While trends may come and go, it’s the evolving dynamics of how people work that are at the heart of workspace change. When we engage with clients, we start with an exploratory phase we call Siteline. We ask probing questions like: how does your physical space serve your work? What are the biggest obstacles you have in getting your work done? What do you love about your current office – what do you hate? If you dream big, what amenities are most important? In an ever-changing work environment, it’s these questions that really help drive decision-making for the future. In fact, we recently turned these questions toward our own employees in preparation for our 2020 move. What we’ve found is that there are some universal truths to creating workspaces that allow employees to innovate, collaborate, and perform at top-level, no matter their role.
Conversations around flexibility are everywhere— and for good reason. Today’s employees are looking for three-dimensional flexibility: flexibility in when they work, where they work, and how they work. Yes, part of this flexibility comes from intangible culture shifts, but it’s strongly informed by the physical space. Are employees tethered to their desks because technology doesn’t allow for movement? Or might it be that other options, like huddle spots and phone rooms, aren’t available. Having a variety of zones for work doesn’t just benefit individual performance; it allows for groups to ebb and flow into spaces appropriate for collaboration and client meetings. A single person may need to take a private phone call, work out ideas over a drawing set, meet a client, and brainstorm with a team and a whiteboard all in one day. Recognizing that today’s work doesn’t necessarily mean “person-in-seat from 9-5” is one of the mindset changes in the corporate world, and strategic design is a part of making that happen.
Study after study has proven that physical and emotional well-being are substantial contributors to overall happiness and performance. In today’s “always on” environment, employees and employers are more attuned than ever to methodologies that enhance employee well-being at work. . So, how do you introduce design decisions that are human-centric? Standing desks have become a popular –and even crucial– change for many employees already. Natural light, and access to the outdoors, goes a long way in improving focus and mental clarity. Break areas are no longer repurposed closets but attractive, active spaces where employees can lounge, stretch, or play a game.
Millennials and Gen Zers—the two generations currently flooding the workplace—don’t just care about design that’s centered on the human condition; they care about connecting with and preserving the natural environment as well. Employees want to know that leadership is thoughtful about the long-term impact of design decisions at the beginning of an office move or renovation, as well as providing sustainable solutions for daily life, like making recycling accessible and having low-impact lighting.
In today’s world, your brand is everything. It’s how you convey your mission, your purpose, and your contributions. It’s how you distill your culture. We know that, increasingly, identity –and connection- are central to core expectations of young people in the workforce. When it comes to attraction and retention, integrating your company brand into all that you do—wall graphics, office supplies, finishes—serves to instill a sense of belonging in employees. Gone are the days of corporate office buildings with cookie-cutter offices. Your space should feel distinctly you when someone walks in; whether it’s a client, a new employee, or a visitor dropping by.
And what does all that look like?
Well, it’s all informed by the above. Look for locally-crafted pieces, interiors that reassert humanity and connection with nature, recycled textiles and natural materials, and plenty of light and greenery. We’re also seeing a subtle shift away from minimalist austerity of the past decade or two, with employees looking for warmer earth tones, friendly, familiar patterns, and organic forms.
And if you’re overwhelmed by the ways trends can swing back and forth, remember: if you keep your employees at the heart of your decisions, you can’t go wrong.