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Five must-have rooms in the workplace of the future

The open, tech-enabled office needs spaces for huddles and going solo

by Angie Lee, FAIA, NCARB, IIDA, LEED AP (Chicago, IL)

[This content originally published on VOA.com]

The workplace is changing. Within the last five years or so, we’ve seen the office environment become more fluid and agile. The new workplace is an open environment and that’s largely made possible by technology. Technology is driving mobility. The tech-enabled mobile worker is free to migrate within the office, or even work from home when appropriate. With technology changing where and how we work, it follows that workplace designs must attune to an increasingly mobile workforce. This is somewhat disruptive; it’s different from the office we’re accustomed to with its assigned seating and private offices for those at a certain level within the hierarchy. In today’s workplace structure, that system has collapsed.

This new paradigm requires a different range of spaces. Today, we’ll look at five types of work rooms that I see as near essentials in the forward-thinking, mobile-friendly workplace. These broad categories are the “must-haves” of the new workplace. This is just an overview as there are a lot of subdivisions within those categories.

  1. The big room. More often lately, we find that clients are looking for big gathering spaces; a living room/café that greets us as we emerge from the elevator and enter the office environment. In the old school set-up, visitors are greeted by a receptionist and asked to sit in a chair until someone comes to retrieve them. In today’s work environment, clients look for big spaces that are less formal and multi-use. This space gives their customers or guests an opportunity to come in, have a cup of coffee or check emails until the meeting begins. Proximity is very important in locating these big rooms. The living room/café spaces are often placed at a crossroads, either right by the point of entry like the elevator banks or in a central location that encourages fortuitous interactions.
  2. Enclaves. While many organizations look to encourage collaboration, employees often need quiet time for concentration and focused work. Enclaves fulfill this role. They are single-person rooms with a door that can be closed. At approximately 30SF to 50SF, they’re generally used for reading, writing, private or confidential calls and activities that require quiet and concentration. These spaces need to be in close proximity to personal work spaces, generally no more than 30 ft away, to ensure utilization. Generally speaking, enclaves can’t be reserved, they’re first come, first served. The ratio of enclaves to the number of employees in open work environment should be carefully thought through and based upon the industries and work types of the organization.
  3. Huddle rooms. Huddle rooms are technology-enriched spaces which should accommodate four to six people. At approximately 150SF or so, they are fully ‘teched-out’ to enable digital collaboration among offices, with dual screens for video conferencing and content sharing. In some cases, white boards are specified for analog collaboration.
  4. Casual meeting spaces. These easily-accessible spaces are usually located in proximity to departmental or group personal spaces. In general, they are part of the unofficial ‘land claim’ of a particular department. They’re composed of soft lounge seating in common areas arranged to accommodate two to four people for informal get-togethers. There, coworkers can share screens/plug-in laptops and smartphones or brainstorm on a whiteboard.
  5. Conference rooms. Conference rooms are still relevant and very much required for formal meetings. Many clients will consider designing rooms that are agile and flexible, with dividable partitions to change the size of the spaces to accommodate various activities and numbers of people. Furniture in the conference room should be flexible and stackable to adjust to various room configurations. Adequate storage space must be factored in for each possible setting.

With a focus on delivering office environments, Angie Lee is in tune with trends that affect the workplace, change management best practices and today’s multi-generational workforce. Angie believes that “great buildings are like time capsules, they tell the story of their era. Our designs, therefore, are the collective brush strokes of these stories.” 

Clients are looking for big gathering spaces; a living room/café that greets us as we emerge from the elevator and enter the office environment.

The big room

Enclaves

Huddle rooms

Casual meeting spaces

Conference rooms

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