Office spaces are becoming more sophisticated and flexible as designers respond to technological advances and changing communication needs. This article sees current trends in office design as reflective of the desire to address a multigenerational workforce with supportive and sustainable design. In the words of one expert, “It not only fosters communication, forms a sense of community, facilitates learning, but most of all it addresses generational gaps.”

One prime target is the team-minded Gen-Y population (the 18-24 age group) which has influenced designers to create more collaborative and informal spaces while reducing the overall footprint of private office space. The latest productivity research reveals that problem-solving occurs faster in groups of 2-3 people than it does with larger groups. The result is less emphasis on large, enclosed conference rooms in favor of creating privacy in public “accidental” meeting spaces where smaller “social” gatherings can spontaneously occur over coffee breaks, lunch and other serendipitous encounters. “It’s about fostering communication through design,” notes one expert. Among the trends discussed:

  • Open offices have gained in popularity while cubicles have begun using lowered cubicle panels, greater use of glass to promote visibility and bring in natural light, and smaller European-looking desks with cleaner lines;
  • Environmentally friendly materials and design are in vogue and LEED certification is being sought by more and more companies as a branding tool to attract and retain workers; and
  • Flexibility is increasing in both office design and workforce, as people toil in their ever more customized and supportive work environments, engaging, innovating and adapting to a fierce and ever changing marketplace.

Source: Wendy Smith, Rochester Business Journal; Mar 13, 2009

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