Office design trends are changing almost as rapidly as the workforce is evolving. Perhaps the intersection of employees wanting to work from home and managers reluctant to let them, Close to Home Design, for example, strives to make the workspace feel as comfortable as home. That’s all well-and-good, but before you start putting couches in the office Don Draper style, take heed. Change will continue to come, and one-size doesn’t fit all.
Workplace design isn’t easy to get right. And when you get it wrong, the consequences can be significant. “We know people and places are an organization’s greatest assets. Yet, only 54% of office space is used and more than 37% of people are not engaged at work. If organizations can do a better job using costly real estate and engaging their people, then they’ll have a more productive team,” explains Steve Sanders, general manager of Smart + Connected at Steelcase.
Close to Home Design aims to better engage people through a home-like environment. “People are more likely to share their sparks of creativity – even if not fully formed and ready for presentation – with their colleagues in an environment where they feel relaxed and unhurried, and this in turn gives rise to collaborating on those ideas to see them from conception to reality together,” writes Jeff Pochepan for Inc.com.
For example, instead of equipping conference rooms with the traditional lacquered table and executive chairs, Pochepan suggests “a circle of comfortable couches and a flat screen TV.” We love where this is going. In fact, our very own Centro achieves this same “around-the-campfire” type discussion by placing a four-way video display in the center of the room.
That said, facilities managers should be careful to avoid transforming the entire office into a home-away-from-home.
As Sanders explains, “Already, we know the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Today’s creative problem solvers aren’t supported by sitting in the same desk, next to the same person, all day, every day. Instead, they work on cross-functional project teams, with fixed and mobile devices, and sometimes they need a meeting for individual or team privacy, while other times they need the energy and collaboration that comes from a more open environment.”
In other words, people need choice and the freedom to move from one workspace to another based on the work at hand and personal preference. Introverts, for example, can be a powerhouse of innovation — but only if they can work in solitude. Millennials work best when they can observe their colleagues. But how do you accommodate the introverted Millennial? To Sanders’ point about workspace utilization, you can’t afford to have 46% of your facilities investments wasted. Nor do you have a crystal ball to know what will work for your teams today — or tomorrow. Enter technology to save the day.
For the meeting and huddle rooms that are already equipped with camera technology, are you leveraging it to make smart workspace design decisions? Polycom’s Endpoint Utilization Reports, for example, provide valuable insight into how people are using the workspace. Facial recognition on Polycom’s cameras track not only when video conferencing is being used, but by how many people, allowing you to determine whether the space is optimized for people’s needs. For example, if you have a large meeting room, but it’s used mostly by teams of fewer than four, it may be time to split it into two, smaller huddle rooms.
Internet of Things solutions from Steelcase allow businesses to leverage big data to refine the workspace. For example, Workplace Advisor is a sensor-based system that collects workplace data, enabling facilities managers to identify changes to work patterns and make changes to the environment accordingly.
There’s definitely something to be said about creating a more comfortable workplace. As Pochepan writes, “Creativity flows when conversation is less structured or business-oriented. When laughter rings through a room, it puts people at ease and work becomes less effort and more engaging.” But going all-in on any new office design trend, including Close to Home Design, is shortsighted.
Given the changing nature of work and the workforce itself, focusing on Close to Smart Home Design allows you to make intelligent workspace decisions. Consider creating a variety of workspaces – huddle rooms, individual workstations, focus spaces and even casual hangouts – and leverage technology to track utilization, allowing workers the ability to choose to work where they are most comfortable while you acquire the intelligence needed to modify the environment as workforce composition and work styles change.