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With many of us spending so much time at work, Office Design is changing. Office Design is beginning to look more like our homes. This article takes a look at how Office Design is changing.

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By Dean Molz, VP of Business Development, COFCO

Office DesignWe have seen a tremendous evolution in Office Design in the last 35 years. The freestanding “tank” desk with a typewriter stand was the standard at one point. In came the “cubicle” – a modular wall that provided privacy, and data connectivity. We’ve since seen the cubicle “farm” go by the wayside in favor of open office space. Corner Offices – well moved out of the corner, and the completely “open plan” with non-assigned seats came in vogue. Am I showing my age??

All interesting concepts, with a lot of buzz words.

So, what’s next? According to Jeff Pochepan of StrongProject, Inc., there’s no place like home – unless your office can recreate it. This is an interesting trend, of which you will see signs of at COFCO’s newly renovated Resource Center. It is called close-tohome design.

On average we spend 35% of our waking hours in the office. That’s a lot of time. Therefore, our clients are listening to the wants and needs of their workforce now more than ever. They are also paying attention to what recent graduates are looking for, given the recent influx of millennials in the workforce. This makes for good business, and is a time when we must compete to attract and retain top talent for future generations.

What is it? It’s the simple idea of making your office feel more like home – a place where you are relaxed, have no trouble putting in more hours and feel comfortable doing so. A place that creates a sense of community where you can collaborate with colleagues, work anywhere and in a variety of different types of spaces, based on what you need and want at the moment.

Office DesignThe institutional breakroom has turned into a café. A place where more intimate lighting, restaurant style comfort, and large café’ tables inspire casual conversation. A place to bond, share a meal, and where some of the best inspiration can happen. Maybe the happy hour can come to us, instead of going out to the corner restaurant.

The board room has turned into a living room of sorts. Where more comfortable couches make conversation feel more like friends having a get together, than doing business. This is a space where you may be encouraged to formulate ideas, before they become formal presentations. A place where you enjoy spending time, and can put your feet up.

The office space is more bright, open and collaborative. We are creating a sense of community where you can collaborate, see, talk and mingle with my colleagues. A place where meetings can be simple conversations in the hallway and ideas can come casually and without pretense; where decisions can be made and executed in a flash. It’s about fostering a culture of involvement. The saying “two heads are better than one” has real meaning.

Some common ideas include:

  • Game rooms
  • Yoga rooms (generally in the vicinity of onsite exercise facilities)
  • Food trucks
  • Showers
  • Living room style conversation pits
  • Quiet spaces designed like a study
  • Phone rooms
  • Outdoor spaces

Office DesignHow far should you go?? Your individual culture will determine the answer to that question. Here at COFCO, we have created a sense of relaxed professionalism. This is a perfect blend of comfort, design, collaboration and culture.

Creating this comfort is so intrinsic, that people relax when they enter their workplace. Just like you would when you get home from a long day. We put in longer hours than ever at work now. Technology has allowed us to work “anywhere, and at any time”. Why not create a space where people won’t HAVE TO go to work every day, they’ll WANT TOO.

Office Design - COFCO


Keys to Successful Office Design

Office design needs to be customized and driven by company culture and work requirements, according
to Marlyn Zucosky, director of interior architecture and office design at Ware Malcomb’s Princeton, NJ, office. Zucosky, who joined Ware Malcomb in July from Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design, says in this exclusive Q&A with GlobeSt.com that amenities are critical in designing office space for millennial workers.

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How to approach office design

office designGood designers know how to listen really well. During the initial programming phase of any corporate office design project, we really work to understand the culture of the organization. Everyone wants to know the trends, but there is no one size that fits all as it relates to office design solutions. It must be driven by a company’s culture.

For example, a law firm is typically not going to want an open plan environment. The work they do is private and of a confidential nature. Often they require private offices with full height walls. In contrast, at a software development company, the work is more collaborative. Here the walls have come down or gone away entirely in many cases.

So the office design is influenced by the type of work, and how that work can be done as efficiently as possible. We consider many factors. Is the work collaborative? Do they need areas for heads down concentration.

Privacy concerns in office design

When an organization is moving into a new space, there is a tremendous opportunity to rethink how people work, create more efficiencies and optimize their office design. We use a lot of imagery in programming to communicate what is possible.

Trends in workplace office design

One of the big trends we are seeing is an increase in employee amenities. At a party everyone gathers in the kitchen of the home. This led to the great room concept in residential floorplans. It is also happening more in the hospitality industry – more “living room” lounge areas to connect informally, work via WiFi,
etc. This idea from the residential and hospitality industries has moved into the commercial world.

We have our own version of a “great room” in the workplace – combining a kitchen, pantry, and lounge space – which becomes the heart of the office. Everyone can relate to those amenities. It helps facilitate chance encounters, one-onone collaboration and informal ways to connect.

The increases in the number of millennials is also influencing office design. They are flooding the market – and food is central to them. More and more companies are providing free lunch and snacks to their staff in response. Likewise, we need to design a space where you can go to kitchen, enjoy some of the free food and connect with others.

Another influence of millennials is their preference to work in urban areas. That’s not always possible, but we can help create a more urban feel in the suburban market through the design. Examples include using polished concrete floors, or creating an open exposed ceiling. We sometimes work creatively with our clients to achieve this look while keeping costs down. For example, using polished concrete for circulation areas, and then carpet in workspace zones.

Recruiting is such a critical component for companies right now. Our clients want to make sure that their office design is made to attract new talent.

Office design trends for building owners

Many building owners are adding base building amenities to their projects. This adds tremendous value for future tenants as it saves them from having to invest as many amenities within their own office suites. Some common amenity spaces might include a café, conference rooms, or lounges areas with Wi-Fi. Another trend in smaller buildings where a full café can’t be supported is the Grab and Go Café. Here food and snacks are offered and paid for on the honor system.

Again we are seeing that cross over and influence from the hospitality industry. What role does health and wellness play in office design?

We are the fitbit generation. Everyone is counting steps. As designers, we have an opportunity to influence health in the office. It is important that we encourage employees to move throughout the course of the day. We want to create opportunities for more movement and interaction, which generates more conversations, connections and collaboration. Technology is a double-edged sword; it can provide instant gratification yet makes us feel more disconnected. It’s nice to be able to have that personal interaction. We can help encourage this through how we plan space.

How office design of the personal work space of today’s worker changed

It is always evolving. More than anything, the private office is now designed for flexibility. We need to provide multiple options for work environments within a single office deign space. For example, “huddle” spaces can be furnished differently to accommodate different needs. One might include a desk and phone for focused work on a skype call, while another might include comfortable chairs for an informal meeting.

Height adjustable desks will move into the mainstream. This encourages wellness and they are becoming more affordable and more workable, as we don’t need storage areas below. Workstations are smaller. Many have transitioned to using just a laptop. Work surfaces have gotten smaller from the impact of technology. There is less paper, smaller hardware, and not as much of a need for cabinet space.