We’re designing the workplace to suit workers and enable more creative and efficient processes.
Today’s workplace can incorporate highly open, collaborative, and strongly themed environments. Tech companies add to this mix an exaggerated sense of play, whimsy, and saturated colors; an overdone trend that has resulted in a public dialogue around the lack of focus, privacy, and individual place. We know that the workplace needs to be agile and adjustable to accommodate rapid-fire changes in organizations, new technologies, and work styles. However, being nimble doesn’t necessitate gimmicks, and high-tech does not require a themed environment. This movement away from these features dovetails with the evolution of sustainability goals that are shifting focus from the physical building towards supporting building occupants.
We are seeing—and welcoming—the pendulum swing toward a more evolved workplace with an emphasis on user adjustability, health, and harmony. Slides in place of stairs and bright colors are giving way to more sensitive planning for environments with a more sophisticated aesthetic and subtle touches of whimsy. Companies appear to be “growing up” and are skewing toward designs that feature effectively simple line, color, and focus.
Also, the workforce is asking for both collaborative and reflective space. In response, IA’s strategy and design teams are mindful of providing yin to yang by introducing quiet spaces that support wellness (shifting emphasis to people and comfort) and sophistication (balancing play and collaboration with focus and calm). The focus on wellness also signals a new value in today’s workplace; help your workforce maintain a healthy lifestyle. Stairs are designed to engage people to use them rather than elevators; quiet space balances collaborative space; and companies that provide food are placing the healthy options on the front shelf with the less healthy choices relegated to the back.
Additionally, we work with CEO’s who value mindfulness as a powerful tool to measurably enhance focus and productivity for workers who are constantly bombarded by noise, interruption, and data from countless sources. The new WELL Building standard addresses the issues of both the health of the building—air and water, for example—as well as the health of the people who work there—natural light, nutrition, and fitness.
For many years design teams have delivered workspace that is flexible. That is often no longer enough in today’s world of constant change. Workers want to customize both their individual and team spaces to adapt to their needs without assistance from facilities teams. Cues are taken from the world of pop-up retail. Companies need to deliver space quickly, efficiently, and with a greater emphasis on the people who occupy the space, with the ability to adjust and change space once it is delivered.
Hackability has become a benchmark for effectiveness in the workplace as it allows teams to brand, message, and revise their environment to suit their daily needs. Workspace begins to function like a smart phone— complex within a simple façade, customizable, and easy to use. It also becomes a tool for sustainability, delivering nimble environments that align corporations with social responsibility. Change no longer needs to involve sending materials to the landfill.
Workplace strategy teams research issues around the built environment and the people who work there.. Finding the right solution is the key to success and the tools leveraged are pivotal to building a business case to design for change. In past years, the strategy team learned how people work and what they need to be successful; today that is just one piece of what needs to be addressed in developing the criteria for effective workplaces. New filters include analysis around balancing focus and collaboration and enabling a healthier choice of work modes: Finding ad hoc quiet spaces for focus, or being able to perch briefly in a stadium-style space. Clients are including more meditation spaces in prime real estate sections as opposed to relegating space to an internal closed door area, encouraging their staff at large to rejuvenate and focus.
The workplace experience is about engaging people through effective design that promotes health as well as key messaging and branding. In focus groups, workers often talk about their desire to connect to the product they are creating to celebrate success and remind them that they are part of a bigger whole. In other words, we are designing to engage and connect people to the environment and to their work. The new bottom line is an investment in the health and wellbeing of the people who innovate and produce at a high level—a ROI that cannot be ignored.