How The Workspace Is Changing

Five years ago, the business world was shouting about Google’s new workspace plans: open offices create a cohesive office culture! Shared workspaces encourage collaboration! Quirky perks (like espresso bars and climbing walls) inspire camaraderie! It only took a few years before the corporate world’s disillusionment was reflected in headlines like Why Open Offices Are Bad For Us, Google Got It Wrong, and The Open-Office Concept Is Dead. Does this mean a return to business-space as usual: cubicles, offices, and meeting rooms?

Create different workspace environments.

Open offices with rows of tables or desks in a large room have proven too distracting for many employees. But the idea behind open offices—the collaborative workspace—does work when combined with other types of spaces. “In any office, having a variety of workspaces that are suited to different work styles and tasks is the key to ensuring that every employee can do his or her best work,” says Meg Bennett-O’Neil, a design manager at office furniture retailer Steelcase. Studies back up her opinion: Employees want spaces where they can collaborate, where they can work solo, where they can relax, and where they can socialize.

Speaking of socialization, Google’s idea of designing for “casual collisions” does seem to enhance innovation. The concept works like this: rather than keeping teams (and management levels) separate, space is designed so that employees interact with others they typically wouldn’t see, thus creating unforeseen conversations and new ideas. Some office designers accomplish by including a central hub space with offices gathered around it, but architect Gordon Beckman of John Portman & Associates suggests considering other approaches: “The core could be at one side, while the office space that we work in could be narrower, and we get that opportunity for natural daylight and ventilation.”

Choose your location carefully.

Beckman also notes that employees (especially millennials) are embracing the new urbanism and that they particularly value walkable neighborhoods. “That’s all in reaction to how many of us grew up from the suburbs where the city was a place that you had to go to, but you didn’t really want to go to,” he says. “Now it’s a place where everybody wants to go so they can get rid of these wheels that have to push them all over the place and they can actually enjoy life.” 

Make room for high-tech.

Though technology isn’t design, it does influence it, especially regarding flexibility. No longer tied to desktop computers, employees can take their work anywhere—and they want to. It’s one reason that personal space in office design has shrunk.

…And low-tech.

Natural light, green plants, and certain colors have all been shown to boost creativity and mood (Google carefully analyzes colors for each type of space). Another valuable (but not costly) low-tech amenity: art. When CanvasPop surveyed professionals on LinkedIn, 77% said art made them happier, 74% said it inspired them, and 27% believed that pleasing décor improved their productivity.

And don’t forget the snacks.

No place in Google’s New York office is more than 150 feet from food. People tend to gather (and exchange ideas) around food, plus there’s the extra benefit of keeping employees happy.

Keeping people happy—everyone knows that’s the best way to recruit and retain good employees. A well-designed workspace can go a long way toward creating a corporate culture that entices top talent to your company and keeps them there. At Whitebox, we’ve been helping businesses create workspaces for years. We see which ideas are successful long-term. We learn from pioneers like Google and teach our clients about the best ideas. We help make your workspace work for you and your employees. If you’re looking for commercial real estate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we’d love to assist you. Call us today.

 

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