by Bob Fox, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP
Founding Partner

 

The workplace environment is evolving rapidly. Traditional private offices, based on hierarchy, are a thing of the past and are being replaced with creative workplace designs that better support organizational performance. 

Recent economic struggles, newly developed technology, and multi-generational dynamics are among the many catalysts impacting today’s shifting office model. The latest studies show that most private offices are underutilized - meaning these spaces are empty more than half of the time. While private offices are still necessary for certain types of work, we see the need for a greater variety of different types of workspace. To achieve a highly productive work environment, designers need to create multiple work environments – creating “places and spaces” for people to come together to share ideas, inspire one another, and drive innovation. 

Outside of employee salaries, your real estate is the largest expense for your organization. Today, clients evaluate the office in a different way. Organizations are starting to realize that the workplace is more than just a physical space – it can, and should be, a productivity tool. Furthermore, it needs to be measured based on productivity and not accounted for as a fixed expense. It is a place for people to come together and share ideas and have the interaction and support needed to perform their jobs. Each project is an opportunity for designers to recreate the office model based on the client’s specific needs and design with the intent to foster communication, collaboration, and camaraderie. A good designer should guide the client through the process, taking calculated risks along the way to achieve a highly effective and efficient workplace. 

We can work anytime, anywhere, with anyone; the cloud and wireless technology enables us to do so. Today we have the choice to work at home, in a café, a coworking facility, or in an office suite. This flexibility places a heightened focus on the corporate office model and challenges the conventional ideas of what an office should be. The shift towards a mobile office environment has both financial and sustainable implications. Management within an organization must take this into consideration in order to remain competitive when designing their next office environment. The space should be able to adapt, expand and contract, based on the specific need and not subject to a long term fixed lease. 

Within the context of today’s workplace, the ultimate goal when organizing spaces within an office has been to increase employee efficiency without creating barriers or “silos.” This becomes a challenge as there are four generations working together in a typical office environment. There are subtle as well as significant differences in the way each generation works. Creating a variety of spaces such as team rooms, collaborative areas, individual workstations, private offices and conference rooms will essentially enable performance flexibility for different work styles and enable everyone to connect. 

Design is critical to the success of these environments and today’s corporate leaders recognize the benefits of a highly effective workplace. A good design can help an 

organization develop and support their people in a highly competitive market, and improve recruitment and retention. It should also encourage social interaction, the flow of ideas and provide an improved work/life balance. Additionally, a corporation’s physical environment should further support its mission and provide a comfortable space to perform the work. However, it’s an evolving phenomenon and one must consider all the factors that can and will affect the office environment. Careful evaluation should be given to your space requirements, technology and your people, but there are many factors that will play a role in your design. Security, branding, organizational development, sustainability, and energy efficiency are just a few considerations being integrated into some of the best office designs today. 

Design is paramount. Moving forward, people won’t need to be in a traditional office to get the work done. Given the choice, most people will choose the most comfortable place they feel best supports the work they do. In order to accomplish this, the journey begins with a comprehensive plan and a well-executed design. Ultimately, a good design should bring people together, support collaboration, camaraderie, and ultimately enhance the firm’s overall performance.



Pictured Above: David All Group  |  Sapient  |  Avalon Bay Communities, Inc.  |  Opower  

 

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