remote Employees

Along with a seamless tech experience, a big trend of this year’s NeoCon event was equity for remote employees. Companies are looking to invest in their spaces and draw people back to the physical office, but not everyone will return. The pandemic has taught us that work can be done anywhere and people are looking to find the places they work best — that isn’t always the office. Some workers will remain remote no matter what. Others may stop by the office a few times a week and work remotely the rest of the time. What we’ve learned from NeoCon is that giving remote workers an equitable experience is crucial to success. 


Outdoor Working Space

In line with giving remote workers equitable experiences, the pandemic drove many people to work outdoors as a form of escape. Two years later, outdoor installations that some companies constructed are finally being replaced with more permanent fixtures in hopes of creating outdoor amenities that will bring people back to the office to work. If your office or company has outdoor space, NeoCon 2022 made it clear that you should consider creating an idyllic outdoor space that employees can utilize. They are quite literally a breath of fresh air! Trends are shifting toward creating functional spaces where work can happen, but even just having space for employees to take a well-deserved break is becoming more popular. 


Biophilic Design

Design is also bringing the outside, inside. Another nod to making the workplace feel more like a living space and keeping the needs of employees in mind — biophilic designs skyrocketing at NeoCon 2022. Biophilic design is the practice of connecting people and nature within built environments through the direct and indirect use of nature including light, ventilation, water, plants and vegetation, and more. Companies without outdoor space often lean into more biophilic designs when possible to bring the best parts of the outdoors into the office. Greenery was a standout feature at NeoCon 2022. Again, the intent is to create a working environment that is comfortable and inviting to employees to improve their motivation, productivity, and creativity.


Sustaining Sustainability

Simply embracing sustainability as a brand is no longer enough and the movement keeps showing up in different ways over the years. Consumers and employees want to know what brands are doing to reduce their environmental impact and they want to see physical manifestations where possible. NeoCon 2022 is where we saw new materials and technology on display, highlighting innovation happening in the sustainability category — whether through materials, sourcing, manufacturing process, etc. This year, a major trend in materials is in the form of cork. Recycled and reclaimed materials are also seeing a resurgence. Companies are realizing that supporting sustainability can take many forms — design, transparency, innovation, and performance — and it’s becoming a requirement for success. 


The Takeaway

These 8 trends are not an exhaustive list of all the exciting and innovative designs and concepts presented at NeoCon 2022. This conference is just a snippet of what the current landscape looks like and where the future will take office design. Employee-centric design choices — whether for employees in the office or working remotely took a center stage at NeoCon. Comfort is a trend that we don’t see going away for a while. And the balance of natural elements and technology seamlessly integrated into future designs is quickly becoming the standard. 

It was an exciting time for so many design professionals, manufacturers, dealers, and end-users to be able to meet again to collaborate and celebrate the industry. Being the first in-person event, the consensus was that NeoCon lived up to expectations and even its own motto this year: “Design makes a statement.” You can review events, talks, and other resources from NeoCon 2022 here.

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