3 Office Design Trends Introverts Will Love
While collaboration and social collisions have been emphasized in workplace design over the past few years, the pendulum is swinging back toward a place where introverts can shine with plenty of quiet corners, furry friends and do-it-yourself office design.
“We have reached a saturation point,” Gensler head of design Phillipe Pare said. “It is very hard for us to really relax.”
Workplace designers are now highlighting quiet "thinking spaces" where workers can get away from the hustle and bustle of a busy office, with quiet, tech-free areas where laptops, phones and interruptions are not allowed. Designated "relax areas" are also cropping up, Pare said, which might feature a massage chair and aromatherapy.
Some companies have gone one step further with actual nap pods. The idea came from airport nap pods, Pare said. A company in Seoul began using them, and then another company in Slovakia took it further. The company created a silent reading room/library with a secret door. When the door pivots, a private sleeping area is revealed.
While it is unlikely the workplace will ever be mistaken for a spa, employers’ attention to the well-being of staff has gained traction in other ways as well. One of the newest trends Pare has seen is companies allowing employees to bring their four-legged friends to the office. Originally spotted in Silicon Valley workplaces, dogs in the office are thought to reduce stress and get people up and walking at regular intervals.
Pare said that to attract top talent, companies are trying to create workspaces with the types of environments that resonate — and one way to assure that is to allow employees to design their own space as much as practicable. Pare had a client who had movable walls so employees could easily create the spaces they needed for any situation.
Hierarchical workplaces are slowly eroding, allowing more creative approaches to work, Pare said. Some companies are forgoing offices as status symbols, so even the CEO’s office can be used by anyone when she is not there.
Smart designers are creating a multitude of spaces for a multitude of ways of working. Microsoft recently got rid of its entire reception area and replaced it with a "touch-down," a café-style lounge area. The area has traditional workstations and socialization areas.
“We wanted to retain the good things about traditional workplaces,” Pare said. The point is to ensure that a variety of work setups are available so workers have a range of options.
Designers are trying to get out of the way and allow workers to maximize their workday. For many years, designers sang the praises of open plans, but that was at the expense of focus. Now, they are designing a healthy balance between collaboration and private, enclosed spaces that are readily available.
Engineered run-ins are not going anywhere though. A new study published by Gensler revealed that highly successful companies have four things in common: collaboration, learning, social focus and unscripted socialization.
Workers spend more time awake with their co-workers than their own families, so those hours should be comfortable, productive and meaningful, Gensler said. Architects and designers have a responsibility to create spaces where employees want to be, where they are looking forward every morning to showing up at work. And a company that focuses on these things says something about what it values.
“A well-designed workplace is a powerful statement about what a brand believes,” Pare said.