The Transforming Workspace

Samantha Marinko  /   March 14, 2019

The ideal office space is an ever-evolving concept. Large, swanky offices that can double as a bar, as seen on Mad Men, are a thing of the past. Private offices with bulky desks and built-in shelves for three-ring binders are out. The corner office inevitably housing the CEO is no longer a given. The walls are coming down.

Unassigned work stations in open-concept areas are #trending. Height-adjustable desks, walls made entirely out of plants or chalkboard, ping pong tables, plug and-play lounge areas, phone booth-style rooms for private calls – the modern office is unrecognizable from offices of even just a decade ago.

The changes are not just in appearance. There’s a new mindset prevailing in modern office design—a focus not just on how a space looks and functions, but how it makes its occupants feel: the wellness factor. Today’s workspace design is about offering a holistic experience for its staff. When employees are comfortable in their environment, they’re happier – and happier employees are more productive.

Workplace design can also be a powerful tool in attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent, which has been a motivating factor in workplace investment.

Primary assumptions of open work spaces are that they spark conversations with coworkers, enhance collaboration, and promote sharing and melding of ideas. The open environment is intended to build trust among employees, and create greater team synergy and efficiency by providing easy access to higher-ups at the company.

But –What if Google got it wrong?

Are the people sitting at open work spaces really breaking out in spontaneous brainstorming sessions? Is the proximity enhancing the collaboration and sharing of ideas as it was intended?

The first thing that comes to my mind is headphones. Concentrating, even on a simple email, can sometimes be a challenge when surrounded by colleagues on phone calls or having side conversations. And if you need to talk to someone, but from across the fishbowl you see that they’re staring intently at a screen, wearing headphones (trying to look busy because everyone can see them), you may be less likely to interrupt and more apt to send a quick email.

Collaborative, open spaces have their place and their perks, but exclusively open offices with no sense of privacy or personal space may inadvertently detract from the overall comfort of employees.

Trends are just that – trends. There are some great takeaways from modern designs, but there’s no one-size-fits-all office design solution. The workplace is constantly evolving. Ultimately, companies all have their own space needs and, trendy or not, the guiding principle is to find and follow what works best for you and your employees.