Workplace Transformation

POINT OF VIEW: Workplace Transformation

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Douglas Gfeller for a discussion on his radio show, The Coaching Perspective. “Workplace Transformation” was the topic and we talked about how the design of workplaces, aka “the office”, has evolved over the years. While there is still a focus on cost of real estate and bottom line issues, employers are increasingly interested on the needs of their employees in competitive markets for talent. And what workers need isn’t necessarily more space. In today’s work environments, it’s more often different kinds of space—places that support busy, productive individuals.

I shared with Doug five trends that we see shaping the workplace right now:
1. Flexibility
2. Professional Development
3. Sense of Community
4. Culture
5. Wellness

We see the demand for flexibility at both micro and macro scale workplace design. At individual workstations, sit/stand desks provide a range of work positions that help keep the employee comfortable and focused throughout the day. Different layout options provide workers with a variety of spaces to accomplish different tasks—from private to open offices, multiple meeting rooms, quiet nooks, and even coffee bars for serendipitous discussions. The adoption of universal floor plans repeated on multiple floors allow teams to relocate and regroup with a minimum of adjustment.

Companies routinely spend nine to twelve months training new employees. This substantial investment in professional development only makes business sense when the firm can retain the employee. On the other hand, the worker with in-demand skills will seek the work environment that best supports their career goals and that includes the workplace setting. Does it provide the space for quiet heads-down focus and collaboration space? Training rooms for on-going education? The latest technology?

There are now four generations in the workforce: boomers, gen Xers, millennials and the first of gen Z. While different demographic cohort’s workstyles may vary widely, all of them share a desire to belong to the larger enterprise. The design of the workplace has the power to reinforce this sense of community in both subtle and obvious ways. From formal collaboration spaces to circulation patterns that encourage informal interactions, the work environment can be a tool for building community which, in turn, builds commitment and engagement—critical components of success.

While the desire for community may be universal, every firm culture is unique. Here again, the design of the workplace can play a central role in nourishing the cultural qualities that give strength and identity to an organization. Environmental graphics programs may tell the story of the history of the firm or celebrate their products or services. The interior design should reflect the spirit of the organization, whether it’s an organizationally staid and traditional culture with a larger share of private offices and wood paneling, or a more hip, creative, open, and colorful environment that invites innovation and individuality.

Bottom line: healthy workers are more productive. From food to fitness centers, organizations are paying greater attention to those aspects of the workplace that contribute to the health of their employees. Environmental features including good air quality, lighting and sound controls provide a healthy infrastructure, while amenities such as food service and snack stations with high quality fare, walking/running paths and employee gyms help to promote healthy choices.

In sum, executives increasingly view the workplace as an important part of a competitive organization, where workers are healthy, happy, and have the right environment not just to do their jobs, but to excel.

Ray Irmer
Senior Associate
Director of Interior Architecture