Posts tagged workplace design
How the Physical Environment Influences Work
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Architect Clive Wilkinson, a recognized leader in workplace design, is responsible for some of the most creative office spaces in the world. With a thoroughly modern approach to the way we work, his firm has created spaces for Google, Twentieth Century Fox Digital and countless other business leaders using everything from hanging pod chairs to bean bags and breakfast bars.

At the annual Workplace/Work Life conference, Wilkinson spoke about how the way we work — and our ability to be productive — is shaped by our environment. “Offices are becoming more like homes as lifestyle becomes increasingly important and companies compete for talent,” he explains. “Our world is now ideas driven and our environment needs to be energetic, inspiring and even provocative. Employers also want people to stay longer at work and making the space awesome certainly helps.”

If you are considering making a dedicated space to work at home, he says the best place to start is with a separate work area. “Separation from the family is highly desirable,” he says. “Work is a different state of mind from family concerns, which can be very disruptive. A separate studio is cool.”

For optimum productivity, he says a well-lit, well-ventilated work area is ideal. “We all need constant connection and engagement with nature and the world outside so good views, light and air are vital to our sense of well-being,” Wilkinson says. “Plants are restorative too.”

The need for a separate space at home is different to commercial offices, which Wilkinson says are veering towards open-plan design. “The driving reason to go to work is to collaborate and therefore most of the space should be configured to support that,” he says.

In commercial office spaces, he says there is now a stronger push towards keeping workers moving and less sedentary. “It’s a major concern in planning work space,” Wilkinson says. “People need to move around during the day to stay alert and healthy. We like to emphasize staircases over elevators and to locate amenities to drive people to move around.” But whether your office is a bus ride away or just at the end of the hallway, Wilkinson is a strong believer in well-designed workspaces.

“All people respond to their physical environment in a powerful way,” he says. “It could be very hard to do productive work in a messy home or it could be hard to do creative work in a formal office environment. We need to be mindful of what enables us to get into that state of flow.”

Content originally published in The Daily Telegraph, August 22, 2015.

How  Plug 'N' Play Offices Have Impacted Design Culture
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While the tech field has undoubtedly changed the way in which we interact with our world, there is one field that has undergone a complete transformation in the last two years: the pre-built office. Eschewing the traditional blank-canvas method of leasing retail space, commercial landlords are turning to finished office spaces specifically for start-ups that would rather lease an office where set-up isn’t needed.

“They don’t want to do anything beyond installing furniture, telephones, and computers,” said Daniel Montroy, designer with Montroy Andersen DeMarco Architects. “They want their new space to be plug ‘n’ play.”

The presence of plug ‘n’ play spaces in commercial architecture is already widespread. The challenge of such spaces is that they must appeal to everyone. To satisfy whichever company may eventually settle into the space—particularly those in the “TAMI” industries: technology, advertising, media, and information services—it must incorporate ideal market positioning, technology, workplace organization, and aesthetic.

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“These projects call for much more than design abilities… The designer has to think like a leasing agent and asset manager, and suggest the most beneficial solutions to the landlord—the best use of the budget, the most promising tenant segment to the target, the upgrades that will increase rent rolls.”

With so many start-up companies embracing less traditional workspaces, creating plug ‘n’ play offices can be costly. “They all want an open collaborative workspace with a loft aesthetic,” explained Montroy. While ductwork and mechanical systems could previously be hidden under a dropped ceiling, today’s open-ceiling buildings require that architects work alongside engineers to ensure that the exposed mechanical layout meshes harmoniously with interior elements.

According to CBRE’s Laura Bruno, real estate property manager of 180 Madison Avenue, this extra cost could be good for business. “The trend of the quality pre-built is here to stay,” she said, adding that it’s become something that tenants are learning to expect. In her experience, the market is currently split 50-50 between companies looking for a blank canvas versus a finished office space, suggesting the future may lead to a more holistic design approach.

Content originally published in Interiors & Sources, June 1, 2015.

Innovant's Open Plan Office Products Now on Display at Brookfield’s Innovative DesignHive in Los Angeles

Innovant’s FORm_office Adjustable Height, FORm_AV, PRIVATE_office, and new NIGEL Desking products will be on display at DesignHive in Gensler’s innovative spec suite. 

DesignHive is a forward-thinking spec suite design project introduced by Brookfield to meet the changing needs of modern space users. Six leading Los Angeles architectural firms have designed 3,500-4,500 suites that showcase a next generation work environment. Each of the six suites are geared toward a specific industry, including creative, tech, media, financial, legal, and professional services. DesignHive not only serves as an experiential idea generator for those exploring progressive workplace solutions, but also offers immediate leasing and move-in opportunities for smaller tenants.

Gensler’s DesignHive suite is geared towards the legal industry. With the practice of law undergoing a fundamental transformation in the way work is acquired and done, the need for faster and more agile law firms has emerged. This means that the law office of the future will likely be smaller, flexible, more collaborative, and technology enabled. In order to adapt to these future needs and work styles, the key is to build flexibility into today’s legal workplace. Gensler’s DesignHive suite, furnished with Innovant’s open plan office products, exhibits the flexibility that’s needed for a smooth transition into the law office of the future.

This progressive work environment can be seen at the Wells Fargo Center-South Tower, located at 355 South Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill. For more information about Innovant or its products, please visit http://www.innovant.com.

The Convivial Workplace: What Your Office Could Look Like In 2035

In 20 years, the typical workplace may look less like “The Office” and more like your own living room.

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Today’s offices are noticeably different from a decade ago. Many companies have jettisoned corner offices and tightly packed cubicles in favor of open floor plans. At the same time, more employees are choosing to work from home. But both trends have limitations: The former has been shown to hinder workplace productivity, while the latter can stifle collaboration.

It’s up to the office of the future to fix these issues, says Steve Gale, London head of workplace strategy at M Moser Associates, a Hong Kong-based architecture firm specializing in designing and building offices for global businesses. Gale has a solution he calls the “convivial workplace,” an office that promotes social interaction between employees. When workers socialize, Gale told The Huffington Post, they begin to swap ideas and develop a greater sense of shared purpose.

“The only reason left for going in to work is to interact with other people,” said Gale, pointing out that technology gives most office workers access to the tools they need to do their job from the comfort of home. “But people need to [meet face to face] for a multitude of reasons. And that, I think, is one of the biggest issues we need to address over the next 20 years.”

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Jeanne Meister, a workplace expert and co-author of a book on corporate innovations, notes that progressive tech companies like Google and Facebook use workspaces as a way to establish a corporate identity, more than as a place to get work done. “Space needs to communicate the culture as a way to attract the right employee,” she told HuffPost, adding that flexible working conditions are a key determining factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

“At the end of the day, millennials don’t want to go to a place to do work. They are more interested in having an experience.” said Meister, who envisions a future office space that resembles a living room or even a bar.

“When you want to do the boring stuff like making phone calls, you can do that anywhere,“ Gale said. “But businesses will say, ‘Guys when you come to work, wouldn’t it be nice if you really looked forward to it? And you knew it was going to be entertaining, stimulating, engaging?’”

Experts we spoke to agreed that workplace amenities such as in-house cooks, gyms and health care will become more important than ever. But while Facebook and other companies may already provide some of these perks, few have truly adopted the full change in perspective that Meister and Gale expect to see in the coming years. 

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For example, Gale pointed out, most offices already have common areas where employees can socialize. “But it hasn’t got the ambience that’s actually truly social,” he said. “It’s a wipe-down place that’s a bit echoey. People will use it if there’s nowhere else to go, but it’s not part and parcel of your daily work routine. That’s the shift in the center of gravity to a different way of thinking and working.”

Whatever the workplace of the future turns out to be, it sounds like it’ll be an improvement. Twenty years from now, workers may reflect on the offices of 2015 as “dark satanic mills,” Gale said. “There’s no doubt about it. [They’ll say] ‘did you actually get up in the morning, commute for an hour and half, sit there and then go home again? You’re nuts!’” he added.

“Everyone wants to be open and wants to be collaborative, but when you really do the research, a lot of workers are struggling with being effective and productive in totally open workspaces,” said Meister, digging at modern-day office setups. “How do you enable collaboration without sacrificing a worker’s ability to really focus on the job at hand?”

Originally published on The Huffington Post, February 2015.

It's Time to Stop the War Against the Open Office

by Blake Zalcberg

It’s no longer fashionable to hate the cubicle. The hot new trend is to bash the open office.

It seems like every week there’s a new thinkpiece arguing that the trend towards more open- office layouts in American businesses is bad. Not just bad. Terrible. Literally, the worst thing ever.

The headlines tell the story: “The open-office trend is destroying the workplace.” “Why the open-concept office trend needs to die.” “The dark side of open offices.” “The open office trap.”

We’re told that open offices cause distractions, reduce productivity, irritate introverts and maybe even spread the flu and other germs.

Some of this criticism is grounded in genuine concerns. But at this point, it feels like a lot of these pieces are not accurately describing the ideas behind the open-office movement. Yes, there are bad examples of open offices: free-for-alls with no privacy and no protection against noise and nosy coworkers. But as someone once sort-of wrote, every unhappy office is unhappy in its own way. There are also cubicle farms where workers feel isolated, flexible workspaces with uncomfortable chairs, and even corner offices that feel cold and uninviting.

The critics are right about one thing: the open office is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every workplace. Nothing is. Every industry, every company and every department has its own needs and deserves an office design that works for it.

Consider human resources. No one thinks that the people who advise staffers on delicate personal situations should do so while sitting in a wide-open space.

At the same time, creative types working on a group project shouldn’t be tucked away in quiet rooms where they never interact with each other.

The open office works best when it involves small- to medium-sized groups of people who frequently collaborate on projects that require creative thinking.

But no office should be 100 percent open–or closed for that matter. There’s always going to be a need for a private office where business deals and personnel matters can be discussed or a conference room where a small group can hash out a new strategy or even a cafeteria table where a couple coworkers can informally trade ideas over tuna sandwiches.

The truly effective modern workplace isn’t just a mindless off-the-shelf floorplan based on whatever the hot trend of the moment is. It’s tailored to the needs of that office’s employees. With so many of today’s workers engaged in creative work, that means open offices where people can trade ideas, easily gather in spontaneous group meetings and tell at a glance which of their coworkers are available.

An open office also requires a different office style.

People who don’t want to be bothered right now should be comfortable putting on headphones without their coworkers taking offense. Companies should also create some flexible spaces where people can go when they need more privacy. And managers should accept that workers may need to sometimes goof off on the Internet to recharge their brain.

The open office isn’t for everyone. Some people may never want to work in one. Some businesses may be better with a more traditional layout. And some examples of open offices are no doubt poorly designed and implemented.

What businesses and organizations alike should consider is the idea of a modular office with versatile furniture. An office should be designed in a way that you can create a certain layout when you need it. Sometimes privacy is necessary, but there are times when having an open-office layout that fosters collaboration makes sense.

Office design isn’t an all or nothing. Under one roof a company can have some traditional offices, a few cubicles, a conference room, and some open-office space where its employees can work collaboratively. It doesn’t have to choose an open-office plan or not. It doesn’t have to decide to have a traditional office design or not.

But bashing the open office is getting a little too easy. It’s not destroying the workplace or trapping America’s workers on the dark side, and it doesn’t need to die.

Originally published on The Huffington Post, February 2015.

Employees Working In Offices With Natural Elements Report Higher Well-Being

by Karen Higginbottom

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Employees who work in environments with natural elements reported a 13% higher level of well-being and are 8% more productive overall, according to a report of 3600 workers in eight countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), commissioned by modular flooring experts Interface.

The Human Spaces report led by organizational psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper found less than ideal working conditions for EMEA employees. Two fifths of EMEA office employees have no natural light in their working environment, over half don’t have access to any greenery in their working environment and 7% of EMEA workers have no window in their workspace. Spain reported the highest number of office employees with no windows (15%), and also had the most stressed workforce. In contrast, Germany and Denmark reported the least number of workers with no windows (2% and 3% respectively), and had the happiest workforce.

With nearly two-thirds (63%) of EMEA office workers now based in either a town or city center and spending on average 34 hours per week in the office, their interaction with nature is becoming increasingly limited, the report argued. Despite city-dominated lives, the research found workers have an inherent affinity to elements that reflect nature.

The work environment has always been recognized as essential to employee well-being and performance but often purely as a ‘hygiene factor’,” remarked Cooper.  “The report clearly illustrates the connection between the impact of working environments and productivity. It’s no coincidence that the most modern employers now take a new view, designing environments to help people thrive, collaborate and be creative. Being connected to nature and the outside world, biophilic design, to give it its real name, is a big part of that.”

The research findings have implications for design in the office space, according to Mandy Leeming, design and development manager (UK) at Interface. “Contact with nature and design elements which mimic natural materials has been shown to positively impact health, performance and concentration, and reduce anxiety and stress. When it comes to creating office spaces that achieve this, it’s about taking the nuances of nature that we subconsciously respond to, such as colors and textures, and interpreting them. Ultimately improving the well-being, productivity and creativity of the workforce is key to the success of market leading organizations.”

EMEA workers listed the following top five natural elements on their wish list for their ideal office space:

  1. Natural light
  2. Quiet working space
  3. A view of the sea
  4. Live indoor plants
  5. Bright colors

Originally published on Forbes, October 21, 2014.

Workspaces that Move People

imageRecently published in the October issue of Harvard Business Review, the story, “Workspaces That Move People,“ promotes the strategic design of workplaces in order to “produce specific performance outcome[s].” The article’s authors suggest that companies analyzing performance metrics can understand how a “space’s design helps or hurts [employee] performance,” thereby gaining the following insights:

  1. Where and how you work define who you work with
  2. Who you work with drives group performance to a large extent
  3. Workspace performance metrics can now be mapped with organizational ones

With this knowledge in hand, companies are closer than ever to designing (and then continually redesigning) workspaces that actually help employees do their jobs, rather than struggle to do them. In order to gather the information needed to drive these designs and redesigns, the authors advocate for the deployment of sensors — in phones, in offices, or even worn around the neck — that collect the necessary breadth and depth of office data. With this data, employers and designers could begin understanding who should be working with whom, where, and why — a discovery that could hasten the end of the office as we know it.

By comparing the real-time data described above with such organizational metrics as "total sales or number of new product launches,” the authors argue that it is possible to “demonstrate a workspace’s effect on the bottom line.” With this connection established, companies could “engineer” their workspaces to improve overall performance.  

Though knowledge work has been confined to the office for almost a century, the article suggests that the emerging data may lead to the dispersion of organizations across cities – as with Zappos and the experimental “Downtown Project” in Las Vegas. The article also cites the “digital workspace” as a major consideration for design, given that technology hosts an ever-growing amount of knowledge work and idea-sharing.

The future of the workplace is a fluid as it is unknown. We look forward to moving with it in the directions suggested by the growing pool of performance metrics.

Outside the Box: How the Office Opened Up

imageNikil Saval’s Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, charts the rise of the modern open office plan. See a summary below.

1958: No More Walls
German brothers Wolfgang and Eberhard Schnelle come up with the Bürolandschaft (“office landscape”) concept. It replaces private offices with free-form, flexible desks, a communal break room, and a few mobile partitions.

1967: Opening Up
DuPont is the first American company to realize that a flexible office is a cheaper office. But the open plan doesn’t muffle telephone calls or typewriters, and “some crucial values for the performance of work were lost.”

1968: The First Cubicle
Robert Propst, a researcher at furniture company Herman Miller, creates the Action Office II. It has three movable, disposable walls at obtuse angles, sitting and standing desks, and pushpins to add décor.

1980s: Tiny Cubes
Workers are hemmed into cube farms, arranged in “six-packs.” By the 1990s, cubicles had shrunk as much as 50 percent; by 2006 the average size is 75 square feet. “One wonders to what extent the extravagant growth of the American bathroom  … is a reaction against the shrinking of cubicles.”

1993: Virtual Failure
Los Angeles ad agency Chiat/Day eliminates walls, desks, and cubicles. Instead, workers are handed a cell phone and laptop and told to work together in a conference room. The experiment backfires: Employees stop showing up.

2005: You’re Stuck Here
Google sets the Silicon Valley standard in Mountain View, Calif., where employees move among meeting rooms, quiet libraries, and tents. That flexibility, combined with food and amenities, discourages them from ever leaving.

2014: Office Goodbye Party
“Contingent laborers”—freelancers, temps, etc.—will soon comprise 40 percent of the workforce, according to one Intuit study. Saval says cubicles, corner offices, and white-collar jobs could shortly cease to exist.

Originally published on the Bloomberg Businessweek, July 10, 2014.

You May Want to Take a Seat (or Not)

by Scott Spector

Approximately a decade ago, the first adjustable-height desks hit the market. These “sit/stand” alternatives to traditional office seating could be manually adjusted or, with the help of an electric motor and push of a button, shifted according to a worker’s needs and preferences. They were intriguing, but costly, as they were considered specialty items.

Over the past few years, and even as recently as the last few weeks, a number of studies have come out pointing to the health detriments of sitting too much, from back and neck pain to increased risk of organ damage and circulatory issues. Experts from the National Institute of Health, Mayo Clinic and more began speaking out about the benefits of motion. Companies, in turn, are starting to listen.

How do I know? This summer alone I’ve encountered several clients who have asked about incorporating adjustable-height desks and other seating alternatives into their office design. Our firm recently completed a project where 20 percent of the office’s desks were adjustable. In addition to clients proactively approaching us, we’re also bringing adjustable-height desks up as part of the programming and workplace strategy reviews and it’s an option they are increasingly selecting. And it’s not just social media and tech firms that are buying into the trend. While not as widespread, some financial services and creative firms are embracing these alternatives and weaving them into the furniture choices they make.

As these options become more commonplace and readily available from office furniture manufacturers, they also become more cost-effective and better. Like any other technology–think of the iPhone or flat screen televisions–now that they’ve been on the market for some time, the price has gone down and the products themselves have vastly improved, thanks in part to user feedback and testing.

Solutions, however, are not limited to adjustable-height desks. There is a plethora of mobile desks on the market, which can allow the wireless worker to roll his laptop and workspace from one meeting area to the next, a model known as activity-based working. VaynerMedia, on Park Avenue South, has successfully used this option for a portion its office furniture plan. Mobile desks, hoteling and benching all allow for greater flexibility, particularly for firms whose workers travel several months out of the year for their jobs (think accountants who spend four months of the year auditing internally at a company before returning to their desks). Mobile and sit/stand desks better utilize space and square footage–a huge benefit for companies.

Whether it’s incorporating ergonomic workstations, placing stairs between two floors to encourage workers to get up, move around and interact, or other wellness measures such as spacious pantries and outdoor meeting areas for employees to get daylight and fresh air, it’s clear that healthy, flexible workplaces have made their way into the mainstream.

Originally published on the Commercial Observer, July 14, 2014.

If Sitting Is The New Smoking Is Standing The New Patch?

by Fran Ferrone

Over the past 18 months, I’ve gained almost two inches (2 inches!) in a place I don’t need to, primarily because I changed jobs. My last job consisted of ten to twelve impossibly hectic and mobile travel days per month meeting with colleagues and clients, followed by several days working virtually at home. The travel was stressful and the workdays were long, but I was compensated by more flexible hours on my days at home that allowed me to catch a mid-day Vinyasa class a few times a week. While changing jobs afforded me the chance to move from one great company to another, it was also a drastic change in my work style. Now I’m in an office Monday through Friday, and although my work is varied and stimulating, I often feel the physical and psychological effects of being tethered to my desk; and I miss that Vinyasa class.

imageIncreased Concern for Health and Wellness

I’m not alone. Ever since the Wall Street Journal’s July, 2012 article, “Sitting for More Than Three Hours a Day Cuts Life Expectancy” appeared (to be endlessly echoed by myriad media sources) it’s been clear that health and wellness has become a serious business concern. Yet compared to sustainability, which came to prominence in the mid-2000’s, and took years to produce real bottom line proof statements, compelling health and wellness statistics have quickly emerged. Insurance giant, AON, reports that for every dollar invested in wellness programs, companies can expect a $3.00 to $6.00 return. And the cost of not doing anything is even more dramatic. The Institute for Healthcare Consumerism estimates that the indirect costs relating to poor health can be 2-3X direct medical costs. As a result, health and wellness has become the latest clarion call of the office landscape. This is a big topic that would take much more space than this writing allows. To give you an idea of scale, at one end of the spectrum developers are offering more life-style amenities in new and repositioned properties. At the other end of the spectrum, sit-to-stand furniture options have taken center stage.   

Solutions to Meet a Rising Need

Bruce Wells, Director of Marketing and Development for benching and trading desk manufacturer Innovant, reports that just in the past six months, 90% of his conversations with clients have centered on sit-to-stand options. Key motivators for concerned employers are the potential health benefits of standing (or more specifically, not sitting all day) and the opportunity to give something back after transitioning employees to smaller benching applications. In providing a choice, the sit-to-stand option offers workers some control over their immediate work environment.

Because this represents a significant workplace investment, there are factors to consider before committing to the sit stand option. First, “who gets it?” Providing everyone with standing desks avoids inequality but could strain the budget. Firms struggling with this might consider supplying them to workers - like traders, call center operators and receptionists - who are less mobile during the workday. Second, a thorough cost/benefit analysis of day one vs. retrofit day two installations is recommended for anyone considering a phased approach. Other considerations include power sources, wire management and monitor arms for retrofit applications; requests for foot rests and stools (vs. chairs); potential HVAC adjustments; and user safety and office etiquette protocols. Finally, at a cost of $1000 or more per unit, sit-to-stand desks are likely to be part of a holistic solution rather than the solution itself.

image“Inconvenient Planning Strategies”

On the aforementioned spectrum between the amenities being included in new construction and sit-to-stand desks, are some planning options designers have been employing for some time to get people up and out of their seats. Called “Inconvenient Planning Strategies” by my colleague, Ricardo Nabholz, these scenarios evolved over the past decade as companies sought to increase transparency, spontaneous interaction and collaboration throughout the workplace. Conveniently, these same planning tactics also get people moving. Placing staircases in prominent locations encourages people to take the stairs; making them wide enough allows them to stop and have a chat. Dispersing support functions means people have to travel to get to copy/print rooms, pantries, cafés and bathrooms. The proliferation of laptops and wireless technologies have called traditional departmental adjacencies into question, prompting some companies to adopt an unassigned seating policy and/or provide more informal work and collaborative settings – including fixed, standing height benches - that require workers to change locations during the day. More recently, we’ve seen reports of stand-up meetings (that also save time and get people more engaged), and featured in a recent TED talk, even walking meetings.

The Choice Is Ours

Ultimately, while the workplace can indeed support healthy habits, the onus cannot be on the workplace alone. Consider that before we had email and texting, people often had to get up and go find someone to get the answers they needed. And before computers, where it’s easy to gaze and graze, it was difficult to type and eat a sandwich at the same time, so people tended to leave their stations and join colleagues for lunch. Today, it’s up to us to choose options that break our routine, even if they are less convenient. I’m reminded of childhood summers when, before central air conditioning, I spent hot days in my cool basement reading a book while my mother implored me to “put that book down and go get some sun.” Appeasing Mom, I also knew that changing it up was good for me. If Mom were here now she’d say “leave the laptop and go take a walk, think, have a conversation.” With Mom’s voice in my ear, I’ve begun to find ways to take breaks much as I did when working at home. Happily, I’ve found that not only can I still get my work done, I’ve also begun to feel more in control. I now save my Vinyansa for the weekends, but I’m delighted to say that the little changes in my work routine have started to make a dent in those 2 inches.   

Originally published in The National Real Estate Investor, July 1, 2014.

8 Secrets of the Modern Workplace

imageTaking down the cubicle walls isn’t enough anymore. Retaining talent now also requires quiet places, work-from-home-flexibility, and an eye on the bottom line, according to panelists at Bisnow’s NY Office of the Future event, held Thursday, June 12.

1) Employees Should Be as Happy as Pharrell Williams

WeWork is one of the office sector’s most innovative players, but co-founder Miguel KcKelvery says the company wasn’t founded to create futuristic office; it was founded for the here and now. The idea was to create a place for companies trying to start something new for the world, companies that could use a spark. Folks working nonstop like that, he says, need to be empowered by their workspace and feel happy when there.

2) Cult of Equality

By the end of the year, 9,000 of Credit Suisse’s 50,000 employees will be working in open workspaces, says Americas Head of Workplace Strategy Phil Kirschner. No exceptions will be made for managers at any level - if you want a corner office, you better bring a protractor and some tape.

CBRE Managing Director of Workplace Strategiy Lenny says companies spend 75% of their capital on people, so a good workplace can’t be about just efficiency; it has to consider the employees. CBRE’s own Workplace 360 program has already converted 18 of its offices, including its LA HQ, into open spaces with no assigned desks, even for the CEO. Ten years ago, Bloomberg took the bold step to put all employees on trading desks, says Global Head of Real Estate & Facilities Lauren Smith. It was a cultural strategy, she adds, not motivated by real estate.

Culture as a workplace factor is a simple concept but far from mainstream. Moderator, Macro Consultants’ Michael Glatt, did a recent change-management presentation for a 10M SF client that didn’t have an HR rep involved in the process.

3) Working from Home Is a Reality

Considering employees are required to work from anywhere at any time, remote working is a logistical necessity, says Lauren. But Bloomberg also believes it’s important for each employee to have his or her own space, a “home” to come back to. JetBlue Corporate Real Estate VP Richard Smyth says 95% of the company’s Salt Lake City call center employees work from home. The company’s LIC HQs (two-and-a-half years old) offers open, collaborative space with no exterior offices and few interior ones. For all that the company demands of its employees, giving them the ability to work from home makes sense, he notes.

4) Amenities Matter

For the young employees at Twitter, the workplace is their life, says the company’s Facilities Project Manager Rowen Ash. They don’t leave for lunch. Instead, they take their laptops somewhere else in the office to eat and work in a more social environment. For this younger generation, their coworkers are their friends, blending work life with social life. The workplace, then, is like an extension of the college dorms. Twitter takes pains to make the office a pleasant place to work and socialize.

5) Flexible Workplaces Are Long-Term Hedges

Recruitment plays a part in real estate decisions, but corporations do not know for certain what environment employees of the future will find most productive. Consider a company that signs a 10-year lease today. The entry-level employees it will be recruiting by the end of that term are in 8th grade right now. Flexibility means more than just open workspaces, Lenny says. Employees need a place to work solo when they need to concentrate. Without that option, workplace satisfaction drops. Bloomberg made the mistake of going too dense, Lauren says, with 100 SF per person. What she hears from new recruits is that they want the choice of both open and private spaces.

6) Change Is Inevitable

An office in a rectangular, steel building used to signal that a company had arrived, says Colliers Tri-State Region President Michael Cohen. Now, Sony is moving into an 80-year-old Flatiron property that was built for Rose & Rose Actuaries. He cautions that as conversions to office continue and SF per person ratios compress, landlords should be aware of their certificates of occupancy.

7) Experimentation Is the First Step

Sony is completely rethinking its workplace strategy in advance of its early 2016 relocation, says Facilities Project Manager Jennifer Fordham. That includes reducing space by half while increasing amenities and maintaining the same number of employees. GSA Planning & Design Quality Director Mina Wright, who works under tight budget scrutiny, advises those who want to try a new format should pilot-test it, even if on a small scale. Move into closer quarters, and have executives push their desks together. When the benefit is proven, it can be rolled out more broadly. Director of Workplace at Perkins+Will Rachel Casanova agrees, pointing out that design is an art, not a science. She add that designers should not be afraid to test and refine their work. Avison Young Tri-State Region President Arthur Mirante notes that most companies love turnkey office space nowadays for the blank slate it offers.

8) Neighborhood Is Key

RXR Realty’s Bill Elder says the right environment will guarantee a building is a winner, regardless of submarket. David points out that hip locations like RXR’s Starrett-Lehigh Building or others near the High Line often trump proximity to transit. Meanwhile, Philippe Visser of Related is counting on the combination of Hudson Yards’ retail (three times as much as at Time Warner Center) amid millions of SF of office to attract tenants.

Adapted from Bisnow, originally published June 16, 2014.

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  • - Exceptional products in terms of aesthetics & functionality
  • - Unique capability to tailor standard products to solve a problem
  • - Thought leadership on workplace design trends 
Part Two: Greg Lindsay on the Future of the Workplace

Earlier this summer, the marketing team attended an IIDANY Facilities Forum focused on the topic, “The Evolving Workplace: Change or Adapt?” Moderated by David Craig, Associate Principal at Cannon Design, the discussion featured insights on the evolving workplace and what this means for our industry from two workplace innovators, Greg Lindsay, Contributing Writer for Fast Company, and Bart Higgins, Director at ?What If!

Greg agreed to elaborate on some of his ideas for our blog, including explorations into what he calls “the blurring of the office and the city.” Read “Part One” of our interview here.

DH: You’ve written about Google and mentioned them at the IIDA event. Innovant has seen three global RFPs from them in the last four years, which is an extreme example of a company undergoing rapid growth at rapid speed. If you can speak to this, how do such companies deal with the chaos of space planning, workplace strategy, and establishing standards under these conditions?

GL: As a journalist, I’ve never been on the inside of such hyper-growth, so I can’t really speak to that. However, I am fascinated that the biggest cloud company in the universe is massively investing in physical space. The second Googleplex (i.e. the Bayview Campus) and London headquarters are evidence that Google values proximity.

DH: Do you think your amazement that Google is investing so much money in physical space relates to the idea of “engineering serendipity” that you’ve promoted? Are they really able to think in those terms when they’re moving so quickly?

GL: Yes, I think so. One example is Google’s “people analytics” group. The company was prescient enough to create a dedicated data analysis group to study how people in the company actually work. Eventually, most companies will follow suit in molding functions of HR and facilities management to actually manage people and space together as a single unit — or at least they should.

Another responsibility of Google’s people analytics group is to manage social interactions among Googlers. There’s a reason the Googleplex has a bee-keeping club, and it’s not to keep employees at the ‘Plex 20 hours a day, which is how such programs are typically seen from the outside. Instead, they’re trying to figure out how to mix employees in unforeseen combinations that go beyond corporate roles and politics.

