March 9, 2017 | Liz Austin

Cubicles are so yesterday. What does today’s worker look for in an office space?

Recent trends in workplace design are geared towards facilitating collaboration and creativity, with a focus on the innovative use of space. This trend towards tech-enabled, wellness-focused offices has been spurred by three main factors: the entry of Generation Z into the workforce, rapid advancements in portable tech, and the simple fact that workplace design has a real impact on a company’s bottom line.

Gensler, a global architecture firm, estimates that poor workplace design costs U.S. businesses an estimated $330 billion in lost productivity each year. Happy workspaces, on the other hand, make happy employees: 90% of the Gensler survey respondents indicated that better office floorplans result in heightened productivity and happiness.

Though not all of us have the opportunity to work at companies like Google, whose cutting edge workspaces are way ahead of the curve, tech-enabled and collaborative offices may not be such a distant prospect for the rest of us. Look out for these emerging trends, which may be coming to an office near you.

1. Design Through Data

Whereas in the past, workplace design was largely a shot in the dark, built on assumptions about functionality or aesthetic trends, quantifiable data on how employees function in the office is now being implemented in design decisions. For example, the company Enlightened sells smart sensors for office light fixtures, and the information these sensors gather on occupancy and movement paint a picture of how employees are utilizing (or underutilizing) different areas of the office — allowing employers to redesign their spaces for optimal functionality.

Humanyze, a Boston-based human analytics company, produces smart ID-badges with the goal of improving managerial decision-making. Equipped with microphones and motion sensors, these badges track how employees move throughout the day, who they speak to, and the tone of their voice. While Humanyze won’t divulge an individual employee’s data, managers can learn from patterns that emerge on a larger scale. For example, managers can increase productivity by locating teams that frequently communicate closer together. To the same degree, individuals with non-collaborative roles can be placed in more remote offices.

2. Flexible Floor Plan

As technology changes at a rapid pace, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to predict what jobs will exist in the years to come. After all, in the past decade alone, IT departments have risen to prominence while typists and file clerks have become obsolete. As opposed to the rigid structure of cubicles, which accommodate a set number of employees with a standard, space-consuming layout, elect to implement an open floor plan, which can be easily reconfigured as your company structure and employee base change.

To keep up with the shifts in working culture and the possibility of growth, companies are also investing in flexible workspaces and adaptable furniture. Furniture that has multiple purposes, like a standard desk that can be expanded into a workstation or conference table, for example, will help you make the most of an open floor plan. Some companies even institute a policy of unassigned desks to accommodate workers’ day-to-day needs for collaboration or isolation — an innovative approach made possible by an upsurge in remote work, which has resulted in partial occupancy of many companies’ physical office spaces.

Not only is an adaptable, flexible floor plan the most practical choice for evolving companies — it is also the most conducive to increased worker productivity, creativity, and collaboration.

3. Collaboration Takes Center Stage

A well-designed flexible floor plan will also address another fact of working life: different projects and tasks require different spaces. So, companies have to balance the need for privacy while also promoting collaboration, a concept known as “activity-based design.”

Echo, a technology and logistics company based in Chicago, has embodied the principles of activity-based design in their new office space. Depending on their needs, employees can choose from a variety of different rooms: meeting spaces with an array of seating options, focus rooms that provide quiet workspaces, customer-centric conference rooms, and larger spaces for company gatherings. Recognizing the need for wellness and social activity during the day, Echo invested in a cafe space, lounge, and media area as well.

From acoustics to furniture selection, each area should be designed for its specific intended use. By giving employees the ability to choose the space that best suits their needs, activity-based design fosters agency and empowerment.

Green Street Stays Ahead of the Game

Green Street is already an expert in revolutionizing the modern workspace. Our Market St. location features a co-working space for startups and smaller companies within a newly overhauled infrastructure — this workspace offers the latest tech capabilities, from on-site servers to cloud-based desktops. Our goal for 2329/2351 Market is simple: to provide a more connected, flexible work environment in which today’s employees can excel.

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