by Deepa Venkat
With the evolution in workplace design, it’s clear that in the modern office, the needs of employees are paramount. Companies are focused on both attracting and retaining talent and looking ahead to accommodate the five generations of workers that will comprise the workforce by 2020. And it’s not just about the Millennials: organizations are preparing now for a more inclusive, flexible, and open workplace that appeals to different demographics and moves beyond the physical setting.
Looking back on the history on the modern workplace, there is a 10-year cyclical pattern to the changing office landscape. Popular “workplace theories” anticipate 2020 — and even 2030 — to bring yet further advances in how we work, and the generational shift in the workplace may force this even faster. So it begs the question: why design a workplace for employee demographics when we can design it for specific work activities? There are several factors at play in this future 2020 workplace.
- Activity-based work. Dynamic, activity-based work (ABW) design creates a balanced variety of communal workspaces that correspond to the type of work performed throughout the day. Rather than assigning traditional workstations to staff, this model anticipates that employees will choose for themselves work areas that best suit their individual needs on any given day. ABW design moves an office from individual space to “we” space by offering both creative spaces and quiet work rooms without the worry of crowding or disruptions by one work style to another.
- Technology and flexibility. The trend toward adaptable workspaces provides both employers and employees with the utmost flexibility in space allocation and work practices. For example, a huddle room could be used as a space for long-distance collaboration or a phone room/quiet zone for individual work. The adaptability shift is also supporting the introduction of “third or in-between” spaces with no defined purpose yet adaptive to the needs of the user. Workplace bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and choose-your-own-device) (CYOD) technology options support and allow flexibility and diversity.
- Ecosystem of amenities. Companies are expanding their approach to office amenities to include spaces and services that provide a variety of environments for different tasks and behaviors throughout the day, and those spaces have become more high-quality, experiential environments. A meeting lounge might include a coffee table with an embedded interactive tablet or virtual and augmented reality technologies to support immersive collaboration with remote colleagues. Café spaces have become active, all-day destinations for impromptu casual meetings.
- Humanize the work experience. Aligning with the trend for enhanced amenities, employee services and work environments are also becoming highly personalized. Corporate cafés are offering catered, gourmet lunch services to accommodate employees trying to maximize their productivity in the office. High-end residential design elements have crossed over into commercial office spaces, infusing comfort and familiarity into the workplace. Different furniture types, in a variety of textures and materials, lend visual interest and create a hospitality-style environment in welcome and gathering zones like reception, café/dining, and coffee bars. Digital building operations are making it possible to individualize the workplace experience more than ever before.
- Coworking and proworking. Colocation is at the core of both these new work trends. One of the main advantages to coworking is the ease of collaborating with other companies sharing your space. Proworking is a natural extension of coworking, allowing organizations to overcome barriers presented by traditional real estate models and achieve greater flexibility by connecting with a vetted network of professionals (outside of their employee base) who need office space. The potential for cross-pollinating the creativity and talents of the workforce is enormous.
Companies will continue to optimize for collaboration and communication, as the multigenerational workforce seeks greater mobility and flexibility in the workplace. Different work settings and trends are ready to reshape the business landscape for the next decade and beyond.
Deepa Venkat, IIDA, NCIDQ, LEED AP, is a senior interior designer at Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA).