Your office is too static. Workers sit stiff-necked on an older "performance chair" then dash off to Starbucks to get some real work done. Everything about the cubicles, the conference rooms, and the decor says "we miss the 90s" and doesn't promote open-minded thinking. That's about to change, according to all of these experts, because offices are now scaling as much as the company itself when it grows, hires more remote workers, expands a product line, and embraces change.
Here's what they have to say:
1. Create touch-down areas.
"If your business allows, use non-assigned desking, where employees are assigned a desk to 'check into' each morning. You plug your laptop and phone and can now (more often than not) sit or stand at the desk. It is your 'touch down' area. The focus is on the flexible array of areas, such as cafes, bleacher-like seating, and lounges reminiscent of hotel lobbies, where you can spontaneously work both in private or in collaboration with a team. This approach is as close as you can get to a future-proof environment because no one is tied to a specific desk, making it easier to reconfigure or refresh in the future." -Scott Lesizza, principal, Workwell Partners
2. Think flexible.
"The intention of our design approach is to provide the decision maker an 'open structure' to build up [their office] in a unique way, for each new customer and project. The architect or the planner can play around with the elements of the system to create their own reference points or scale, and endeavor as many dimensions as possible using an endless variety of options in composing a 'unique' habitat around the 'shelf axis'. This way, a unique layout is composed for each project and place." - Koray Malhan, Head of Design, Koleksiyon
3. Create options for choose-your-own work styles.
"The trending shift is a focus to provide more autonomy to a younger, more mobile, progressive workforce. The autonomy, (or freedom of where and how to work), has required us to satisfy the needs of the individual worker, over the traditional model of the standard planning approach. Elements such as free address lounges, quiet rooms and hospitality spaces, not only provide for the scalability in staff and workstyles, but also the scalability in usage. Conversion of spaces allow clients to host SxSW events, speaker engagements, tech crawls, live music events, etc. Spaces also double as roaming laptop / tablet work areas, and spaces for training, all-hands announcements, morning boot camp, etc. 'Kit-of-parts' mobile furnishings also contribute to the success and ease of reconfiguring for growth or user-friendly micro-environments." - Joe Gowing, Principal, Lauckgroup
4. Focus on what's complementary.
"Designers have been dreaming for years about how to make magical spaces that grow and change with a client's needs, but the reality is that most clients never really transform their spaces for alternate functions. Rather than focusing on the ability to react to change later, we think it's more important to design the modern workplace with an ecosystem of complementary spaces-- from individual work areas, to open collaboration and shared work areas, to enclosed conference, team, and phone rooms. It's less about transformation at some point in the future and more about empowering individuals and groups to transform their experience throughout the typical work day." - Rebecca Dorris Steiger, Associate Partner, ZGF Architects
5. Smaller is better.
"We see the work space assigned to an individual user getting smaller, but without significant consequences. This is made possible, in part, through the reduced size of the tech hardware being utilized in our office spaces (recall those tube monitors that used to take up the entire corner of your desk). And, in greater part, to design innovations available from commercial furniture manufacturers. Desking and systems furniture have made great progress in consolidating components without the loss of valuable work surface, filing inches or shelf space. Gains can be quickly realized in these compacted offices (down some 30 sq ft on average from 150 sq ft to now 120 sq ft, for example) and smaller workstations (generous 64 square feet (8'x8') workstations are now comfortable and efficient at 48 sq ft (6'x8') and even smaller scale are often considered). In aggregate those small square footage gains can be reassigned to collaborative spaces or realized as a smaller overall office footprint." - Juliè Gauthier, Director of Houston Office, Lauckgroup
6. Lean on neutrals.
"If your business does not buy into non-assigned desking, then keep things neutral aesthetically. Following trends like reclaimed wood may seem popular, but it can leave your office space looking dated when you are only 5 years into a 15 year lease. Benching is a great solution because you can have a bench that looks very elegant with wood veneer panels and sleek custom storage that can adapt as the space densifies. With products like Nomad Benching by Nienkämper, you can actually modify the privacy panels depending upon job function and preference, further making the office "future proof"." - Scott Lesizza, Principal, Workwell Partners
