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From Taylorism to the open officeOffice design has gone through various stages of evolution as businesses have attempted to meet conflicting needs: optimizing square footage, fostering independence for focused work, and enhancing collaboration.
The first major office design trend was Taylorism, which involved rows of desks facing in the same direction (1904). The second was the action office, which introduced partitioned workspaces and gradually transitioned into the cubicle farm (1968). The third is the current one, the open-plan office, which transitions back to communal space but typically positions workspaces more diversely than in the era of Taylorism.
Trends in the development of office layouts are tremendously important. Why? Office design has a fundamental impact on productivity and worker health, according to World Green Building Council CEO Jane Henley. That’s particularly compelling because getting the staff to perform at their best is the top priority – with employees generally accounting for 90% of business costs.
Here are four ways that the office is changing, as will become increasingly obvious over the next few years:
Offshoots of the open officeOver the past 20 years or so, especially because of the well-publicized layouts of Silicon Valley enterprises, the open office has become increasingly prevalent. Seven out of every 10 workplaces either have low or no dividers. That type of floor plan may be good for collaboration, but it can be devastating for individual projects such as reading, writing, and creative ideation. More businesses are turning to blended environments with private and collaborative areas available to the staff.
AdaptabilityRelated to the idea of mixing open and closed environments, designers are moving away from uniformity and toward flexibility. A case study of pharmaceutical firm Lilly determined that switching from specific places for each employee to a more free-flowing model gave worker satisfaction a 29% boost.
From play toward engagementVery few people will turn down a job because there is a DJ booth, ping-pong table, or slide. However, many designers started to feel the trend toward playfulness embodied by tech industry startups was a bit ridiculous. Today, companies aren’t discarding the notion of play but tying it into more refined, culturally based engagement. A perfect example is the indoor orange grove at Google’s Tel Aviv office.
Green building and naturePeople become as much as 15% more productive when plants are introduced to the workplace. Microsoft, Facebook, and others have outfitted their offices with vertical gardens.
The idea of embracing nature in an office setting is now becoming more sophisticated, explains Tom Brialey in Workplace Insight. “As well as incorporating plant life, designers are moving towards raw materials and textures such as wood, brass and copper,” he says. “The focus is on sustainability, authenticity and a better overall relationship with nature.”