a range of ages, you can’t really predict who will be sitting
where, so flexibility is the most important thing,” she says.
“The extent to which you can make your space flexible, the
longer it will last.”
Focus on Flexibility
Privacy doesn’t always have to mean four walls and a
door. “Sometimes it just means being shielded or being in
a location for strategic anonymity, a place where you’re
not as well-known and won’t be interrupted, like a café
environment,” says Heagle.
Look for furniture and wall systems that provide adaptability and adjustability. If you can keep up with changes
without having to rip things out and rebuild, you can save
money, time, and productivity.
“People ask, ‘What does the workplace of the future
look like?’ Everyone has an opinion, but no one knows for
sure,” Hanlin explains. “The next best thing you can do is
project out as far as you can, then make sure your improve-
ments have the flexibility to change as your business does.”
Modular systems, operable partitions, furniture on
wheels, and demountable walls can all be reconfigured to
fit your needs. “The beauty is that the same system can
provide private offices or be configured into collaborative
spaces or quiet enclaves. If you put drywall up, it has to
stay there,” says Heagle.
As you implement change, it’s important to keep your
occupants clued in along the way. Post-occupancy evaluations a few months after your project might allow you
to make tweaks and adjustments before new systems
become deeply rooted.
“Change that’s done to you is painful,” says Hanlin. “But
change that you participate in is exhilarating.”
There are always lessons to be learned and areas for im-
provement. If you complete a project and just walk away, it
can be dangerous. Work with your designer and contractor
to engage employees after completion.
“If FMs and owners stay involved with designers and
learn about issues, then we both inform each other,”
Morra says. “Sometimes the issue isn’t even openness vs.
privacy. It’s just that they need more storage or one finish
Enhancing occupant engagement is at the core of this
entire discussion. Provide a range of settings and a variety
“Collaboration is vital and critical. But in excess, it can be
a killer,” Heagle says. “If you provide the ability for people
to choose when, how, and where they work – depending on
their mood and the tasks to be accomplished – you’ll be able
to meet the demand and urgent call of today’s workers.” B
Chris Curtland christopher.curtland@interiorsand
sources.com is managing editor of Interiors & Sources.
as they’re intended. It’s a better bang for your buck to have
three large conference rooms instead of five, then use that
extra space for a few smaller areas.”
The next step up is a team space for six to eight people,
but this in-between zone can be tricky. “If you load up these
rooms with technology, pin-up boards, and writable wall
space, the more valuable they are. This size without ameni-
ties doesn’t get used often, because the tools allow the
people to communicate and cooperate,” explains Thomas.
“People need a quiet space in which to be loud because it
Gauge the Generations
pulls the noisy group away from everyone else. You need to
address both aspects or the strategy isn’t successful.”
It can be helpful to think of work modes in terms of four
different styles, says Jim Hanlin, corporate interiors design
principal at Ziegler Cooper. “Focus is the first and it’s indi-
vidual, heads-down work. Collaborative is with others in for-
mal or spontaneous settings. Learning occurs between two
people or in training formats,” he explains. “Even socializa-
tion is a work style – just chatting in a corridor or cafeteria.”
Each of these functions is important, but also potentially
distracting. Different workers gravitate to different styles,
so when they do, provide them a separate space to do so.
It’s no wonder that different workers have unique styles
when you consider that there are now four generations in
the workplace: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation
X, and Millennials. Every group has different expectations
in terms of aesthetic, acoustic, ergonomic, and amenity
needs, says Hanlin.
“Your company’s success depends on your ability to
recruit, retain, engage, and stimulate all of these workers,”
he adds. “Know your breakdown and pay attention to what
they’re looking for.”
The younger the employee, the less they tend to care
about individual workstations, Morra notes. They were
born into the information age. With mobile devices, they
can multi-task and be productive anywhere.
“They may have an assigned desk but then they go to
the couch and work,” she says. “Someone who’s older
might want their own space to hang a picture of their kids
on the wall and make sure no one invades their turf.”
Getting more seasoned employees to go along with an
open plan can be a hard sell, but if they know upfront what
the benefits are, they’re usually happy, Morra adds. “With
“ We’re asking people to perform all of those activities in the exact same space and that’s where the problem
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