Trends in Offices and Workspaces: Collaboration, Adaptation, and Wellness
Office space. Not something we think about frequently, unless you are moving into it or running out of it. Similarly, layout, furniture, artwork, greenery are not often top of mind for most small- and medium-sized companies. However, experts say our office environments can be just as important as any aspect of operating a company and can greatly impact employee morale. Recognizing that the current shortage in skills has companies worried about employee retention, modernizing its workspaces is one of the ways a company can retain workers and signify a commitment to their interests. More ominously, researchers have concluded that poor office design can result in large financial losses due to low productivity. With these concerns in mind, we decided to take a look at the latest in workplace designs and how thoughtful companies are setting up their offices for success.
Collaborative Work Spaces
Driven by millennials but embraced by all generations, new offices are focusing on how people choose to work. This trend, known as Activity Based Working, has led to an increase in open, team-based, and breakout areas, while still maintaining private places to work. Companies are creating spaces that encourage people to work together, including domestic-style interiors and café-style setups in the middle of offices. Imagine grabbing a coffee and settling in with your team around a hightop in an open area rather than sitting in a closed conference room or crowding into a private office. Providing comfortable working areas that are not assigned gives employees the flexibility to move around, finding the best environment for the work at hand.
Office designers also suggest looking at how employees use space rather than blindly following the latest trends. Using movable furniture, technology, and data, companies can modify office usage to match employee use, thereby maximizing the space available while providing the most productive environment. Flatter monitors and decreased paper have led to the need for less square footage per employee, which also creates an opportunity for more office sharing and “hoteling”: workers schedule their use of workspaces such as desks, cubicles, and offices based on need—an alternative approach to the more traditional method of permanently assigned seating. Previously, offices were designed so that 90% of the space was being utilized, now architects are designing offices for 120-130% utilization while still being mindful of worker’s need for privacy and flexibility.
Focus on Wellness
Going beyond health and fitness facilities, employers are thinking about employees’ everyday wellness in their office designs. Changes can include the “greening” of work spaces, bringing more nature, natural light, and outside views into the office. Recent studies show that bringing natural elements into an office can increase productivity by 8%. This may include the use of live walls, and natural fabrics, colors, and materials in office furniture with a focus on using sustainable sources. Another aspect of wellness-based design is to encourage workers to be more active during the workday by providing sit/stand desks and layouts that require more movement. Placement and more use of staircases is just one way that offices are utilizing design to increase employee activity.
Originally made popular by large technology companies such as Google and Facebook, more companies are moving away from multilevel offices and towards a flatter, wider office campus. This type of setup shuns the hierarchy of “top floor” and “corner offices,” and embraces an accessible environment that allows all levels of employees to engage with one another on a more regular basis. Another aspect of this design strategy is to lower high cubicle walls, encouraging more interaction between employees. Sheetrock walls are also being replaced with glass, creating more transparent and less closed environments.
New trends in office design are driven by the changing needs of workers and technology towards reducing private office space, increasing collaborative environments, and focusing on worker wellbeing and productivity. It may be time to look around your own offices to see what impact a few of these changes can make in your own company.
Business Insights is hosted by the Law Firm of KPPB LAW (www.kppblaw.com).
Sonjui L. Kumar is a founding partner of KPPB LAW, practicing in the area of corporate law and governance.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice.
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