Office designs continue to evolve

While the economy turns downward, workers’ needs and expectations often move in the opposite direction. Reconciling the two is a challenge, one requiring outside-the-box thinking as well as careful and creative inside-the-cube planning. 

It is most important to ensure a work environment where creativity and productivity are maximized. Smart office design is critically important to achieving this. As technology has evolved and helped shape working styles, successful business owners have taken the needed steps so the office environment keeps pace by accommodating technological trends, encouraging creativity, open communication and efficiency on the job.


Stepping forward

Consider how far office design has come in the past few decades. Older workers will be able to recall when cutting-edge office space meant a big open white or grey room with typewriters and corded black phones scattered on rows of desks – not to mention wafts of cigarette smoke and Musak playing in the background. With this manufacturing mentality, attention was placed on processes and a smoothly operating assembly line.

As our focus shifted from manufacturing to a service-driven economy, more attention was paid to the office space.

In the 1980s, offices offered a highly territorial and formally structured work environment that emphasized individualism in the workplace. Although employees still worked together to complete common goals, the design of tall cubicles not only isolated employees, but prevented them from working more collaboratively as a team. As managers began realizing the value of open communication, dividing walls began coming down in the workplace.

And as technological advancements brought more cords and noise, office and design managers saw the need to organize equipment as it was becoming more compacted and adaptable. Filing drawers and cabinets were being transformed to computer data storage systems, while telecommunications began operating across a network of locations.

Before we knew it, offices and their employees were depending upon virtual communication methods: email, the Internet, file-sharing, wireless networking and cell phones on a daily basis.

Today’s design influences

Not only does today’s office design and equipment function as a vehicle for worker productivity, it also addresses the needs of workers according to their demographics, the corporate philosophy and brand, as well as the business model of the organization.

Before a company decides to undergo an office renovation, it needs to analyze its overall brand message and culture and translate that into an office design. Designers and architects need to not only analyze what the company’s identity is at the present time, but also examine the company’s goals and what the company plans to become in the future.

It is important to remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to office design, and that whatever aesthetics are chosen, the bottom line of design is to enhance employee morale, foster creativity and increase worker productivity.

The design of today’s workplace should accommodate three generations of workers – baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. Office managers must realize that different generations bring different work styles and expectations to the workplace.

While boomers value privacy, Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers value social interaction, work-life balance and mobile communication.

The younger generations also want communal areas, amenities and technology in their work environments. As offices are accommodating multiple generations of workers, trends in the environment have become more self-dependent and less managed since offices are becoming more focused on connectivity and the ability of workers to telecommute and work out of the office.


Office design of the future

As in the past, tomorrow’s office design will continue to focus on worker productivity.  Furthermore, there is no doubt that technology and sustainable designed products that are friendly to the environment will drive what the future workspace will be.  

The latest technological advances have included virtual connectivity, flat-screen displays, virtual/3-D meeting spaces, smaller input devices and video-conferencing abilities where people can interact from afar as if they were in the same place.

Successful furniture designers and architects will continue to think creatively about how to reduce clutter while addressing storage, personal interaction and the incorporation of technology. Multiple spaces for multiple kinds of work will be created: private spaces, teaming spaces, a variety of conference rooms, informal and “water cooler gathering spaces and spaces to get creative juices flowing.


The bottom line

Both aesthetically and ergonomically, effective office design increases worker productivity, creativity and attitude. Not only should the environment that employers provide represent a company’s business model and brand, it should also encourage employees to feel comfortable. Because when employees are comfortable in their work environment, they are more efficient in their tasks, which result in a larger overall return on investment from a company’s greatest resource – its people. 

 

Better design

According to a U.S. workplace survey, 90 percent of office workers believe that better design leads to better overall performance. Respondents said that, on average, they could increase their work output by 21 percent if their office equipment was better designed. In addition, 48 percent said they would work more hours if they could work in a favorable environment. Factors that adversely affected worker productivity included frequent interruptions (47 percent), lack of space (42 percent), noise (35 percent), and cheap and uncomfortable work stations (32 percent). Other factors that can affect productivity are lighting, temperature, air quality and spatial arrangements.