I’ve seen the chronic coffee machine and water cooler metaphors come up frequently in this context. When companies try to figure out how to increase workforce cohesion or introduce people, the solution is invariably adding or moving the coffee machine around. After all this time, we seem to have no better idea for bringing people together than to leave food lying around the office kitchen, as if you were trying to attract a pack of wild animals. I’d be curious to track the people analytics group’s results, which may suggest new social modes for bringing people together.

The third example is Campus London, where Google has stacked an incubator, an accelerator, and two floors of co-working beneath a satellite office on the top floor. Google’s presence is the draw for the entrepreneurs who work there, while the appeal for Google is this hive of activity beneath them they can keep tabs on, learn from, and hire from. I think this is an interesting lesson for companies — especially considering we talk all the time about the benefits of industry clusters. Though the work clusters may not be competitive, they’re close enough to drive innovation.

DH: You also mentioned Facebook at the IIDA event, describing how Zuckerberg was very vocal in the design process with Gehry. How does Facebook measure up in the world of companies growing so quickly when they’re the ones driving the design of their workplace?

GL: I don’t think this makes Facebook much of an outlier since I imagine Google gave NBBJ a lot of input. Facebook is evolving, hiring, and adding new functions so quickly that the company believes it must be able to spawn out a whole new product group at a moment’s notice. The result is that it’s very reluctant to conform to planted physical space. Instead, they’ll just mount work surfaces on castors so they can rearrange the space as necessary. I think this is: A. Really interesting, B. It’s similar to the urban dynamic I write about, which describes why cities work so well, and C. If I were an architect it would scare the hell out of me because they’re basically saying, “You can’t figure us out. You can’t design spaces for us that morph as quickly as we need them to, so just give us a big box.”

DH: We’ve seen sit-to-stand workstations established as a standard in Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe at a rapid pace. In the US, however, that’s been lagging. Recently, Innovant has seen a surge in requests for adjustable height desks. Do you think this notion of adapting our workplaces for health and safety reasons is a real and sustainable shift, or is it just a trend?

GL: I don’t have informed opinion on this, though I would say yes. I think it’s a real trend, which is part of the larger notion of choice and the awareness that people no longer have to sit in an uncomfortable chair at an uncomfortable desk. Instead, they’re demanding a range of motions and a range of environments for work.

As Nilofer Merchant put it, “Sitting is the smoking of our generation.” I’ll be curious to see whether this achieves the status of a crusade, though it will be hard to trace its origins since there seems to be a greater acceptance of design and choice in the US. I certainly think the desire for public space and a range of motions at one’s desk are a part of a larger trend.

DH: Based on what you know about how work is changing, how do you envision the workplace of the future?

GL: The key is that it’s not just a workplace. The workplace of the future is merged intimately with the other environments around it. You’ll have environments that exist either to put your head down and work alone, or you’ll be involved in socializing; either you’re plugged into the cloud or you’re really involved in physical space with people while executing multiple work modes at once.

The workplace of the future won’t start by walking into an elevator lobby or parking your car outside a suburban office complex and going inside to sit at a desk, where there’s nothing but desks and there’s nothing but work. I imagine the street intersecting with the building, so that the moment blurs when you walk into the office out of what today would be a coffee shop, restaurant or retail complex.

The people you’re working with are not necessarily your professional colleagues. You chose that space because it’s designed for the kind of work you want to do and it houses the kind of people you need to work with (or not work with). I imagine you won’t necessarily be choosing where and how you work based on who is paying you. Instead, you’ll base your decision on a space’s relevant functions, which will blend with the city somehow.

The word I keep coming back to is permeability. We need to break open the walls of the office to allow other elements in. This will allow the office to leak out into the city and the city to leak into the office. I think the next step is to determine exactly how that looks. We’ve begun talking about multiple environments in a workplace, but when we take that further, the discussion will be about the environments of the city and vice versa.

DH: What I find most exciting about your vision is the notion of choice –

GL: Exactly! Choice, something we don’t normally associate with going to work.

DH: Right, it’s empowering to think that someday we’ll have the choice to flow throughout the office (or even out of it) in an attempt to find the right workspace.

GL: I don’t think this change will come because employers are more enlightened, which is what we’re seeing with technology companies now. Anybody who’s involved in knowledge work knows what it takes to come up with good ideas. What makes a good working environment on paper is a diversity of opinions and backgrounds, a certain environment, and a certain mental mindset to even be able to think warm thoughts and come up with good ideas. Employers are going to give you the flexibility of choice so they can better harness your work, not because they’re warm and fuzzy. They simply want the best work from you.

DH: What will it take to convince employers that giving employees the flexibility of choice will produce the best work?

GL: Everything I’ve said so far is a mix of anecdotes and hypotheses. The real question is whether we can test any of this — what new styles of work, collaboration, and organization are emerging in cities? What kind of environments will be disrupted by these shifts?  What solo- vs. group work patterns exist, how are they evolving, and how can they be mapped, understood and enhanced? How can new ways of organizing work in cities make people more creative, productive and happy? And what are the benefits of doing so— better retention rates? Higher productivity? Greater innovation? And how do we measure any of this?

