Nine to Five: Looking at the Evolving Office Space

NeoCon is held every year in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and is one of the largest gatherings of workplace experts in the world. Trends that will affect the workplace in coming years are presented and outlined at the event. A commercial design show, NeoCon has been held in Chicago since 1969, with the three-day event now bringing in over 50,000 design professionals. This year’s Neocon took place last month and we were there to take it all in. Here are some of the trends we saw in workplace design that are causing office spaces to evolve.

Open Floorplans and Collaborative Workspaces

Private offices and seas of cubicles are on the way out. While older generations of workers had a strong preference towards privacy, newer entrants into the workplace prefer more collaboration and less cubicles. Desks are arranged so everyone can see and hear each other which promotes better collaboration. Workstations that seat four or more people at once are also becoming a popular way to stimulate teamwork. The new office space is all about lessening the claustrophobia of cubicles and encouraging employees to work together.

Glass Enclosed Conference Rooms

Open floorplans promote collaboration, but more verbal collaboration between workers also creates a slightly louder work environment. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes a more quiet space is required, especially for meetings either in person or over the phone or internet. Enter glass enclosed conference rooms. Glass walls help keep the feeling of the open floorplan while still creating a quiet spot when needed. Many offices are also including smaller, more sound-proof work stations within the space for small meetings or when an employee just needs a quieter space to work for a bit.

Standing Desks

It’s pretty well known by now that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t the best for you. But how do you avoid it when a lot of your day is spent at the office? Standing desks or convertible desks that can easily change height help get you off your chair for all or part of the day. As more people monitor and become conscious of their daily activity, more employees are likely to request desks that allow them to stand for periods of time. Going a step further, some companies are starting to create desks with built in treadmills or exercise bikes to really help keep you active while working. While the latter seem a bit extreme, we could foresee convertible desks soon becoming an office standard.

Open Lounge Areas

Part of the open floorplan trend is also open lounge areas. These areas can take the place of the traditional break room and can also serve as more casual meeting areas. Happy employees are more productive, so including a lounge area with games, activities, and more space to prepare food will actually help more stuff get done. Comfortable couches and chairs also give employees a place to relax while still working on laptops or tablets.

As work days get longer offices are moving towards less antiseptic designs and opting for ones with a more residential feel. Offices are looking to provide more mobility around the space, not only in the form of standing or exercise desks, but by allowing employees to work where they want within the office, and not necessarily be tied to one desk. Another part of the evolving office is the strategic integration of natural elements. All of these strategies help employees feel more comfortable, and less trapped in a cold, sterile environment.