 

While the economy turns downward, workers’ needs and expectations often move in the opposite direction. Reconciling the two is a challenge, one requiring outside-the-box thinking as well as careful and creative inside-the-cube planning. 

It is most important to ensure a work environment where creativity and productivity are maximized. Smart office design is critically important to achieving this. As technology has evolved and helped shape working styles, successful business owners have taken the needed steps so the office environment keeps pace by accommodating technological trends, encouraging creativity, open communication and efficiency on the job.


Stepping forward

Consider how far office design has come in the past few decades. Older workers will be able to recall when cutting-edge office space meant a big open white or grey room with typewriters and corded black phones scattered on rows of desks – not to mention wafts of cigarette smoke and Musak playing in the background. With this manufacturing mentality, attention was placed on processes and a smoothly operating assembly line.

As our focus shifted from manufacturing to a service-driven economy, more attention was paid to the office space.

In the 1980s, offices offered a highly territorial and formally structured work environment that emphasized individualism in the workplace. Although employees still worked together to complete common goals, the design of tall cubicles not only isolated employees, but prevented them from working more collaboratively as a team. As managers began realizing the value of open communication, dividing walls began coming down in the workplace.

And as technological advancements brought more cords and noise, office and design managers saw the need to organize equipment as it was becoming more compacted and adaptable. Filing drawers and cabinets were being transformed to computer data storage systems, while telecommunications began operating across a network of locations.

Before we knew it, offices and their employees were depending upon virtual communication methods: email, the Internet, file-sharing, wireless networking and cell phones on a daily basis.

Today’s design influences

Not only does today’s office design and equipment function as a vehicle for worker productivity, it also addresses the needs of workers according to their demographics, the corporate philosophy and brand, as well as the business model of the organization.

Before a company decides to undergo an office renovation, it needs to analyze its overall brand message and culture and translate that into an office design. Designers and architects need to not only analyze what the company’s identity is at the present time, but also examine the company’s goals and what the company plans to become in the future.

It is important to remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to office design, and that whatever aesthetics are chosen, the bottom line of design is to enhance employee morale, foster creativity and increase worker productivity.

The design of today’s workplace should accommodate three generations of workers – baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. Office managers must realize that different generations bring different work styles and expectations to the workplace.

While boomers value privacy, Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers value social interaction, work-life balance and mobile communication.

The younger generations also want communal areas, amenities and technology in their work environments. As offices are accommodating multiple generations of workers, trends in the environment have become more self-dependent and less managed since offices are becoming more focused on connectivity and the ability of workers to telecommute and work out of the office.


Office design of the future

As in the past, tomorrow’s office design will continue to focus on worker productivity.  Furthermore, there is no doubt that technology and sustainable designed products that are friendly to the environment will drive what the future workspace will be.  

The latest technological advances have included virtual connectivity, flat-screen displays, virtual/3-D meeting spaces, smaller input devices and video-conferencing abilities where people can interact from afar as if they were in the same place.

Successful furniture designers and architects will continue to think creatively about how to reduce clutter while addressing storage, personal interaction and the incorporation of technology. Multiple spaces for multiple kinds of work will be created: private spaces, teaming spaces, a variety of conference rooms, informal and “water cooler gathering spaces and spaces to get creative juices flowing.


The bottom line

Both aesthetically and ergonomically, effective office design increases worker productivity, creativity and attitude. Not only should the environment that employers provide represent a company’s business model and brand, it should also encourage employees to feel comfortable. Because when employees are comfortable in their work environment, they are more efficient in their tasks, which result in a larger overall return on investment from a company’s greatest resource – its people. 

 

Better design

According to a U.S. workplace survey, 90 percent of office workers believe that better design leads to better overall performance. Respondents said that, on average, they could increase their work output by 21 percent if their office equipment was better designed. In addition, 48 percent said they would work more hours if they could work in a favorable environment. Factors that adversely affected worker productivity included frequent interruptions (47 percent), lack of space (42 percent), noise (35 percent), and cheap and uncomfortable work stations (32 percent). Other factors that can affect productivity are lighting, temperature, air quality and spatial arrangements.

 

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