Will Gen Z Have the Last Word in Office Design?

Last week, we took a look at some of the layout, technology, and furniture features that Millennials expect in the workplace. They’ll be the dominant demographic for quite some time. However, Gen Z is already jockeying for position in the workforce. In another 15-20 years, their voice will have a great deal of impact on office design. If you are doing long term office space planning, you might want to look ahead and anticipate what this youngest generation of workers wants.

Gen Y Loves Ambiguity

According to Haworth strategist Dr. Michael O’Neill, the workplace is already shifting to take the tastes of Generation Y into account. These young people crave social connection, collaboration, and choice. The boundaries between work and life blur as workspaces develop that look nothing like traditional cubicles. Instead, they resemble a lounge, a café, or even a garden. People aren’t supposed to know the precise purpose of each space—it’s all open for interpretation. This takes the flexibility desired by Gen X a step beyond facilitation into complete freedom.

Gen Z Wants More Clarity

O’Neill suggests that this free-for-all is going to shift when Generation Z reaches the workforce in meaningful numbers by 2020. He has some interesting ideas about why this is so (it may have to do with being raised by Gen X parents), but the impact on the office could be significant. Instead of thriving on chaos, they may want spaces that are clearly defined. When they show up at work, seeing a layout that makes it easy to understand what type of activity takes place in each area may help them be most productive. Having choices will still be important, but ‘legibility’ of space (O’Neill’s term) could prove essential.

How Is Planning Possible?

With so much uncertainty and speculation, is it really possible to make long term plans for the office? According to workplace design expert Despina Katsikakis, there is a way to future proof your workplace. She takes the view that adaptability will need to be designed and built at the overall facility level and the office level.

In her ideal scenario, “Space could be adapted for business shifts in ‘real-time’ and be continually re-aligned with core business objectives.” She sees workspace as being event driven, with a high level of dynamism and a focus on user choice and control. Generation Z won’t be the last generation to want to work in new ways. In the end, having the agility to shift with the trends (rather than finding one perfect layout), is the key. Let The Office Planning Group help you envision the most flexible way to use your space now and for the future.

Millennials and Workplace Design

It’s not surprising that employers often struggle to keep up with changing expectations for workplace design. The goal posts keep shifting with each generation. That’s been especially true for the millennials. This generation came of age during a profound shift in how technology is used for commerce. However, the oldest workers in the millennial generation have now reached their early thirties—and they’re old enough to have their minds made up about what they want and need in a workspace. Since they are likely to represent 3 out of 4 workers in the U.S. by 2025, their opinion certainly matters.

The Office Still Plays a Central Role

First, let’s be clear that young workers don’t see the workplace as an expendable environment. According to research from CBRE Group, Inc. young professionals don’t really want to be at home all day working in their pajamas. About 4 out of 10 prefer to work mainly from a single office location. Another 50% like the option to work from the office or from home. Only 7 out of 100 want to work mainly from home (and even they would probably change their minds if that was their only option).

Workplace Design and Technology Tips for Satisfying Millennials

  • Provide a mix of work environments to choose from within the physical office space. These employees appreciate autonomy and expect to be trusted to know when, where, and how to get their work done most effectively.
  • Ensure consistent and secure remote access to business data, apps, and networks. Millennials want to be mobile and expect business technology to support them.
  • Make space for face-to-face teamwork. Self-directed and impromptu meetings are common among younger workers who typically spend less than 50% of their workday at their individual desks.
  • Select mobile office furniture that can be reconfigured by employees throughout the day as-needed. Coming in to the office each day is a lot less boring when the layout is fluid.
  • Add ergonomic furnishings to enhance workstations. Millennials don’t care about having a big desk. They do appreciate having an articulated monitor stand so they can easily adjust a shared workstation to their needs at a moment’s notice.

For a full-scale review of your office space with the needs of the emerging workforce in mind, contact TOPG today.

