The Future of Office Design
Charting the Possibilities
Mixing nature, man and technology
The Workplace of the Future 2.0 competition, held by Metropolis and Business Interiors by Staples, asks designers to imagine what offices will look like in 10 or 15 years.1 This year’s winner, Organic Grid+, was a vision that combined both nature and technology to create a healthy and dynamic office. The design included a garden wall where workers could pick fresh vegetables for their lunches, as well as gardens placed throughout the building. Mobile walls attached to the ceilings could be moved to create private spaces as needed. Workers would have augmented contact lenses to take the place of laptops and computers. By projecting information onto walls, the lenses would eliminate the need for hardware like computers and laptops. Instead of searching for nutritional information about the office vegetables on your computer, you could simply use the lenses to find that info, then go pick that vegetable from one of the office gardens for a wholesome mid-day snack. Sound too good to be true? Maybe. But given the rapid way technology develops these days, maybe not.
Another idea that may take a few years to develop is the no-sitting office. But some designers are laying the groundwork for making it happen. Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances, a Dutch architecture firm, worked with visual artist Barbara Visser to create an interactive art exhibit: an office without any desks or chairs. The project, called The End of Sitting, features a room full of geometric shapes that you can work around or on, in lieu of a cubicle. Visitors to the exhibit were encouraged to try out a variety of different positions, including leaning forward or back while standing and lying on their side, as if they were on their bed or couch.
Sound uncomfortable? Not so fast. According to CityLab, “[the] firm researched natural human body postures and movements in an effort to design ideal, flexible workspace scenarios for the non-sitter.”2 The result was more like a futuristic playground than a stiff and boring office setting. See some of the pictures of the exhibit here.
Surfing in place
Until we see the day when RAAA’s no-desk concept comes to life, there’s another solution that will soon be on the no-sitting market. The Level is a platform that makes standing while working more comfortable. (The idea sprung from inventor Joel Heath’s own discomfort from working at a standing desk.) By requiring small foot movements to keep balance as if you were surfing, the Level also helps you stay fit.
Test results have reported that “the Level escalates user heart rate by 15% on average compared to a sitting environment, while their range of motion increases over 20 times, emulating the same range that you might see in the lower legs while walking.”3 While Heath acknowledges that it won’t remove all the discomfort of a standing desk, it can still be an excellent way to get moving at the office. The Level is available for pre-order for $289.4
Meeting the design challenges of today
While the ideas mentioned above are all well and good, most of them are still far from becoming a reality. In the meantime, facilities managers need more practical and immediate solutions to their design challenges. Issues like balancing the creativity of an open office with the privacy provided by a cubicle, or getting design right the first time when they relocate staff members. Thankfully, more and more furniture companies are working to meet the first challenge head-on. They’re designing furniture that strike the balance between collaboration with others and quiet for concentration.
Take, for example, the Sabine series, made by Swedish furniture company Gilmraka and recently featured on FastCoDesign.5 Mounted on wheels and designed with sound-absorbing material, Sabine cabinets can easily be arranged to create distinct areas within a large room. Offered in a variety of sizes, they can also be paired with desks that have a smaller version of the cabinets attached. This lets the office be minimalistic and stylish while also being practical and more private.
Achieving the ideal office layout
Another common design challenge is getting the layout just right when a department, or the entire office, relocates. Moving is an expensive venture, and the last thing you want is to get everyone settled into the new space, only to find out that things need to be rearranged. OfficeSpace Software can take the sweat out of the design process by letting you experiment with different layouts before you lay one finger on a desk or chair. That way, you can design for the future by thinking of what and who should go where way ahead of time.
The people and companies mentioned above are all thinking about how to help people work better, smarter and easier. Our software does the same. With OfficeSpace as part of your workflow, you’ll see that a good office layout is just a few clicks away.
Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee