A new study by the Brookings Institution and Project for Public Spaces has set out to identify a shift in workplace design as a function of emerging business models and workspace utilisation with emphasis increasingly placed on a core ethos of the workspace occupants as opposed to the previously traditional ‘style-driven’ approach.

The full study can read HERE, and raises some interesting issues with regard to office design and layout and the approaches that must be taken moving forward to satisfy the needs of modern business.

The Study argues that during the past decade, a new form of workspace has emerged to meet the needs of new forms of business such as “research institutes, incubators, accelerators, innovation centers, co-working spaces, start-up spaces and more” which, by their very nature, necessitate multi-occupancy office / working space and are imbued with an ethos of collaborative working and resource sharing.

Office management companies, small developers
and large development and investment companies
that have both the financing and the might are
extending these attributes from just one building to a cluster of
buildings, if not blocks and broader districts.

Julie Wagner and Dan Watch

So, what implications does this have for office interior design and office refurbishment projects?

Such a shift in paradigm necessitates a shift in approach with architects and designers moving from ‘imposing’ a stylish design to embracing the philosophies of the business and individuals who are to use the apace and their work practices. 

An example of this shift in approach can be seen in the use of collaborative space. With ‘accelerators’, ‘incubators’ and ‘start-up spaces’ harnessing multiple work practices and, in many instances, small companies and self-employed individuals operating in the same space, innovation is promoted through interaction, co-working and collaboration. Space provided for interaction and discussion is no longer to be seen as a space for ‘work avoidance’ but for ‘work development’, as a necessary part of the business process and innovative thinking.

Furthermore, such practices as co-working (a diverse range of workers and/or workforces undertaking their duties in a shared office environment) require a range of shared support services and facilities to necessitate their roles – such as reprographics and meeting rooms to consultative services, for example.

These considerations have a large impact on office interior design. Whereas the traditional approach was to provide a colour palette commensurate with that of the corporate entity using the space, under the emerging model this clearly can’t be the case and so design has to flow from an appreciation of the nature of the space and what it has been established to promote. Further implications here apply to office furniture, layout and the balance between open-plan and private office space within a building.

For this emerging sector, the authors of the study Julie Wagner and Dan Watch argue, office design has to embrace the ‘human-ness’ of workspace, that is, to create designs and layouts that facilitate collaborative interaction and face-to-face discussion as opposed to more traditional approaches of compartmentalisation and seeing such interaction as a distraction for working with spaces designed to limit its occurrence.