Are You Fascinated by the History of the Modern Office?

You’re not alone. The development of the modern office is a topic that’s fascinated a lot of researchers and writers over the years. Today, working a 9 to 5 job in a cubicle is so mundane that most people don’t stop to think about how this whole lifestyle came about.

What are the origins of the office? What did offices look like in days gone by? What’s coming up next? Here’s an overview of some great in-depth articles on these subjects:

The First Grand Office

We tend to think of globalization as a fairly recent phenomenon in business. But one of the first purpose-built offices, and certainly the largest of its era, was devoted to international commerce. The East India Company was the hub of Britain’s commercial empire in the 1700s and 1800s. Generating, managing, and filing business correspondence required all hands on deck. It was the ‘paper-full’ office. The East India House had so many employees that management felt the need to institute a tracking program. At one point, they forced clerks to sign in and out—and to sign that they were present every 15 minutes. The BBC’s Lucy Kellaway recounts the details of office life in that era in her production “Beginnings of the Modern Office”.

Offices in the United States

According to the Arts Council at Caruso St. John, modern offices made a move stateside in the late nineteenth century. New communication technologies allowed administrative work to be centralized far from the place of production or distribution. In-office tools like typewriters and calculators allowed companies to collect the first forms of business intelligence for analysis. It was the advent of the knowledge worker, “The concentration of wealth in the new corporations required an ever-greater proportion of an increasingly literate population to work in the ‘white collar factories’.”

The Office Merges Back with Life

Jill Lepore writes eloquently and at length about the modern office for The New Yorker in Away from My Desk. She draws on the writing of Mills and Saval in “White Collar” and “Cubed” to paint a picture of the pointlessness of much office work. As Mills said, “Each day men sell little pieces of themselves in order to try to buy them back each night and week end.”

Saval is more of an optimist, believing that it’s time to start viewing the office itself as something quaint and outdated. He sees a future in which office buildings will be shuttered forever as workers go out into the world. While offices are probably not in immediate danger of extinction, they are certainly not the prisons they once seemed. Certainly with the right space planning and furnishings, they can now be a place where workers choose to go to be productive–even if they have the option of working elsewhere. For ideas on how to make your office space inviting, contact The Office Planning Group for a no-obligation consultation.

Getting Started with Office Daylighting

Office daylighting is a method of introducing natural light into the workplace to supplement or replace artificial lighting. Although windows are the most common source of sunlight for the office, even interior areas of a single story structure can be daylighted using skylights (such as tubular skylights). Gregg D. Ander, FAIA has written a highly informative report for the Whole Building Design Guide that covers this topic in a great deal of detail. He points to three main features to be taken into consideration for this type of design:

  • The actual entry points for daylight (size, location, materials)
  • The glare remediation devices (blinds, shades, redirectors, and diffusers)
  • The internal lighting system that should be working in concert with light from outdoors

What Elements of Office Design Impact Daylighting?

Some of the information to gather during the planning stages of a daylighting project includes:

  • The areas of the building that will be adequately lit during a typical workday (north and south-facing walls will tend to have most daylight in the New Orleans area)
  • How seasonal changes including cloud cover, shorter days, and daylight savings time will impact lighting patterns
  • Whether interior furnishings and finishes are resistant to U/V or if the glass used will block ultraviolet radiation
  • What supplemental lighting will be used for dimmer times of the day (such as desktop task lighting)
  • What type of responsive design will be used for overhead lighting (automatic sensing of daylight vs. timed on/off or dimmer/brighter cycles)
  • How office furniture is arranged and if this will put worksurfaces and computer monitors in the path of direct sunlight (causing an issue with hot surfaces and glare)
  • How large areas of glass may affect heating and cooling costs for the building (since even double-pane windows don’t moderate temperature as well as walls do)
  • Whether walls and ceilings need to be repainted to be more reflective (boosting the brightness from sunlight refracting through the space)

As you can see, everything from construction to office space layout matters in a successful daylighting project. If you’re considering embarking on this type of renovation, let us play a role in helping you uncover the hidden potential for daylight in your office. This might involve rearranging furniture, lowering cubicle wall heights, and much more.

