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Posted: March 17, 2014

Office design for a new generation

Grandiose lobbies and big-shot offices are out

Stephen Dynia

The way modern day employees perform – and generate profits for the companies they work for – is far different today then even as recently as 10 years ago.  As a result, the way that office buildings and office space is designed has changed, dramatically.

The “New Generation Employee” has different expectations for the way they work and for their work environment. They don’t want to be stuck in cubicles, in a structured setting, in a hierarchical office tower, or a far-away suburban office campus.  Rather, they want a place where they can move about and interact with others, pursue their own creative freedom and discover opportunities that are beneficial to their company, as well as to themselves.  A company that is willing to address this new work attitude, and provide an energetic, creative and open work environment, will likely benefit greatly.

Many visionary real estate developers and office building owners are reacting to this new work attitude by providing spaces that will appeal to the best and brightest employees, and help their tenants to thrive.

Egalitarian Space

In the past, a typical office floor plan would have managers located around the outer circle, with a window (with executives enjoying large, corner offices), and the staff located in the internal core, seated in cubicles.  More forward thinking companies are finding ways to design their offices in a more democratic way, where everyone on the team can perform as an equal part of the team, and not feel pigeon-holed, based on their workstation.  By creating a more open and free-flowing work environment, the entire company – and its most valuable resources, its employees – can interact and share ideas, as well as cares and concerns. A huge fringe benefit is the fact that young employees can more readily be mentored by, and learn from their more experienced peers.

Mind Energy

Most office buildings of the past were designed and built as sealed, hermetic structures, with little natural air or light.  Some of the most advanced new office buildings are going to extremes to invite maximum natural air and light into the workplace.  For example, imagine an office building where every space has its own, operational garage door, that can be opened and shut (based on weather conditions) to access fresh air and sun.  It’s happening, and the people who work in these office buildings, are performing at their maximum capacity.

Social Escapes

Inserting social areas into an office layout, where people can escape the intensity of a hectic business day and “reset” their minds and attitudes, is critical.  Lunch spots, venues for rest and relaxation, casual meeting spaces, and communal areas are great places for people to come together and discuss things other than business.  Some creative approaches for social escapes include rooftop gardens, game rooms, kitchenettes and even areas designed like a comfortable living room, where a person can kick-their-feet-up. 

Outside the Walls

The setting outside an office building can be just as important as the interior.  A company that is located near bike systems and provides convenient car access, near an urban core, has a distinct advantage for attaining and retaining the very best employees.  While travel convenience is critical, so is the landscape and setting.  Nothing beats nature, and the new generation workforce appreciates being able to able to find an outdoor space to escape and meditate and prepare for the rest of their busy day.

All Hours

The 9 to 5 work schedule no longer exists.  People may have their best ideas, or strongest work drive, at 2 a.m. rather than 2 p.m.  A company must have offices that are able to accommodate all of its employees’ “peak hours”, no matter the time of day, or night.  Designing and planning an office environment that has the systems and security in place to welcome an employee’s ideas (either remotely from their home, or, if they have to come into the office in the early morning hours to deliver) is critical to consistent and round-the-clock success.

The days of grandiose building lobbies, over-the-top reception areas and “big shot” offices are in the past.  Modern companies, that want to attract the brightest minds, are rethinking the way their work environments are though-out and designed and built.  By doing so, they are creating places and spaces where employees want to come to work and give it their all.

Stephen Dynia is Principal of Dynia Architects, a nationally acclaimed architectural firm with a Denver office that has been instrumental in new design and development in River North.  Stephen can be reached at 303-339-9910 or sdynia@dynia.com.

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