How evolving workplace design can make employees happier

September 9, 2016 Nick Luzietti

Provide a wide range of spaces to meet in or work in and you’ll get a different result


The idea of the perfect home came about over thousands of years centered around what would make a person happy if they were there all day. They have personal spaces where they rest, sleep, maybe a work room. They have common spaces where they cook food, eat food, use electronic devices, a playroom. But now they’re not at home all day. They’re at the office.


Interior office areaEntertainment Cruises, Chicago, IL


Starbucks in the workplace
The first office model suggested that you adapt to it. You should dress appropriately, talk how they want you to talk. You should carry an attaché case and act like a business person. This model prevailed in office design for decades.

Then a strange thing happened. The world got turned on its side because the youth became empowered with the computer. The tech industries brought in a geeky idea—a Starbucks idea—to the workplace. Essentially, Starbucks is a casual place like your home where you can get some food, get some coffee. You can meet with a group or work alone. It has a more rounded, homelike experience.

Almost overnight, all the workplaces evolved into this new model. They had a soft side which was the social space and a hard side which was the meeting rooms, the business side. Suddenly, offices are better places to work.

Companies began to see that they were getting a greater return on the social side. They saw that if you continue to force people into this myopic vision of what a meeting is, you’ll keep getting these myopic business answers. But if you provide wide ranges of spaces to meet in or work in, you’ll get a different result. We can come here and use these idea rooms in ways that we can’t use the conference room.

The truth is that work and play do mix. Business and family do mix. That’s the real idea: human beings eventually just want to be who they are. Pretense, conformity, adapting to a model that’s way out of date—it doesn’t work.


Interior open office area with couches and tablesWinTrust Financial Corporation, Rosemont, IL


The impact of tech-enabled nomads
The second part of the story is that technology has evolved. It’s mobile. The world is in a nomad state. It’s very constricted to think that your worlds would never adapt to that. In the mobile state, you can travel to these various settings that allow you do things in a new way.

In the end, the future of the office place is really going to be an understanding of the difference between the collaborative idea and the personal idea. At least 50% of the collaborative ideas are going to happen in a place where you can talk to people. The other 50% are going to happen in video conferencing. There’s still going to be an advantage to be working close to people where you can talk to them. At other times, you may need to work in privacy or work at home.

In the future, the workplace is going to be this experiential and kinetic thing that responds to what’s going on in the world today. Workplace should be changing constantly. It’s about how the space can evolve and change.

About the Author

Nick Luzietti has specialized in Architecture, Interior Design, and ReUse + Preservation since 1968. His work has been recognized by local, national, and international design competitions and he’s been highlighted more than 150 times in notable industry publications. He is a fellow with the International Interior Design Association and was inducted into the Interior Design Magazine Hall of Fame in 2009.

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