Photo by Designers
Around 70 percent of offices in the US have an open concept layout– even though end users say that such spaces stymie concentration or make them feel sick. Meanwhile, the BBC recently reported that open-place workspaces make people 15 percent less productive. The design of an office is not only about dividing walls, ensuring privacy or increasing productivity in a healthy environment. It’s about devising spaces that reflect the way people work—and about developing a system where people can perform and share tasks optimally. Here are some of the trends affecting the way we work today.
Contingent workers in the US will top 40 percent of the workforce by 2020 and account for about $1 trillion of that nation’s GDP, according to reports. In Indonesia, the creative industry, from fashion designers to software developers, has received much attention as an economic driver. However, since the digital nature of the creative economy has no physical barriers, freelancers live in a new world, with locational freedom defining their perceptions of the professional environment.
Co-working spaces have thus blossomed all over the world, celebrating the nomadic lifestyle along with work/tourism programs for the peripatetic to navigate living and working in far-off places. One new start-up, Unsettled, organizes 30-day experiences for creative people, entrepreneurs and professionals seeking to combine work and travel. There’s also Roam, a network of co-living properties in Miami, Bali, Madrid and London, among other places, that offers communal living areas with meeting rooms, a co-working space and fast Wi-Fi, as well as social activities that are unique to the locale.
Reflecting an increased awareness of how much time people spend in the office, some designers have reconceived workspaces as an alternate habitat resembling a spaceship, where biophillic factors, such as foliage and ergonomics, contribute to a healthy space and are self-sufficient, if possible.
Take as examples Vincent Callebaut’s drawings for the Paris Smart City 2050 concept and Team CLS’s Helios Sanctuary concept. Both draw upon sustainable technology to create vertical refuges to heal body, mind and spirit. Note also that adding green to the office space is not simply placing plants in the working environment. It underscores the close interaction between people and nature in a contemporary habitat.
An extreme illustration of this concept comes from Konodesign’s work for the Pasona Group’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. The nine-storey building co-exists with a 400-square-meter urban farm growing around 200 species of fruits, vegetables and rice. Office workers here are constantly surrounded by agriculture. Tomato vines dangle above conference tables, while the lobby features a rice paddy.
One challenge of the space is to balance the climate needed to grow plants against the temperatures more comfortable for humans. The main entrance of the Pasona building, which sports the rice paddy, is warmer, brighter and more moist. Some people use another entrance to avoid it. Still, it is a healthy correlation between workers, who are expected to join the rice harvest, and a workplace closer to nature.
Meanwhile, “Orbs in an Atrium”, from Christian Pottgiesser, is the headquarters for Pons and Huot in Paris, France, adorned by floating staircases, a rec room and ficus panda trees. Plexiglass structures on common expansive wooden desks are called “telephone domes” to provide a bit of privacy and help dampen the acoustics of the open glass atrium space, which was conceived as an industrial hall in the 19th century. The space was designed with lower level meeting rooms, lounges and kitchen tucked under the main floor of offices.
Pods can reduce noise and bring privacy the office, replacing the typical cubicle without losing space flexibility. Pods can also be prefab solutions, whether inside a building, as an outdoor space extension mounted on an outside wall or even in a garden.
The unique structural panel system of the OfficePOD can be easily dismantled, relocated or refitted to changing needs. Plop the OfficePod outdoors and a user can enjoy a full-service modern office without distraction. The unit has recessed lighting with reflected lights hidden within the wall as well as closeted shelving and large drawers.
Some have opted for the open road as a workspace. Those who are keen on working inside a vehicle have several possibilities, from turning a school bus into a home office on wheels to equipping a family van with stands and holders for office gadgets.
IDEO has created what it calls an inverse commuting concept to bring your office to you. Called “WorkOnWheels” (WOW), the modular, self-driving pods can booked and placed wherever possible. Each WOW has an interactive work surface, a retractable hatch and furnishings that magnetically lock in. More pods can be added, depending on the size of your team. At the end of office day, the WOWs drive themselves back to the hub where they dock, recharge and reconfigure for the next day’s use.
Meanwhile, designers at Rinspeed took a standard Tesla Model S Sedan to create the “XchangE” driverless car concept. When a driver engages autonomous driving, the steering wheel slides away and a desk comes out to accommodate laptops. The driver can then swivel their seat to face the other passengers–or explore 20 possible seating positions. While relaxing, passengers can access an entertainment system on four separate screens.
Closer to reality is the collaboration between Nissan and the UK-based design workshop Studio Hardie to on the “the e-NV200 WORKSPACE”, the world’s first all-electric mobile office. It offers a cost-effective desk space solution allowing users to work for free in some city centres that offer free EV charging bays—or to escape the city altogether.
More firms allow employees to work at home, reducing commutes and boosting morale and productivity. However, home office design is more than about a desk and a chair. A comfortable space with a good ergonomics that blends with a person’s home is essential.
Delphine Maumot, an interior designer specializing in limited areas devised an “Ice Box” apartment project, refurbishing an area of 35 sqm with a lift bed over a black sofa and chairs with yellow green upholstery. Integrated on the wall is a home entertainment system in a built-in black cabinet with yellow- green walls that contrast with the living/sleeping area.
The “Boxetti collection” offers compact solid blocks and modular furniture that can be opened and extruded for efficient functionality at home: A cabinet that hides a working desk, a sofa that hides a coffee table. Rolands Landsberg created the Boxetti collecton as an exclusive hand-made product and following three design basic principles: functionality, advanced technologies and contemporary aesthetics of minimalism.
Yevhen Zahorodnii designed a 86-sqm apartment in Minsk with a brilliant blend of minimalistic and classic design sensibilities. Clever storage techniques and layered textures are two common themes between each room. The home office uses black and white to create a calming environment. Ample sunlight and light accents on the white ceiling and the choice of lighter wood for the flooring prevents the space from descending into oppressive darkness.
It’s an example of the important elements to be included in any office design concept: Spaces that provide the ability to focus, encouraging flexibility nd giving a wellness factor that reduces stress without interrupting work discipline.