From SoCal Real Estate’s October 2018 issue:
What’s after creative office, benching, free address, and cool amenities?
By Carrie Rossenfeld
The creative-office movement has been evolving for the better part of the last decade. After the Great Recession, office users reevaluated their use of space and their business goals, realizing they had to go “lean and mean.” They were also ushering in a new generation to the workforce — millennials — who wanted to work quite differently from their predecessors: more collaboratively, less confined. The office revolution had begun.
Since then, we’ve seen open floor plans, benching, free address, and amenities like gyms, kitchens, and outdoor bocce-ball courts. So, SoCal Real Estate asked experienced designers from Orange County–based architecture and design firms H. Hendy Associates and Ware Malcomb the question: What’s next for office design?
“Corporate offices today revolve around employees and their experiences interacting with the workplace,” Jennifer Walton, principal and project director for H. Hendy Associates, tells us. “Gone are the days when it was just about the physical space. Now it’s about how the space makes employees feel, if it inspires them and how it supports their productivity, well-being, and overall satisfaction. The workplace is a strategic tool that helps businesses attract and retain talent, so companies are investing in office design more than ever before.”
Expect to see design trends that will enhance the employee experience, Walton says. These include untethered employees; Open Office 2.0, which involves tailored open workspaces and smaller, closed workspaces that balance form and function; and custom spaces to meet employee needs. Examples of the latter include focus rooms and library rooms designed with acoustics and lighting that enable employees to concentrate. “We’re also seeing more requests for integrating both small and large collaborative workspaces, such as high-top tables, booths, couches, and adjustable conference rooms,” Walton says.
Millennials don’t have a need for ownership when it comes to cars or homes, and the same goes for workspaces, she points out. “As the need for ownership diminishes, the concept of ‘office-on-demand’ is on the rise. We’re also starting to see more rooms designed for easy reconfiguration.”
By simply altering the furniture, an unassigned space can become a stand-up meeting room, an office-on-demand, or a conference room, Walton notes. “As a result, everyone can do a lot more within a smaller footprint.”
Mary Cheval, director, interior architecture & design for Ware Malcomb, says the trend toward decreasing square footage per person in the interior workplace has led to more areas dedicated to group activities and information sharing rather than individual, assigned space. “Since different tasks require varying space, acoustic, and location needs, and work preferences differ greatly from one employee to the next, flexibility is key,” she says. “Designing an office to allow flexibility and choice in work accommodations is one way to ensure employees remain engaged and perform at their highest level.”
Enhancing the connection between an indoor/outdoor workplace is the next evolution of office design, according to Jinger Tapia, principal, design, for Ware Malcomb. “In the past few years, amenities have focused on social interactions such as firepits, kegerators, and games, including pingpong and bean-bag toss. The next focus is to enhance the feasibility of work outside of the office building.”
Tapia says this involves more than just designing the space; thoughtful consideration must be taken to increase the effectiveness and viability of exterior amenities. “Elements like sun, glare, wind, Wi-Fi, and electricity need to be controlled to enable effective work outside.”
One size does not fit all when it comes to amenity design, Tapia points out. “Increasingly, landlords and property owners are inquiring about the utilization rates of these features. We can design the spaces, but the strategy needs to be carried out in concert with the landlords and property managers to ensure utilization. Creating activity programs is a way to promote and encourage use of the amenity spaces, which increases adoption rates.”
Coming down the pike, Walton says she believes there will be some big breakthroughs on the wellness side for offices. “New technologies are providing us with a better understanding of how our bodies react to our environment. I see the influence of this information as twofold: Employees will demand more healthful workspaces, and employers will look to health-promoting office design that supports wellness while increasing productivity.”
Another factor to consider is the recent modification to the WELL Building Standard, which added a category specific to office acoustics, Walton says. The new category, “Sound,” requires businesses to practice strategic interior planning and site zoning to mask the internal and external noise sources that negatively affect a building’s occupants.
The fitness standard has also been modified to include “movement,” which places a stronger emphasis on getting employees to move throughout the workspace rather than solely encouraging workouts, Walton says. “Companies are now making it easier for employees to be physically active while working by initiating walking meetings, implementing stand-up conference rooms, and creating spaces that allow for more movement.”
Tapia says the well-being of occupants and visitors increases employee satisfaction, retention, and tenant-leasing potential. “Incorporating elements like community gardens into the design not only provides food but can create a self-sustaining campus. These elements also provide an opportunity for tenant engagement with the property, creating an authentic, humancentric environment. The demand for photovoltaic systems and self-generating power technologies is increasing, creating a possibility for energy independence.”
Cheval points out that health and well-being are significant drivers for the younger generations, especially the next group to enter the workforce: Generation Z. “The workplace should be designed to optimize employee wellness. Healthy workplace strategies consider air and water quality, daylight, and acoustic comfort and encourage physical activity and access to nutrient-rich food.”
Speaking of Generation Z, members of this group are more like their parents than Generation Y is, and they have different work-style preferences than millennials do, Walton says. “While millennials prefer more collaborative workspaces, Generation Z seeks more privacy. When the millennials enter a room, they put their chairs in a circle; Generation Z keeps theirs lined up in rows.”
While Generation Z may have grown up multitasking, this demographic wants focus rooms for more productivity, Walton adds, which is likely to bring more enclosed office spaces back into the workplace. “When more of [Generation Z] enter the workforce, we’ll see a rise in quiet zones and areas designated for no interruption. If someone is working in a quiet zone, others will immediately know not to disturb them.”
Tapia foresees the rise of ride-sharing services, self-driving cars, and advances in sustainable design practices that will affect the future of office design. “The increase in ride-sharing services and the technology behind self-driving cars are influencing master-plan and office-renovation design direction. Considerations for the future flexibility of parking structures include queuing length, pickup/drop-off locations for ride-share services, and designated areas for on-demand delivery services.”
In addition, building exteriors are also changing. “Smart buildings outfitted with innovative building materials are growing in popularity,” Tapia says. “Incorporating materials with the ability to adapt to weather conditions and other environmental influencers is one way the sector continues to evolve. The foundation of exterior office design has not changed much, but how we dress the structure has. The skin of the building is where the innovation lies.”
For example, technology is being infused into curtain walls, glass, and integrated wall systems, and Tapia says these elements are advancing office design by allowing building skins to breathe and adapt to the environment. “Glass windows with automatically adjusting tints adapt to the geographic location of the office and the particular weather on a given day. Regardless of the climate, the desire to be connected with nature is imminent. Bringing the outside in, or the inside out, will remain a focus of office design.”