Over the last ten years, we have seen a major shift in the office interiors industry.
The "open office trend" has significantly reduced the spaces where teams work. Individual workstations or cubicles that once were built with 62 to 66-inch high panels and included approximately 250 SF per person, are now low-to-no divider spaces with a much smaller footprint 150 to 175 square feet per person.
In the extreme, some companies have gone to "benching," where the workstation has literally become a 5-foot table connected to a benching system that distributes power and data to the users. In the last couple of years, however, we have seen a compromise shift to a 6-by-6 foot or 6-by-8-foot workstation, with 54-inch high or lower panels, often with glass. This produces a reduced foot print of about 175 square feet per person, yet still allows for personalization and permits natural light to permeate into the facility. This type of workspace design also opens lines of communication and promotes collaboration between teams.
Another undeniable trend is that many companies are providing a sit-to-stand solution for their workforce. This allows team members to raise and lower their desks throughout the day, as they are working, to encourage movement. Wellness and well-being are top of mind, as new research continues to show the cost-saving and productivity-inducing benefits of a healthy workforce.
We have seen a renewed focus on the office chair, where many companies are directing a higher percentage of their spend to higher quality, ergonomic task chairs. We believe this is due to a heightened awareness that the task chair has a significant impact on productivity.
We are also seeing private offices being moved off window lines, to the interiors of offices. These offices are becoming smaller and some companies have even moved leadership into workstations sitting next to or with their teams versus occupying a private office. Free-addressing or "agile workforce:" a trend where there are no assigned stations or offices, but employees find an open place to work when they arrive each morning, is also being implemented by some organizations. This style compliments the mobile workforce for people who do not come to the office every day.
Collaborative spaces, small huddle spaces and meeting areas are being integrated into the workspace in an attempt to foster teamwork and collaboration. This goal is also aided by the wide variety of new workspace technologies, which were never previously available.
With the increase of huddle spaces, we are seeing a need for simplified technology to allow small teams to use technology to open the collaborative format. Easy to use video conferencing tools, to allow mobile workers to be part of the process and the team, are also in high demand.
Wellness and "Happy Spaces" are becoming the hot topic of the office today, as is workplace culture and millennial attraction. The "destination workplace" aims to create an atmosphere and space that people look forward to coming to. Fun spaces are growing in size, with pool tables, fitness rooms, vended natural foods and outdoor furniture encourage a variety of areas in which an employee can break up their day, while encouraging the return to productivity a few steps away.
As the millennial generation grows up and starts to have children, it will be interesting to see if some of these modern office trends will still be attractive to them. Live/work/play is a millennial mindset that has a lot to do with the migration of this younger workforce into urban areas.
To me, these new office interior trends remind me very much of college campuses, with a thoughtful combination of open meeting areas, private areas to work, food and social areas and internal branding designed to motivate, promote and inspire school culture.
Companies that foster and promote work cultures with high levels of pride and motivation will find they have a powerful tool for growth and success.
The 2018 focus on "open" office environments is the result of a race to attract talent (particularly the millennial generation) to the workforce. Workplace culture, change management and scalability are the driving forces behind many workspace decisions.
• George Pfeiffer is the CEO of BOS Holdings, a 100 percent employee owned ESOP consortium of American businesses focusing on commercial office interiors. From new, used and remanufactured office furniture, to professional services such as space planning, design, technology integration, digital environments and project management, BOS Holdings collectively offers complete and effective workspace solutions. Learn more at bos-holdings.com.