In the late 1960’s, Herman Miller, an American manufacturer of office furniture and equipment, spawned the idea of office cubicles. The cubicle’s popularity was sustained until about 10 years ago, when companies began to notice that the way in which people worked was changing; people were collaborating in small teams as well as relying on portable electronic devices that do not require that they be “tethered” to a fixed workspace.
Before the recession hit, businesses were embracing ideas to create a more collaborative office space. But to weather the recession, many tenants signed short-term lease extensions to preserve capital. Now that business confidence is being restored, we’re seeing companies move forward with these plans for new workspace which is resulting in leasing less, but more effective space. In implementing these new collaborative workspaces, many tenants frequently relocate to minimize disruption to their business.
According to Carrie Hahn of IA Interior Architects, these new workspace strategies include:
- We are seeing a reduction in square footage per person, individual workspace is getting smaller and smaller, private offices are being eliminated altogether. However, there are certain industries like the legal profession where executives are and will probably remain in offices.
- Maximizing natural light and visibility to both the outdoors as well as between staff by eliminating private offices or pushing them to the interior and lowering workstation panels. The requirement for complete privacy has started to diminish, clear glass office and conference fronts are more welcomed.
- As the individual work space shrinks and the open office continues to become more open there is a need for a larger variety of enclosed meeting spaces for smaller group collaboration. While openness and collaboration has been welcomed into the workplace, there is still the need for privacy and spaces where you can go and focus alone or in a small group. Individual phone rooms and smaller focus or huddle rooms with a variety of seating are being used more than the larger, formally designed conference rooms.
- Companies are reevaluating and modifying their workplace strategies. One method of testing how often the staff is in their individual workspace versus a conference setting (and which type of conference setting) is to install electronic sensors under chairs and monitor activity over a period of time.
- Accommodating staff accustomed to working wirelessly, the office space trend includes casual settings to plug-in and focus on “heads-down” work in an open environment. Integrating the “coffee shop” idea; a large space with a multitude of seating options for one person or a group to interact. Working in a silo is no longer required to get the job done.
- Incorporating residential elements into the design like community bars/ islands to meet, warmer materials like wood in flooring and ceiling solutions, graphic wall textiles, luxurious upholsteries and centralizing the spaces for interaction as the hearth does for the home.
An April 2, 2013 Wall Street Journal article (“Say Goodbye to the Office Cubicle” by Ben Kensling & James R. Hagerty) chronicles the demise of the cubicle and gives us an idea of the future of office space. Note to view this article, you may need to be a WSJ subscriber.