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Co-creation and collaboration are the new norms. The modern workplace demands a new space-planning approach.

The way we work has changed. Amid the complexities of comprehensive design — materials, technology, personalities and organisational culture — simplification is key. Everything points to the need for a human-centred design approach. Workspaces should be designed with collaboration, productivity and technology use in mind, while adding the comforts of home. This is a movement known as Resimercial. One of the great challenges the modern workplace faces is balancing the “alone” and “together” forces technology exerts.

Well-established contract furniture manufacturer and distributor Seating, stands strongly behind the philosophy of “unofficing” the office. This entails bringing it back to people and nature, in essence: humanising it. Just as abstract paintings promote thinking, an unusual working environment and deviations in shape and colour can have a stimulating effect — stirring people to think in new directions.

The world’s biggest contract furniture exhibitions: Orgatec, 100% Design, Neocon and Salon del Mobile — ardently promote a blurring of lines between home and workspace, and a move toward fluid ecosystems, seamless technologies and creative spaces. The goal is to present people with choices for where and how to work.

Safe havens

People want privacy not cubicles. In the rise of the open floor plan, employees need destinations for private concentration and retreat more than ever. The solution is semi-enclosed settings that offer visual and acoustic privacy from the commotion of the open office. They present the opportunity for undistracted work. 

Ease of Connectivity/Sense of Community 

Our best thoughts can take shape when we’re in a state of transition. The goal is for spaces to inspire spontaneous meetings to occur in hallways and in the previously ignored spaces between offices. These informal collaborative meeting points provide the flexibility needed to keep employees engaged.

Highly interactive multimedia walls; holographic projectors, self-powered, flexible furniture, live-feed virtual rooms and pop-up, mobile game station/workstations are some of the things we can look forward to in the near future… but without the emotional connection of people to the space — these mean nothing.

Residential sensibilities

There is a softening of the workplace and more sophisticated ergonomic design. The emphasis is comfortable aesthetics that create empathy rather than focus purely on function. We see a rise of ancillary pieces, warm tones and metallic touches of brass and copper finishes. Inviting atmospheres have been discovered to support efficiency.

“Face-to-face interactions are by far the most important activity in an office. Our data suggest that creating collisions – chance encounters and unplanned interactions between knowledge workers, both inside and outside the organisation – improves performance.” 

Harvard Business Review
Human-centric design

According to studies conducted by the influential West Elm Workspace… changing our perspective (literally) helps us to think differently. They believe that design’s role in fostering the positive possibilities of life between offices, revolves around creating exceptionally built environments that:

  • Invite chance encounters—both between those physically present and those connecting from afar.
  • Include multi-sensory elements to evoke the dynamic qualities of nature, disrupt the static feel of the indoors, and awaken our dormant faculties. Sunlight, plants, scents, snacks, music and natural materials like wood, can all play a role in creating a stimulating work environment.
  • Mimic New Urbanism-inspired neighbourhood layouts in their emphasis on spatial diversity, walkability, and accessible public spaces.
  • Offer comfortable retreat areas to take the energy gleaned from sensory input and distill it into excellent individual work.

Now that we know the connecting spaces we travel through are just as important as the collaborative spaces, we can pay more attention to thoughtfully designing hallway areas for maximum benefit — instead of treating them as afterthoughts. Smart, human-centric design can support us as we balance our needs to concentrate, connect with our community, and access information.

Being alone and together is an ever-shifting dance, but it is possible to do it with grace, if we do it by design.

Image credits: Raw Studios, Black Orchid by Design, Furniture Fair