Fortunately, the days of stark grey cubicles and mind-numbing fluorescent lighting are coming to an end. Companies throughout the United States are starting to realize that open floor plans and less cluttered workspaces lead to greater productivity. Studies have shown that an open office layout encourages group work activity, which in turn, builds a sense of community. Collaboration allows people to feel more connected to their co-workers, increasing their ability to feel like part of a team. The recent boom in technology has resulted in increased mobility/flexibility. From 2005 to 2012, there has been a 79.7 percent increase in telework. This does not mean that the need for actual offices is obsolete. The importance of face-to-face interaction is one of the strongest factors driving office design today. Offices are now looking to have a more transparent atmosphere, with less internal walls and more glass partitions to allow for more natural light.
Pictured, the Abound Collection by HON allows employees to collaborate more easily.
In today’s world, flexibility is essential. To maximize a space’s potential, the furniture or elements in an office must be agile. There are various items available that not only allow for flexibility, but an employee’s overall well-being. New workspaces are comprised of adjustable desks that can be lowered or raised, workspace dividers that can easily be moved, and filing cabinets that can be rolled to different areas.
“Telepresence,” which is the ability of employees to remotely interact at the office via webcams and computer screens (videoconferencing), is also a major consideration in today’s modern office. Not only does it cut down on travel costs, but it also increases productivity. Multi-site teams are able to build closer relationships and thereby make faster executive decisions. Videoconferencing, at one time, used bulky and expensive equipment that provided “room”-based video conferencing. Now computer-based videoconferencing is as easy as making a simple telephone call. Conference rooms will be replaced with communal work areas designed to create a more inviting and friendly atmosphere.
Essentially, technology and collaboration is changing the face of the traditional office. Communal spaces reduce the feeling of hierarchy that used to be present in offices of the past. This combined with a feeling of transparency, helps companies develop an overall sense of community. Technology today has enabled workers to be mobile, yet remain constantly connected. Even though we are no longer chained to our desks, the importance of teamwork cannot be overlooked. The offices of the future will serve to enhance this sense of camaraderie, yet complement the newest forms of technology.