Perhaps an unheralded benefit of the open office's populartiy is conceptual.
Call it the blank canvas effect. As companies have discovered more "open" ways of working, they've also embraced a newfound thoughtfulness in the design of their workspace.
In 2017, interior design is introducing a set of new sensibilities to the office that reflect the modern workforce's desires.
Office Space That Feels Residential
The value of a comfortable office might seem obvious, but as defined as a more home-like environment... well this is something relatively new.
"I think the next trend in office design is creating spaces that feel residential," says Brooklyn-based Homepolish designer Tina Rich. "We spend so much time at the office—especially New Yorkers—that our office spaces need to be comfortable and congenial."
Deeper sofas, chandeliers, drapes. Private offices that feel more like studies. Subtle touches with potentially large gains in making the office a place people actually enjoy inhabiting.
Adaptive Office Space
When it comes to the particulars of using workspace, we are in the post standing-desk era.
Which isn't to say standing while working isn't vogue. People just don't want to do it all day.
"Our clients have surprised us with their love for sit-to-stand desking," says Rania Alamor of design firm RA-DA. "It’s not necessarily that they want to stand while they are working—although that is often the case)—but the ability to adjust the height of their desk to fit their personal ergonomic need."
The word "personal" is key. While the open office era has steered the workforce toward uniformity and anonymity (in the name of high-minded principles like collaboration and transparency), gone are the days of decorating the cubicle with Star Wars fan art. And as consciousness grows over the ergonomic bankruptcy common to most offices, some companies want to actively address it.
The sit-to-stand trend reinforces people's desire to exert some degree of control over their work environment. That it also reinforces good posture is healthier still.
RA-DA is also playing with the concept of extending the sit-to-stand trend to conference rooms and meeting tables, among other adaptive office space elements. Like integrating lighting systems that change in brightness and color temperature throughout the day (a concept in practice in a few retail environments but not so much office space, where it's arguably most needed).
For now, Alomar is still adjusting to the somewhat jarring visual of a workspace littered with desks all at different heights.
"I always have to fight the urge to walk around and reset them all to the same height just to see the space nice and neat again!"
The Living Office
Co-habitating with greenery is a concept entering the mainstream of workspace design, and with sufficiently good reason.
The presence of plants has been linked to reductions in stress, noise and air toxins in the workplace. So much so that company gardens are poised for a comeback.
While green trends can impact design decisions for a new space, tenants in the middle of a lease term can likewise adopt sustainability practices that begin with an audit of the furniture.
Furniture that optimizes space can also result in a boon to productivity, not just sustainability. The diffeence between cramped quarters and efficienct space is the difference between a distracted workforce and an applied one.
The difference can be hard to discern. But you know it when you seet it.
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