So Long Cubicles, Hello Workplace Flexibility

Think about your daily office routine. You slowly drag yourself into the office, grab a coffee, and head to your 75 SF cubicle inspired and ready to take on the day. There are certain tasks done throughout the day that are based on the layout of a permanent environment. While working in your 75 SF cubical, you may have your own “personal” space, but how does that effect your workplace flexibility and personal happiness? What if redefining your work environment contributed to your well-being, your productivity, or your company as a whole? Would you make daily choices to work in different areas of your office based on the task? A look into the thought process behind the end user has pushed designers to rethink office design on all levels. We are no longer providing a sea of cubicles. Too much of one thing never ends well anyways. It is a holistic approach between the designer, stakeholders, and end user to create a balance within the company’s culture and built environment.

The office setting has been redefined by user choices and mobility within the interior floor plan, an opportunity to freely move around and create your ideal work environment. The end of the permanent layout no longer defined by rows of fabric paneled partitioned walls and name plaques is a growing trend that allows for more flexibility, this concept can be in the form of furniture, space planning, or even the company’s culture.

Modular furniture is an example of flexibility that can adapt and move to give the user countless combinations to change their workspace. The user could decide to base the layout of furniture on a specific task, technology, personal learning style, or privacy needs. Even though the user may choose a different location to work at tomorrow, the flexibility to make choices gives the user a sense of personalization. Unassigned workspaces encourages the user to bring only what they need to complete the task, reducing volume of items within the shared space. If the user would need to collaborate the furniture could configure into a collaborative layout for informal meeting.

Beyond an individual workspace, it is key to provide multipurpose workspaces that are conveniently dispersed throughout the plan. Multipurpose spaces can be utilized for a variety of work solutions such as multimedia presentations to impromptu breakout areas, creating a more resilient workplace for the user. Grouping these spaces near individual workspaces allows for users to quickly transitions between different modes of work to support task needs and encourage collaboration.

For companies looking to move toward this concept, strategic goals must leverage an investment that engages the user of the office space to understand how flexibility can best be achieved based on type of task and productivity levels. It is key for management to signal and encourage their employees to move throughout the space and form a culture of workplace flexibility. Allowing the user to create their ideal work environment increases employee satisfaction that contributes to overall company and sense of belonging for the user.

– Shelby Weber, SEED, Allied ASID

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About the author: Shelby was named as one of the “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges” in 2013 and 2014 during her time at La Roche College. She is currently on the board for NEWH Hospitality organization and is SEED certified in public interest design.  Her project portfolio includes many areas of interior design, including multifamily housing, corporate, hospitality, and single family homes.