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2016 Workplace Design Trends: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity

Posted September 26, 2016 By Michael J. Solender

Today’s cubicle-dweller expects a lot more from their work space.

All generational workers, but in particular Millenials, are requesting spaces that are more social, more flexible and adaptive to varying work styles (e.g. stand-up desks), and even more wellness-oriented/outdoor integrated. Lucky for them, contemporary design is rising to the challenge, radically influencing the space we occupy on the job, enhancing our work and serving as a competitive advantage for recruiting and retention.


Here’s how the best in the business are developing “third-space” destinations, evolving the way we live where and while we work.

1. Coffee Culture Meets Workplace Design

“A global software firm we worked with on a regional office redesign asked us to create space where their employees can come together for coffee, gaming and impromptu meetings,” said Irene Vogelsong, senior associate and interior design director at Perkins + Will. “The inspiration comes from cool coffee lounges that employees are used to frequenting.”

P&W rethought the break room by establishing an area where team members from different locations could converge via video conferencing. “The space creates opportunities to facilitate employee connections that might not otherwise occur,” said Vogelson. “We designed cabinetry specific to coffee, condiments, eliminating clutter and providing soft seating.”

For clients of the Denver-based OZ Architecture, the area’s competitive market for talent has made innovative office design like coffee bars and collaborative break areas critical to recruiting and retention efforts.

For a GPS manufacturer, Trimble, OZ completed a build-to-suit project focused on open collaborative work spaces. “They offer a more relaxed casual environment that helps connect people,” said Principal Susan Kohuth, describing a coffee bar/kitchen area OZ incorporated into the design.


2. Nature and Wellness from Within

Design firms are also seeing a rise in client interest for wellness design which often means incorporating natural elements. “One aspect of wellness is the ability to connect with nature in your day-to-day life,” said Heather Litton, senior interior project manager for Perkins & Will. “We have a consumer products client for whom we’re creating two floors that come together with a conference center and a cafeteria/café element incorporating outdoor seating. Employees don’t have to leave the building, yet they get outdoors, creating a break and refresh point for their mind.”

Wellness also means activity—for example, locating stairs in a place so that people have to get up out of their chairs and be more mobile.

“We’re seeing this more in professional service firms that traditionally have been much more rigid in the way they are designed,” said Vogelsong. “We work with a law firm where having an outdoor space was a very important aspect of what they wanted in their design. We developed their largest conference room in a large top floor loft area, built a beautiful staircase as an active design component, and off the conference room we built an outdoor deck overlooking the city of Charleston.”


3. Fulfilling More with Flexible Spaces

Work space that can adapt to fulfill a number of functions are also on the list of most requested client demands. Perkins + Will recently completed a project for a computer manufacturer in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park; the company looked to capitalize on the impromptu collaboration that comes with making casual connections in less formal workplace settings.

“In RTP, the facility we worked on was part laboratory and part traditional workplace,” said Heather Litton, senior interior project manager at P&W. “We developed a number of choices for unassigned work spaces outside of the labs, such as benches, round tables, booths and technology tables where team members could share information in informal meetings. Because of the type of work they were doing, removing barriers to communication was important.”

Another OZ Architecture client, senior citizen service provider InnovAge, looked at flexible workspace solutions for their highly mobile workforce.

“Many of their employees are out in the field working with clients, and they need to come into the office only on occasion,” said Kohuth. “They are what we call a ‘free address company’—no one has an assigned work station and offices are signed out as needed. This allowed us to reduce the square footage needs of a new facility by 25 percent. The cost savings went into other amenities.”


As work space trends continue to evolve, firms and clients alike must consider comprehensive workplace designs which not only incorporate productivity and collaboration-enhancing elements, but also satisfy current team members as well as attract the newest generation of talent.


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