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5 Ways To Build Office Connectedness

Skender’s open reception environment, or “hub” space, at its new HQ,

designed by Perkins+Will, built by Skender

As more companies foster strong relationships and collaboration among employees, corporate culture is only half the battle. Office design plays a role in uniting companies across departments and experiences. 

"No one wants to work in a cubicle anymore. Offices are all about communication and collaboration," Skender Vice President Clay Edwards said. "Working with a team of experts who can creatively and cost-effectively design and build an office that brings people together is an essential part of the process."

From inviting lobbies to central gathering spaces, here are five construction trends shaping office connectedness.

1. Open up the lobby 

Creating an inviting ground floor or reception lobby can encourage employees and visitors to make it their own. Designing spaces where anyone can enter allows ideas and innovation to spread, according to the Brookings Institute. Public coffee shops or an accessible WiFi lounge with comfortable seating are ways to encourage people to interact spontaneously.

Transparency invites inclusion. Skender implemented this open reception environment, or “hub” space, at its new HQ. Employees from any discipline can walk through the lobby or common area, peek into the meeting areas and view work in progress.

2. Reimagine the staircase

Stairs do more than move people across floors. They provide direct access to cross-department collaboration and make a strong brand statement with visitors.  

At the Motorola Mobility HQ in Chicago, the company partnered with Gensler to design the 640K SF collaborative workspace. Plans called for an interconnected central staircase that offered platform seating for small group meetings. Skender Construction served as general contractor. 

Companies need to identify and prioritize the goals behind designing a staircase, whether it will be used to create shorter walking distances or will take advantage of the office’s natural light. 

Skender has helped numerous companies integrate staircases in their built environments, including Mead Johnson, Dentons, Harrison Street Capital and Wilson Sporting Goods.

Integrated staircase for Dentons’ Chicago law office, designed by Gensler, built by Skender

3. Build modern, transparent conference rooms

Traditional conference rooms isolate groups, creating a sense of hierarchy and a lack of transparency. More companies have instead opted to design centrally located, glass conference rooms that can be utilized by anyone in the organization. The open space brings more natural light into the room and encourages a corporate culture of trust, openness and encouragement to finish meetings on time.

As personal work areas get smaller, and more employees work remotely, conference rooms need to be equipped with high-quality videoconferencing tools and reliable WiFi for fast network connectivity.

4. Create central gathering spaces

Offices have become places to build brand identity and employee relations, rather than check email. The need for public space has become a concern among companies. The new shift has led to a preference for central locations.

Employees are especially drawn to kitchens and cafés, according to a study from the Brookings Institute. These spaces blur the line between the home, the workplace and public space.

Skender's interior build-out of digital advertising firm Centro's new HQ called for both an open lunch room and recreational spaces like a game room and karaoke area. 

Mead Johnson’s central staircase at its Chicago HQ, designed by Partners by Design and built by Skender

5. Carve out space for breakout rooms and nooks

While office trends suggest a movement toward social workplaces, employees still need places for heads down, concentrated work.

At financial firm Sandbox Industries' refurbished 1K SF building in Chicago’s Fulton Market, Skender worked alongside Horn Design Architecture to design an open office concept with private offices, conference rooms, training rooms with glass fronts and sliding glass doors.

The private spaces give staff a break from the noise and occasional chaos of open floor plans while boosting productivity. Employees need to have a choice in where they work. 

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