In the past, the office was simply viewed as a place employees visited from nine to five. The design was generic, with drab colors, fluorescent lighting, and cubicles separating employees from each other. Workers showed up, did their individual jobs, and went home, with little interaction with coworkers throughout the day. Advances in technology over the last decade, however, have blasted through those cubicle walls, sparking innovative and inspiring office redesigns.
The monumental shift in office design stems from organizations now recognizing the value of making their employees comfortable. Recent studies reveal that there is a direct correlation between the workspace and productivity, ultimately effecting the business’ bottom line. In fact, Gensler’s U.S. Workplace Study revealed that “poor workplace design costs U.S. businesses an estimated $330billion in lost productivity each year.”
While enterprises now strive to build a more human-centric work environment, however, there is no denying technology’s role in igniting these changes. When computers were first introduced, networking systems required a significant amount of space, often taking up entire rooms. Now, employees are able to conduct their work on mobile devices, reducing the amount of space needed to get the job done.
As a result, Real Estate Decision Makers and Planners are facing staggering space utilization numbers, leaving many strategizing for innovative ways to reinvent underused real estate. Robust software and analytics is helping them identify the needs of their workforce. Spaces are being redesigned to cater to employee needs both on an individual and a collective level, connecting that collective on a deeper level than ever before. While aesthetics is still a factor, design is less about physical appearance and more about empowering their people. It is about building a workplace culture that facilities collaboration, building a community that is engaged and, in turn, more productive.
What Exactly Is an Innovative Space?
Capital One’s 2017 workplace survey revealed that 82% of polled professionals believe their best ideas are inspired from working in flexible, innovative workspaces. The most coveted design features: natural light, artwork, dynamic spaces, and collaborative spaces. Purpose and function, along with a reintroduction of core values, are the primary focus with modern architects and designers.
When asked to define what today’s innovative spaces are today, compared to ten years ago, architects agreed on three points. First, that technology serves as a unifier, connecting people to each other now more than ever before. Second, they have become transparent, open, and enchanting. Lastly, those who are on the front lines, utilizing the space, are being included in the design process. The result is a more actively engaged and empowered workforce. Health and well-being rises, creativity and productivity is sparked, and organizations are attracting and retaining their industry’s top talent.
With enterprises working to connect and accommodate five very dissimilar generations into one space, they have introduced some groundbreaking workspace ideas. And with flexibility a common theme throughout, these businesses are poised to fluidly transform as employee needs shift. As we prepare to enter the second quarter of 2018, let’s take a look at the dominating office design trends.
The dictionary defines “dynamic” as: “marked by usually continuous and productive activity or change.” Flexibility has become a critical component of every business’ success strategy. It only makes sense then, that creating dynamic spaces be part of the workspace solution. These spaces include lightweight furniture, moveable walls and doors, and wipe/chalk boards. They are designed to be functional and flexible, adapting to our ever-changing needs.
Face to Face Interaction
As we learn more about the value of collaboration, employee interaction becomes increasingly important to facility executives and Strategic Facilities Planners. The design specifics vary, depending upon the organization’s brand and goals, but the concept remains the same – the positive outcome derived from personal encounters is invaluable.
Effective strategies, designed to promote human interaction include:
- Atriums – Enterprises that have built atriums into their real estate have found that it visually connects spaces. An added bonus – natural light, which has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and boost wellness.
- Internal staircases – A decade ago, staircases were tucked away, void of any real activity. Staircases are now centrally located, designed to promote chance encounters.
- Corridors – Integrating corridors into your workspace design has multiple benefits. In addition to encouraging employee interaction, they also serve as a noise buffer, funneling people away certain office zones. What architects have found is that these corridors not only increased chance encounters, they actually become gathering places, increasing social interactions on a deeper level.
Continuing with the theme of facilitating human interaction, Workspace Planners have discovered that strategically placed gathering spaces throughout the office spark communication for inspiration. Since these chance encounters often occur between individuals who don’t regularly connect, the impact is even more profound.
The vast majority of us spend 85-90% of our time indoors. In doing so, however, we’re forced to ignore our intrinsic connection to nature. Biophilic design incorporates natural elements into the workplace. Through textures, natural lighting, plants, and green walls, nature is incorporated into the office space. It offers a noise buffer, provides privacy when needed, and enhances wellness. An added bonus – it is now known that live plants reduce toxic chemicals in the air.
As organizations learn more about what elements spark creativity in the younger generations, we are seeing more unconventional designs being incorporated into office spaces. In an effort to create spaces that feel like home, meeting spaces now come equipped with couches, bean bag chairs, gaming systems, and even meditation rooms. Workers can meet and collaborate in these spaces, or slip away for a few moments of downtime before returning to work.
Incorporation of Technology
Considering technology has played a major role in igniting office redesigns, it only makes sense that it would be integrated into these new spaces. Interactive LED video walls keep everyone informed, often sparking conversations regarding current and upcoming projects. Digital whiteboards enable users to digitize notes and drawings, and interactive screens allow us to physically produce and share our work.
Regardless of an organization’s industry or size, flexibility is a critical component to today’s workplace environment. By incorporating this principle into an office redesign, workplace leaders can meet the current needs of their workforce, while keeping a pulse on the bigger picture. While these innovative workspaces are not for everyone, every enterprise should be working towards one common goal – to humanize the environment. A human-centric workplace is key to an actively engaged and loyal workforce. It breaks down invisible walls, brings people together, and catapults us to success, both on an individual and organizational level.