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The Evolution of People-First Office Design
Over the last two decades, companies have begun to prioritize employee health over space-first office settings. This is particularly true as millennials continue to enter the workplace and the first Gen Zers begin to join them. These generations prioritize socially conscious companies that care about their employees, which means offices are evolving.
As offices continue to change, it’s important to note how companies are prioritizing people-first design. These concepts are focused on creating a space where employees can thrive. These employees will be more likely to engage with their coworkers and have increased productivity, both of which will benefit the company itself.
Cubicle: The Desk Invention that Changed Offices Forever
When cubicles were developed in the 1960s but weren’t widely accepted until modifications came in the 1970s. Manufacturers found ways to decrease cost and increase use, making it the go-to for many corporations. Cubicles also accommodated change as personal computers became more popular in the workplace in the 1980s.
The 1990s saw the initial open-concept offices in an attempt to increase collaboration among employees. Open offices were billed as the collaboration tool of the future, though some claimed it made employees less productive because of increased distractions.
This trend continues today, but in the 1990s employees were still largely kept to their desks by power cords and ethernet cables.
Laptops and Wi-Fi helped free employees from their desk’s restriction in the 2000s. During this time open offices continued to proliferate throughout corporate America, and we saw the first inklings of employee-first office design. These concepts were seen largely in the tech industry, matching their desire for innovation in both product and office.
Even though the trend seems to be dying, many companies are still using cubicles. These offices can make it more difficult for teams to collaborate due to the size and makeup of these desk spaces.
Some companies are making up for it with enhanced conference rooms and smaller meeting rooms, but this does not totally make up for the lost collaboration at the desk itself. Employees need space to brainstorm and collaborate, because your company’s success depends on it. Enhanced collaboration breeds innovation, which is something every company needs.
Millennials Changed Office Design
In the 2010s, millennials began entering the workforce to replace many retiring baby boomers. This evolution started the employee-focused office. These work spaces were filled with fully stocked break rooms, couches, and the infamous startup bean bag chairs.
We’re beginning to see another shift as we move towards 2020. Companies need to make smart use of their office and provide efficient space for each employee, but they also want to maintain the employee-friendly atmosphere.
Employee-friendly offices focus on three tenets: happiness, health, and productivity. When these are combined, you can create a workspace that meets your needs while also serving your employees.
Employee happiness is largely matched with job satisfaction and fulfillment, but the office does contribute to how they enjoy being at work. An ergonomic workstation is key to employee health, and it will also support increased productivity. It’s essential that employees have a desk that helps them complete each task.
Activity is Paramount
As the time spent sitting continued to increase (with overall activity levels decreasing), scientists were finding the correlation between this change and diabetes and weight gain. (Among other health concerns.) Low activity levels may seem like an impossible problem to fix from an employer’s perspective, but there are ways to encourage your employees to move more.
Increasing activity with sit/stand desks offer employees a better way to work and is customizable to their needs and wants. They can work with an ergonomically positioned desk when sitting and take standing breaks throughout the day because the desk repositions to their ideal standing height.
Collaborative Ergonomics in Modern Offices
As more companies continue to develop modern offices, it’s important to realize the key component of quality office space: Collaborative Ergonomics. Collaborative Ergonomics focuses on developing a new way to work that’s functional, practical, and health-conscious. This blend of science and art creates a work environment that’s ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing.
By taking each client’s unique needs into consideration, we can create a solution that works for the company, the employees (and their specific daily tasks), and the space.
Furniture will adapt to the company based on budget. Custom solutions are ideal. And our WeDesk product line of office furniture incorporates a best-of selection of custom solutions developed over decades to essentially get you a customized solution at off-the shelf-pricing.
Furniture should adapt to the employee, not the other way around. The diversity of the workforce requires a flexible situation so employees don’t have to make an ill-fitting desk work for them.
Furniture should enhance your space, from complimenting architecture to matching décor. When done well, you can maximize the workable space while creating an aesthetically pleasing office. This belief focuses on a spirit of collaboration by designing spaces that make it easy to talk with a team member, instead of employees struggling to find a space where they can work.
Collaborative Ergonomics places you in a “cockpit of efficiency where everything you need is within easy reach just a chair swivel – or if your standing, just a pirouette – away. This means that you can easily move from one task to another while still working ergonomically.
Designing an Office in Four Ways
There are four primary reasons companies need to design their offices:
Expanding your office with Collaborative Ergonomics offers an opportunity to prepare for future growth. This includes how desk clusters will evolve as you hire more employees. Another benefit of expanding your office is providing more space for teams who need it, like designers and engineers that work with multiple screens.
Densifying your office often occurs during periods of growth, when you need to fit a larger team in the same size office. Collaborative Ergonomics reduces wasted office space, ensuring your team has the most efficient workstation possible while increasing the amount of usable workspace for each team member. Our WeDesk line is built to cluster, creating an efficient open office that helps everyone do their job individually and collaboratively.
Contracting your office occurs when you downsize and need a space that can fit your team efficiently. This is particularly important, because a crowded office can affect employee morale and thus their productivity. Oftentimes, the best ideas come from constrictions, and space is one of them. By using limitations to your advantage, you can build a space that fits your needs.
Beautifying your office takes the typical steps of paint and décor to another level. The right office furniture can help add to your office’s aesthetic and create a space your entire team will enjoy. This is often used in conjunction with expanding into a new office so a company can create a cohesive appearance for clients from the start.
People-first office design isn’t complicated. As we continue to move away from traditional cubicles and into offices built for the employees, we’ll be supporting the choice to focus on the team rather than the building. Focusing on creating ergonomic workstations that enhance collaboration ensures you can create a space that helps create healthy, happy, and more productive employees.
The Evolution of New Office Space
Ready to learn more? Download your free case study showing how a San Francisco/Berkeley law firm became an open office. We’ll begin at the concept stage, followed by the initial designs and finalizing the plan. We’ll look at how the furniture was built, as well as pictures of the desks and chairs in their new space. Get your copy here.Topics: Open Office