Improving Workspace Utilization Part 2

improving workspace utilizationHave you painstakingly collected loads of data so you can start improving workspace utilization? Now, you’re ready to sift through it and put this Workplace Business Intelligence to use in making smart decisions about how you allocate office space. Analyze the utilization data to determine the following:

Usage for Shared Spaces

  • Which spaces are used at the highest capacity and which spaces go unused
  • Which employees and departments use shared spaces and for what purpose
  • Times of day and days of the week when each area is used most often

Additional information to gather: Compare the actual usage data from shared spaces such as meeting rooms or conference rooms with the scheduled usage.

  • Are people showing up and using the space they’ve set aside?
  • Are small groups booking a large conference room when a small team meeting room would do?

This helps you identify whether people are hoarding the best workspaces even when they don’t need them. It can also help you decide whether space hibernation is a good option. With hibernation, you can use rules-based booking software to enforce an energy-saving approach to workspace utilization. For example, it might only offer the option to book conference rooms on one floor until all those spaces are filled. That way, you only have to heat or cool that floor.

Usage for Individual Workstations

  • The maximum workstation occupancy percentage on an average workday
  • The percentage of employees who are typically at their desk for most of the day
  • Peak times of day and days of the week for workstation occupancy

Additional information to gather:

  • Are employees working within the office but away from their desks? If so, where?
  • Are they setting up temporary workspaces in other areas? If so, what is it about these self-chosen workspaces that makes them more appealing than the assigned desks?

This type of information can give you insight into what types of flexible workspaces could be used to replace traditional workstations and reduce the overall office footprint. For example, if people are gathering in small social groups to collaborate on a come-and-go basis using mobile devices, a workplace lounge might be a viable option.

Next week, we’ll talk about some of the ways to ease a transition into desk-sharing, one of the most far-reaching and impactful ways of improving workspaces utilization.

Matching Office Furniture to Employee Work Styles

employee work stylesA healthy, well-rounded company culture features a variety of people and a range of employee work styles. Row after row of identical cubicles may fail to meet the needs of everyone in an office. It’s no surprise that businesses are beginning to create more flexible and varied work landscapes to accommodate a diverse workforce and help everyone be more productive. Here are a number of ways you can use space design and office furniture selection to give everyone what they need.

Social and Collaborative

These workers prefer to be in earshot of interesting conversations so they can feel connected to office life. They thrive in an environment that is full of energy. These employees like to “talk things out” and rely heavily on input from others to do their best at work. A desking or benching system with low dividers can be an advantageous setup since it ensures close proximity to coworkers.

In offices that primarily feature cubicles, extroverts may enjoy having the freedom to work in a lounge area using mobile technology. Being untethered from a desk and able to go “where the action is” may be seen as a significant benefit. If these workers do have permanently assigned workspace, they may like to change aspects of their workstation frequently to keep from feeling bored or trapped.

Reserved and Focused

These employees are likely to be most comfortable in low-traffic areas and with workstations that feature high panels to provide a sense of privacy. In an open office environment that doesn’t feature cubicles, providing enclosed spaces where employees can retreat occasionally for greater concentration is important. They may feel protective of their workstation and have a desire to customize it to precisely match the way they work.

Introverted workers may also benefit from breakout areas for small team or one-on-one collaboration. It’s not that they want to be alone all the time, they simply need to have a choice about their level of social interaction on a daily basis. Offering greater flexibility makes these workers feel more empowered.

How do you satisfy everyone in the office?

You don’t have to hand over a catalogue and let every employee make their own selections. Next week, we’ll look at ways you can create a workspace that gives everyone what they need—and most of what they want.