I’m putting together a team of architects, data scientists and researchers to explore some of these questions. I’ll let you know when we have some answers.

Part One: Greg Lindsay on the Future of the Workplace

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Earlier this summer, the marketing team attended an IIDANY Facilities Forum focused on the topic, “The Evolving Workplace: Change or Adapt?” Moderated by David Craig, Associate Principal at Cannon Design, the discussion featured insights on the evolving workplace and what this means for our industry from two workplace innovators, Greg Lindsay, Contributing Writer for Fast Company, and Bart Higgins, Director at ?What If!

We were particularly excited to hear from Greg as we had posted his New York Times article, “Engineering Serendipity,” on our blog. This post summarized Greg’s commentary on workplace policies by the likes of Yahoo! and Google, describing how a company can boost employee creativity and productivity by engineering social interactions.

Greg agreed to elaborate on some of his ideas for our blog, including explorations into what he calls “the blurring of the office and the city.” Read on for his insights into 21st century ways of work and places for work.

Deborah Herr: Gensler’s recent survey effectively pointed the finger at open plan environments for declining workplace effectiveness. Are you noticing a looming shift away from open plan or seeing any real trends that address these complaints?

Greg Lindsay: The open plan office is never going to go away, just like the cubicle is never going to go away. But what I find most interesting is the recognition that one size does not fit all. In the ongoing quest to squeeze every good idea and every last bit of productivity out of people, we’ve realized that working at one, generic environment for 8 or 10 hours a day is ineffective. Instead, we need to physically mode switch on a moment to moment basis to glean every last bit of efficiency out of people.

DH: Speaking of these modes, have there been any suggestions about what the “right” ratio would be for these modes? Is there a certain balance of “we” and “me” spaces that we should aim for in a single workplace?

GL: That‘s the $64 billion question. You’ve highlighted the absurdity of someone, somehow publishing research with the “right” ratio based on the number of hours we collaborate. Though it probably won’t be right, we will convince ourselves that it’s right enough.

I imagine the companies that try to do this are going to end up going in two directions. Either they’re going to oversimplify it and get an office with one really intense environment and one really collaborative one. Or, they’ll have eight different work modes in a single office. In this case, the office becomes a fantasy land of different working types, which I would imagine is good for sales, but difficult for most companies to implement. This is why I’m personally more interested in work and city relationships. This would involve encouraging people to leave the office to find different work modes and in the course of that discover something new – whether it be a new idea or new people.

Ultimately, I think the larger notion of “the office” is reaching its functional limits. The struggle to come up with new ideas, push faster and move farther has exposed us to these limitations. The innovation we strive for requires face-to-face, high bandwidth communication, but we still try to do it in an environment where you see the same people day after day. These two trends are in inevitable conflict.

DH: The idea of the office reaching its limitations would alarm a lot of people in my industry. We will have to wait and see, but I can hardly imagine the day when someone may say, “You don’t need to be sitting at your desk for me to realize that you’re being productive.”

GL: Well, it’s a question of, “What is your desk?” I don’t think the desk will ever go away. Desks will be around as long as we’re typing on a device. Instead, it becomes a question of, “What is your desk that is not your desk at your employer?” I think this question will lead us to all sorts of fascinating answers – it will be a desk at someone else’s office, or a temporary desk in a co-working space. Rather than choosing between two or seven environments in one office, you might have two or three environments in your employer’s office with multiple workspaces located across the city. It will be interesting to see how this network of workspaces evolves, which is separate from the ongoing design evolution of desks and chairs.

To me, the more interesting question of what should alarm Innovant is the notion that people find the office to be so ineffective that they’re willing to take their laptops and work in sub-optimal conditions just because they can. If people are willing to shed the productivity-enhancing elements of the office in favor of choice, we are failing them somehow. Perhaps we need to balance this by designing better environments for work outside of the designated office.

DH: You’ve mentioned technology as having a significant role in the evolving workplace. This was obvious at NeoCon 2013 where a lot of big industry players focused on technology as a way to mitigate some of the problems of open plan environments. What sorts of tools or technology do you see contributing to workplace effectiveness?

GL: One longstanding problem that people are interested in solving is the need for systems that track employees down when they’ve been encouraged to wander. I’m dubious that furniture or office equipment makers will be able to design software that can iterate fast enough or function as well as the offerings from software companies.

This is why I’m interested in the potential use of social networking or GPS tracking systems to figure out who’s nearby. At some point, I imagine that as a function of employment we’ll all have an employee badge app on our phones or we’ll wear badges that contain these functions. A recent New York Times story described retailers using smartphones to track people’s movements through their stores. Eventually, we’ll do the same for the office – or we should. Once you do that, you can perform all sorts of interesting big data analysis of who’s actually working and where. I imagine that this would be the grail for a lot of companies since the org chart is the barest approximation of who’s actually working together. Once you understand what’s really going on, you can start rearranging the office in real time. It will be interesting to see how an office manager of the future might intervene on the fabric of an office to either support employees or shake things up a bit.

Please check back for “Part Two” of this interview, which will be posted next week.