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Interior Design Trend: Flexible Workspaces

Designed to improve employees’ everyday lives, flexible workspaces can creatively suit everyone’s needs. “The key behind a flexible workspace is creating inventive spaces that can serve multiple purposes,” said Marie Moutsos, Designer Director at FOX Architects. “It’s about adaptable architecture. How do you design a space that is flexible enough to provide for a variety of functions and destinations for staff to use throughout the day?”

Multifunctional Design

The end goal driving every flexible workspace design is ensuring a room won’t sit idle, unused between specific events or meetings. It needs to attract employees to use it for team breakouts or even a casual reception. In order to increase usability, the FOX Architects team brings in design elements that support flexible workspaces, including:

  • Divisible space. Movable partitions can maximize the layout options and accommodate a variety of uses. Whether a client prefers solid partitions that can provide full privacy and writable surfaces, or glass walls to allow for transparency and daylight, movable walls allow for a room to be reconfigured easily. “Just having that ability to physically rearrange a space provides spatial opportunities that can now help an organization function better,” Marie explained.
  • Choosing the right furniture. Selecting the right furniture is a key component of successful flexible workspaces. Not only should furniture be easily movable to allow for maximum flexibility, it should include a variety of different settings. Organizations are increasingly using their versatile cafes as a secondary meeting space– whether it is a casual huddle where two people can have a conversation over a cup of coffee, seated in comfortable lounge chairs, or a project meeting where a team of six can gather around a community table and review documents. In a large conference room you want furniture that can easily be maneuvered and set up in different configurations – board room style, training, or auditorium style with no tables at all. These areas are part of the everyday work environment and without the right furniture to support the space and various engagements that may occur, it will not be successful.
  • Technology. Providing access to proper technology enables flexibility in working from a spot in the office other than one’s desk, without compromising productivity. Easily adjustable lighting can also impact a space and set the mood for diverse functions – whether it’s an after-hours staff event or a high-power client meeting.

According to Marie, this interior design trend is not a movement, but something that is here to stay. “Fixed, permanent work environments are a thing of the past,” Marie stated. “We see this in small doses. Flexible spaces support the needs of an ever-changing workplace.”

A Culture Worth Adopting

The popularity of flexible workspaces is due to their positive benefits, mostly from a functional and cultural standpoint, but also financially. Employees are free from being confined to their desks. They can choose to work in different environments throughout the day, and still be productive. They have the opportunity to choose a work setting that can be configured for their specific need.

“From a financial perspective, real estate is costly and we need to be smarter about how we use it,” Marie explained. The goal is to create a space that can be utilized for different purposes and support clients’ numerous needs. Using one footprint – designed with the right components – allows that amount of square footage to be transformed into a number of different settings.

Despite the benefits for both employee and employer, some organizations with a more traditional work mindset may initially struggle with flexible workspaces. The solution is policy-driven as employees become more comfortable with shifting working styles.

“Leaders of organizations need to show staff it’s not only acceptable, but encouraged,” Marie stated. “If you’re not at your desk and you’re working somewhere else, it’s okay.”

For Marie, her love of flexible workspaces is rooted creatively in meeting clients’ needs.

“I enjoy brainstorming and trying to think of every possible solution that we can provide a client that will help them function better and support their organization and ultimately help them succeed,” Marie said.

Highlighted Projects in Flexible Workspace:

Nuclear Energy Institute

OGSystems

World Resources Institute