Roundup of Office Design Trends for 2014

In July, we looked at a lot of up-and-coming office design trends from NeoCon contestants. That’s the perspective from the designers and manufacturers. Now, let’s take a peek at what office furniture and space planning experts think is on trend for this year.

Rosio Office Furniture

This company sees an uptick in the use of touchdown and breakout areas to provide what open office layouts lack. When individuals need privacy for concentration or small groups want a more intimate atmosphere for collaboration, they don’t have to reserve a conference room days in advance. Instead, the modern workspace features small nooks away from high traffic areas so employees can get more done.

Design & Trend

Contributor Meredith Lepore notes that mobility is the watchword of 2014. And we’re not talking about tablets and smart phones. Office furniture is the focus. Chairs have long been mobile, but now tables and pedestal files are too. Besides being rollable for fast reconfiguration of the office layout, tables also go up and down. The sit-to-stand trend is going strong and showing no signs of backing down.

CCIM Institute

The Institute notes that space design itself is changing with the times. Business facilities are being re-planned based on the activities workers are expected to perform. Figuring out when workers spend time at their desks and when they are on-the-go or in meetings permits the implementation of more flexible arrangements. For some organizations, that might look like desk-sharing coupled with the installation of a resource center or even a coffee bar.


Above and beyond the activity-based planning trend is the idea of creating a workplace that’s designed like a city. StrongProject points to this option as the way to strike a balance between a completely open office layout and a cube farm. Using a centralized hallway helps organize different types of work areas and directs traffic organically through the office for ease of navigation.

Trends in Office Design

Bob Brooke notes that 2014 is bringing people even closer together in the office—through continued consolidation. Rental space is down and ownership is up. Corporate headquarters wants everyone on the same page and in the same building. At the same time, there’s a high value on virtualization. Companies are spending more on high-tech videoconference rooms to cut travel costs and keep dispersed teams connected.

Just for Fun

The roundup wouldn’t be complete without a juicy article from Nikil Saval at n +1 magazine. It’s a satirical sendup of some of the most popular office furniture and design trends of the last few years. Nikil pulls no punches in sending up the sit-to-stand desk, the open office, and more. Who says office design planning has to be a serious business?

Choosing the Right Worksurfaces for Your Office

Are you outfitting a brand new location or revamping an old facility with new furniture? One of the most important decisions you’ll make is the type of worksurfaces you provide for employees. After seating, this is the office furniture that has the greatest influence on their day-to-day work. And it has an even bigger impact on how efficiently you use the available space. Let’s take a look at the four basic options.

Desks – The Bullpen Original

Individual desks are the traditional choice because they can be provisioned in so many different configurations. There’s a simple rectangle, an L-shape, a full U-shape, and more. Employees feel a sense of ownership since each desk can be positioned apart from the adjacent workspaces. Built-in under desk storage completes the self-sufficiency of these workstations. They are a good choice for wireless offices that don’t require much cabling or wiring.

Cubicles – The Mini-Office

Cubes offer the same configuration options as desks, but they include greater visual and acoustic privacy. Workstations can be closely adjoined yet still separated by panels, saving floor space without making employees feel too crowded. Overhead bins and vertical rail systems make cubicles the ideal option for offices that need lots of storage space per worker. Runways can conceal wires and cables to power each workstation.

Benches – The Current Trend

Benching is the ultimate space-saving solution with it’s truly tiny footprint. An office workbench is basically one long worksurface with shared structural components (such as legs) from one station to the next. It’s a good choice for teams that collaborate and communicate on a regular basis, but the setup can be distracting for employees who need to focus for extended periods. The central spine on a benching system makes power and cable distribution simple, often saving the most money in this area compared to other options.

Worktables – The Wave of the Future

Worktables are free-standing like desks, but are usually only available in simple rectangular configurations. Today’s hot trend in worktables is height-adjustability. Storage is usually minimal and separate from the worktable. Rolling pedestals are a popular option to pair with worktables. These smaller surfaces may be a good choice for offices that are going paperless.