7. Find furniture with smart design.
"Choose furniture that can utilize space creatively in different ways. Journal, a cleverly designed casegoods system, allows the private office to function for focused, individual work, yet easily transforms the same space to accommodate more collaborative team environments. A space designed for a single user can now be used by five. This type of design is flexible, and useful in a workspace where additional employees might be hired and the need for collaboration grows." - Steve Delfino, vice president of corporate marketing and product management, Teknion
8. Mix it up.
"As Millennials move from college campuses into office buildings, they seek a work-live environment, where the line between work and leisure is blurred. They will respond to workspaces that yield a sense of community. Create a breakout room with a layout that resembles the first floor of a college library or mixed-use hallways that looks like those in a student center." - Joe Gowing, Principal, Lauckgroup
9. Think in terms of zones. "As the communal areas are growing in number and scale in contemporary work zones, privacy is becoming critical issue for anyone who needs to concentrate on a piece of work that needs attention and focus. Rather than defining the work modes for the departments, teams, or even a single person the attempt is to define each single task, and then visualise the alternating need every working person in an office. This way, instead of planning departments, the focus is on planning places for activities, than allowing the traffic in the workplace for people to move around related tasks, places, and zones." - Koray Malhan, Head of Design, Koleksiyon
10. Get people on the move.
"Scale can be somewhat elusive to the occupant but is a strategic move for the planner in crafting an appropriate human-centered space. It is critical to wellbeing to provide a varied atmosphere that supports the diversity of needs that occur throughout the day. Society has finally realized the seemingly obvious truth: it is not healthy to reside in a stagnant position and space for long periods of time. Neuroscience has taught us that a change in environment releases our brains to develop new insights*. With creativity becoming a recognized factor crucial to every field - not just stereotypical 'artist' types - the need for environments that foster creative thinking become even more imperative to success. Scale is one tool to employ toward designing varied experiences within the office realm." - Sara Barnes, Project Designer (Dallas office), Lauckgroup
11. It starts from the top.
"Promote a culture from above that promotes flexibility. I have seen the most flexible, fun and future proof offices not utilized because upper management does not practice what they preach. If the boss is sitting in his/her office all day, dining in a separate lunch area, and only conversing with junior staff on rare occasions, then the communal message will not be well received." - Scott Lesizza, Principal, Workwell Partners
12. Use color to your advantage.
"Monochromatic color palettes, symmetrical lines, and matching furniture no longer fit the bill when it comes to office design. Play with color, texture, and shape to create a space that can speak to any aesthetic. The more options, the more likely your employees will find a space that speaks to them. If you want innovation, you have to innovate." - Joe Gowing, Principal, Lauckgroup
13. Consider convertible furniture.
"Purchasing office furniture is an investment. Look for pieces that are based on a modular system of sizing and interrelation to support further additions. For example, Poppin's Series A Desk System was conceived of and designed to be easy and adjustable, addressing a company's need to grow. The basic parts - legs, beams, and tops - all go together without tools, using patent-pending "clever levers." A run of desks can be set-up in minutes (by employees themselves), and weeks or months later can be added to without disturbing the original set. Any table or series of desks can also at any time become a stand-up version by simply adding leg extenders." - Jeff Miller, Vice President of Design, Poppin
14. Know the needs of your team.
"The scalable office of today really has more to do with user behavior and preference. Mobile technology and cloud based systems allow for anywhere/anytime work so the design of an office environment now responds with a variety of spaces to accommodate "work". Private offices - shared or assigned - still exist but have been scaled back in size to make way for a variety of collaborative meeting space that also double as focus spaces. If we consider the smallest scale for a work environment it would likely be the size of a laptop/headphones and a coveted spot at the coffee bar next to an electrical outlet then the impact on the office (and the bottom line) is likely minimal. On the other hand, a large team based project that requires dedicated focus and meeting spaces might assign an entire floor to these activities and thereby be a considerable part of the cost of doing business. It is all relative to the behaviors of the group and how work is produced." - Juliè Gauthier, Director of Houston Office, Lauckgroup
15. Constant change is the new normal.
"Consider products that are designed to support agile planning. Modularity and reduced planning dependencies promote easy adjustment, customization and adaptation as priorities change and offices need to be scaled up or down. The design of upStage, a product we recently launched, was influenced by increased demand for an ever-changing workplace. Products like this are malleable in that they support future growth plans." - Steve Delfino, vice president of corporate marketing and product management, Teknion