Today’s office space design is radically different than the past.
Traditional users of office space, such as companies in the legal, accounting and financial industries, design their offices to emphasize the hierarchy of their managers and employees and to accommodate each person’s task. The purpose of contemporary office space for today’s tech companies is to promote the corporate identity, brand and culture, to serve as a bargaining chip in the competition to attract and retain employees. In addition to this, the space’s design should foster creativity, productivity and wellness.
To accomplish these goals, the space must be carefully planned, utilizing a design that expresses the culture and brand of the company. This will help to keep the employees in touch with the company’s core values and goals, while also helping to impress clients. Transparency and open floor plans are standard; offices along the windows are a thing of the past. This promotes a flat hierarchy structure enabling everyone to feel equally respected while encouraging communication. The office should feel like a home away from home; sometimes better than home. This supports the work/life balance that appeals to millennials, enticing them to stay at work for longer hours.
“The design should promote collaboration and creativity which fosters innovation” as stated by Thomas J. Allen in The Organization and Architecture of Innovation. This is accomplished by creating areas where chance encounters will occur. These can be small conference tables or huddle areas for each team, offering the ability to collaborate on ideas, proposals or documents. Areas with sofas and chairs can also provide opportunities for people to meet and share ideas. The space should accommodate multiple eating and gathering areas as well as play areas incorporating games such as fooz ball, miniature golf or ping pong in the play area is quite typical. These allow the employees to relieve stress as well as improve relationships.
Steve Jobs has said that nobody should be more than 150 feet from food. The kitchen no longer has just a table and chairs. It is large, open and has various seating areas. Rather than a water cooler as the primary meeting place as in traditional offices, coffee bars are sprinkled throughout the office. Some offices create a collaborative environment through mobility. Rather than have individual cubicles, employees simply plug their laptops and other mobile devinces into any available workstation. Of course these types of offices need privacy or phone areas and should provide heads down areas for focused work.
Wellness is another key tenet of today’s offices. Every desk should have access to natural light and the entire office should be aesthetically pleasing and fun. Decorating the environment with artwork, sculpture and murals as well as plants distributed throughout the office can accomplish this. High ceilings can promote the feeling of a work space without boundaries. Even office furniture can add to this feeling through the use of work stations that can go from a sitting to a standing position. Studies have shown that employees who are encouraged to stand once every hour are more productive than their more sedentary counterparts. Another consideration is the use of sound proofed materials and white or pink noise to muffle outside noise. By promoting wellness productivity is enhanced.
This radically different type of office design will foster collaboration and productivity. It will attract the millennials and appeal to their lifestyle. Expressing the corporate culture and brand will appeal to clients. This new approach to office space design is being used not only for the tech companies but is being adopted by more and more of the traditional companies. The world of office space as we know it is changing for the 21st century.