September 11, 2019

The Evolving Workplace

For as long as people have been using offices, we've been trying to figure out how to set them up in a way that keeps us focused and productive. Even in just the last few years as we've been keeping an eye on office trends we've seen, commenting on the rise and fall of many ideas. What's interesting is that office design has gone through a self-correcting cycle that keeps looping back to old ideas, and what is probably the most sensible solution has actually been around since the beginning of office innovation.

If you think the idea of an open office is just a new, trendy idea you are actually incorrect. The very first offices, which can be traced surprisingly far back in history, had very open designs. They were set up as near-endless rows of large desks in a big open room, and they were set up this way to allow management to keep a close eye on the entire work force easily.

This would basically continue up until the creation and implementation of the office cubicle. Believe it or not, the original idea behind the cubicle was that it would be a system that would allow for creating both private and open spaces on the fly depending on what tasks were being performed. This was to combat the many distractions that came from working in open spaces, without getting rid of collaboration. Of course, in an attempt to keep things cheap by packing people in, cubicles evolved into the cold, colorless, worker cages we think of today.

 After years of this design, there was a need to make people feel like they weren't just cogs in a machine stuck in drab, miserable cubes. So what's the opposite of gray, closed-in cubes? Colorful open spaces!

These sorts of offices starting popping up everywhere, and everyone was talking about them. The idea, which was sound enough, was to create a place that not only encouraged collaboration between co-workers, but also an environment that made people feel comfortable, happy, and excited.

Unfortunately, we are now finding that this isn't how it worked out. People have begun to research the effectiveness of open offices and have found that they have some very real flaws as you can see here. It also has an even more negative impact on certain types of workers, particularly introverts. There's another design trend that is emerging now to try and remedy this, and it's catching on in areas outside of business as well.

What's Next?

Remember how we said the solution may have been around since the beginning? Robert Propst, the man who created the cubicle, initially intended it to be a flexible and adaptable system that would encourage people to stay active and create different types of work space. He even recommended workstations of different heights to help people stay active, so he almost pioneered the standing desk craze too, but that idea didn't catch on until later.

We think he was on to something, and recent trends and research seem to agree. It turns out that people think, learn, and work differently (imagine that!). With that in mind, places of business and even schools are starting to create spaces that encourage different ways to work and learn.

It seems the answer to making a space that helps everyone to work hard and still stay engaged and healthy might be to just be flexible. What this means practically is creating different types of spaces that accommodate different tasks and different ways of staying focused.

Interior designer Alejandra Albarran recently wrote an article arguing that there should be at least 5 different types of environments in your office to cover all the different types of work that needs to be done. Rather than trying to create one type of space that is great for some things and not for others, it is important to create all sorts of different spaces that are good for brainstorming, collaborating, meeting, studying, and even resting! It's hard to say if this line of thinking will stick around, but we've gone full circle at this point in office design, and a more open-ended idea of an ideal office space certainly makes sense to us.

How We Can Help

There's a reason we try to stay on top of recent trends and research in regards to office design. We care about the people who buy our products, and we want them to engage in practices and designs that encourage people to work better and stay healthy. For example, we have discussed the importance of taking breaks for productivity.

We are always trying to update the products we have available to include furniture for any kind of environment you may be trying to create in your office. We have standing desks that encourage staying active, large conference tables for focused team meetings, small meeting tables for quick brainstorming sessions, and even super comfortable chairs! Please take some time to browse our site and take a step towards creating a space that makes your workers happy!

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