Work and school are no longer just places. They’re complete experiences.

May 9, 2019

Higher education and workplace environments have evolved—which might be why you don’t mind staying for more than 40 hours a week

By Christina Eddy, Brad Robichaux, and Julie Zitter

 

Everyone is talking about how workplace is changing—open floor plans are debated daily. But have you noticed that higher education is changing too? We’re here to tell you that it’s not a coincidence. As the design of corporate workplaces are adapting to the changing ways in which we work, university campus buildings are embracing many of these models in the creation of spaces that are increasingly multi-purpose. The blurring of the lines between “earning and learning environments” offers universities the opportunity to create spaces that address the needs and aspirations of today’s students by learning from the design innovation being delivered within international commercial workplace environments.

Workplaces and higher education environments have transformed into something more than just a place—the most innovative designs offer an experience to all users. 

 

The blurring of the lines between “earning and learning environments” offers universities the opportunity to create spaces that address the needs and aspirations of today’s students. (Pictured: American University Center for Innovation)

 

Why have these environments evolved?

While our parents may have enjoyed the same job for their entire adulthood, that is no longer the case for our next generation of workers. 65% of children entering school today will end up with jobs that don’t yet exist, and millennials will make up 50% of the workforce by 2021—and 75% by 2025.

Workplaces are embracing more fluid and intuitive ways of working as a new generation of employee arrives on the scene, fresh from academia. Cubicles, private offices, and desktop computers are disappearing from the corporate landscape while classrooms, desks, and chalkboards are vanishing from schools. As schools continue to offer higher quality spaces to students, corporate employees may not be content with cubicles, outdated technology, and hierarchical space planning for long. 

Both universities and companies are struggling with the same issues and asking very similar questions. We’ve found that many clients need help with engagement, retention, and recruiting:

  • Engagement: Employees will naturally gravitate to their environments if they are engaged. This could mean a great desk set-up, access to a variety of spaces to use, or ideal amenities. Without engagement, there is no growth of ideas for the company or employees.
  • Retention: An employers’ #1 investment is their employee base, so investing in them and their needs has to be part of the business plan. Employees will stay if they feel valued and listened to. The business plan can’t be composed of minimizing the square foot per person—it has to reflect what employees want to insure they stay.
  • Recruiting: Aside from employees, an employer’s workplace—or experience as we call it—is the next best asset to recruit new and top talent. Investing in people, and the space they use—will provide maximum return on retention and recruitment.

 

Workplaces are embracing more fluid and intuitive ways of working as a new generation of employee arrives on the scene, fresh from academia. (Pictured: Social Tables, Washington, DC)

 

The increase of incubators on campus

Another way that workplace and higher education environments are colliding? The increasing number of incubators on campuses.

_q_tweetable:Progressive learning environments and workplace design have evolved, and we’re seeing that each can learn from the other to benefit users._q_

Universities are discussing with interested companies the opportunity to lease space at specific buildings on campus that are aligned to extend the degree-content another way. This extension of learning is a differentiator for the university, and the involved corporations get fresh ideas and leads to new hires. The design of the space is very adaptable so it can accommodate different corporations over time. It  intentionally looks different to recruit researchers and professors in addition to students visiting to determine which school they will attend.

One example of this type of space is the John Hopkins University Technology Ventures FastForward Hub. To provide Baltimore’s growing innovation scene with much needed office, co-working, and wet lab space, Johns Hopkins University Technology Ventures created a state-of-the-art innovation hub to serve the needs of area start-ups. Located at the heart of the EBDI Science & Technology Park, the 37,000-square-foot facility encompasses two floors of collaborative workspace with 17,000-square-feet dedicated to start-up labs, 8,000-square-feet of office space for start-ups, and 12,000-square-feet of office space for entrepreneurial advisors.

 

Another way that workplace and higher education environments are colliding are with the increase of incubators on campuses. (Pictured: John Hopkins University Technology Ventures FastForward Hub)

 

The definitions of school and work have changed

Progressive learning environments and workplace design have evolved, and we’re seeing that each can learn from the other to benefit users. To promote engagement, companies and universities are focusing on experiences rather than simply being destinations. Designs are evolving to incorporate various experiences within buildings instead of devoting them to distinct uses. By providing these experiences, students are more inclined to use campus buildings and employees are more likely to work in the office rather than working from home.

 

About the authors

Christina Eddy collaborates with client teams through the entire design process—from developing a big-picture vision down to the nitty gritty of where a light switch or electrical outlet is located. Focusing on K-12 and higher education design, Christina is fully dedicated to developing spaces that align with client needs and desires.

Brad Robichaux has always known he would end up in the design industry. While attending school for architecture, he became fascinated with the interior environment and shifted his focus to interior design. Now, Brad has a decade of experience in education and corporate workplace design, ranging from small classroom additions to large high schools, higher education facilities, and corporate headquarters.  

Julie Zitter has an in-depth knowledge of the different aspects of interior design. Her main focuses are expanding our portfolio, mentoring colleagues, and elevating the design of our projects. Known for her expertise in workplace interiors, higher education, and functionally-designed spaces, Julie leads programming, visioning sessions, and furniture selection and specification.

 
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