Trends in Office Spaces
presented by Colliers International | West Michigan’s Office Team
Requirements for space differ not just by organizations, not just by teams, not just by individuals, but over time for each individual. A person’s space preferences might change depending on their type of activity, project stage, time of day, week or season. - Ted Novikov
The traditional idea of the office is changing. It is changing in both how spaces are used and how they’re perceived. Offices with closed doors, segregated by department or seniority, are slowly transforming into open concept, fully collaborative environments where employees have the option of choosing the space that best suits their current workflow. The quote by Ted Novikov, fellow Medium blogger, sums up the challenge for new and old companies when thinking about spaces that cultivate the highest level of productivity from their employees.
Millennial Driven Design
This open concept, collaborative environment is driven by the next generation of working professionals and how they look at the traditional office with a new set of eyes. More colleges are tailoring their campuses toward the next generation and the preferences for what varying work environments should look like. The Mary Idema Pew Library at Grand Valley State University is a great example of what office space in 2016 will look like. As Novikov states in the quote above, “A person’s space preferences might change depending on their type of activity, project stage, time of day, week or season.” College students have recognized this and are pushing colleges to develop environments to help foster and cater towards different learning styles. Offices that want to attract young professionals in 2016 will need to understand these students have developed their learning styles around environments that let them thrive regardless of the time of day, type of work or personal preference.
According to the Department for Professional Employees, there were 81 million professionals entering the workforce in 2015. This provides a level of pressure for companies to develop spaces that will attract new talent. The idea that offices should be closed door rooms lining the perimeter of the building with the coveted “corner office” is slowly eroding as we better understand workflow and human work habits. Furniture maker and local company, Steelcase, along with many other companies, have designed furniture that can be manipulated by the user to suit any preference. This allows a company to create an open concept feel with the flexibility of allowing their employees to change their environment as they see fit. One example of this in Grand Rapids is the office of MINDSCAPE Internet Marking Services located in the Widdicomb building at 601 5th Street on the west side of Grand Rapids. MINDSCAPE’s layout offers multiple working environments ranging from sitting or standing desks, couches, an outdoor balcony and even a bar/kitchen area where employees can do their work.
Part of this adaptive trend is the idea of communal areas. This idea developed around small businesses, which may not have the funds to lease a large amount of square footage for their start up business. The Worklab by Custer, located at 99 Monroe Avenue NW in Grand Rapids, is a perfect example of this trend not only working, but also becoming popular among businesses looking to settle in the downtown area. The Worklab allows companies, or individuals, to rent spaces by the hour or pay a monthly fee that is much more economical than leasing a full suite in another building downtown. This set up provides solutions to companies that are looking for unique ways to conduct business.
An increasing number of people are spending additional hours at work in a given week. As employers provide more amenities for their employees, people are doing more than just working at the office. There’s more freedom and flexibility for one to accomplish professional goals. This means the office is becoming more like home than ever before. Part of this transition and one that will play a large part in the office trends for 2016, is the idea of bringing the outdoors inside. Fast Company’s article on the 8 Top Office Design Trends for 2016 explains the rise in this trend and the meaning behind it,
Scott Lesizza, principal at Workwell Partners a office space furniture solutions company, says nature is having a serious moment in design. Reclaimed wood panel installations, exposed concrete flooring, and incorporating natural floral patterns in fabrics and artwork are all becoming more prominent, along with plant life itself in the form of living walls, he says. “Some of our favorite pieces and projects from the last year take a page from this trend, and also go hand in hand with one of the bigger trends: bringing the home into the office,” says Lesizza. “It’s the natural, cozy feeling that a lot of these finishes and details have that will continue to make this trend a popular one throughout 2016.” - Fast Company, 8 Top Office Design Trends for 2016
This move has been prominent in Grand Rapids as several historic buildings have been rehabilitated to accommodate these trends. By rehabbing old buildings, designers are leaving the natural wood alone, bringing in new lighting solutions and allowing the original building to stand out against the modern skyline. Grand Rapids buildings like Twenty5 Ottawa, 99 Monroe and the Widdicomb Building are just a few examples of this. By bringing in the outdoors through natural light, greenery and natural wood, offices are beginning to resemble modern homes rather than traditional office work-spaces. This trend will most likely continue through 2016 and into the future.
If a building doesn’t encourage [collaboration], you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity. So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see. - Steve Jobs on Pixar’s campus design
Collaboration is essential for any office environment. Team members work together for the greater good of the company, but are now operating from a better understanding of what can help foster collaboration and maximize teamwork. Open concept designs provide the option to work together and tear down walls that might have prevented someone asking another for help or input.
Moving forward, if a company wants to empower their employees, they need to understand that people work best in contrasting environments. Providing the necessary tools to do their job to the best of their abilities is a great step for any company looking to attract, or retain, young talent. More companies will look at their offices differently as the next generation drives these trends forward. Collaboration and communication are crucial parts of the machine that is your business, and your office environment should reflect these values while encouraging employees to do their best work.