Additional Options

Wall-mounted tables and lounge tables that include seating are other worksurfaces that can be distributed throughout the workplace. These make great touch down spots for flexible work spaces and for mobile workers.

A blog post only has space to scratch the surface of such a big topic! With so many choices, it makes sense to seek expert advice before you buy. Contact The Office Planning Group for an on-site consultation.

New Orleans Office Planning Consultations

office space planning LouisianaAre you remodeling, restructuring or building new offices? Is so, you could probably use some expert advice about office space planning.

At The Office Planning Group, we have a team of New Orleans design professionals who are ready and able to assist you with a FREE planning consultation. e don’t offer template solutions, or “one size fits all” plans – when we evaluate your space, we do so with an eye to functionality, comfort and professionalism, not just to create something based on current trends that have no basis in  the realities of working in an office!

We start with figuring out the foundation data for your office and build from there. Once we know how much space you have, how many people will be expected to work in it and visit it on an average day, and what the space will be used for, we can:

  • Create an optimized suggested layout to fit all necessary equipment and workstations  into the available space
  • Ensure an excellent work flow and the feel of an environment with “elbow room for all”
  • Design forward thinking components  for modularity and flexibility so you can reconfigure or expand as needed
  • Select ergonomic office furnishings to increase productivity and employee retention by providing a healthy, comfortable work environment
  • Coordinate aesthetic accessories to create an office design that speaks volumes about your brand

Our goal is to work closely with you to develop and implement a plan that turns your office space into a platform of efficiency and comfort. We don’t base our recommendations off of blueprints or photos. Instead, we perform on-site evaluations as part of the no-charge consultation process so we can fully understand your business needs. Then we can work with you to

  • Maximizes your available square footage with a cohesive floor plan
  • Create a book with materials, colors and textures to help pin down the perfect “look” for your office
  • Re3commend furniture dealers and manufacturers that meet your needs and your budget
  • Provide initial 3D computerized drawings that let you “view” the suggested office space plan before final implementation

Office space planning in New Orleans and surrounding areas is what we do, so you won’t have to stress about it. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consult today.


Trends in New Orleans Office Design Part Three

cubicles-overheadThis is the final installment of our New Orleans Office Design trends series! Read on for the last four trends you should adopt.

7. Since management typically gets 90% of the floor space in an office, but work the least hours, cohnsider revamping, Give engineers a large conference room for collaboration and have mangers take smaller spaces since they are back and forth and in and out constantly, and usually work shorter hours.

8. Remember that every job, task, worker and project is not the same – and one size does not fit all. Consider staggering cubicle and shared workstation sizes to allow for those who need more or less space and amenities.  Allow for interaction on every level, and pay just as much attention to privacy if required.

9. Cut out the drywall! It’s expensive, hard to change, and blocks the flow of your space. consider a hybrid blend of cubicles and open space, with closed in offices at each corner and a shared workstation and touch down center at the hub. People will be more apt to enjoy their work when the walls are shorter and they don’t feel as closed in.  Go for flexibility and arrange desks so that those who have direct contact with the public ar accessible and those who need to work undisturbed are protected. Cubicles can also be dismantled, shifted and reconfigured – the advantage of modular design is that there is never any being locked in to a specific plan.

10. Link the shell of a building and its infrastructure together, remembering that the walls affect the lighting, the sound and the mood, the lighting affects the mood, the productivity and the ambiance, the floors affect the noise level and the comfort, and the acoustics are always something to be considered. Offices designed with an eye to calm and peacefulness on average are 50% more productive than those that are not so designed.

Don’t forget to take into account how your business will change over time, and allow for expansion if possible without drastically cutting existing employees’ space. Better to leave some space open and ready for new hires than to suddenly cut everyone’s space in half to accommodate!

Thanks for reading. What are some trends you see in New Orleans Office Design planning?