Although an open-plan remains a prevalent concept for modern workspaces worldwide, many companies are now diversifying their offices to include private areas.
While the basic principles of doing business may remain the same, the changes in employee demographics and their attitudes toward work, swayed by technology advancements, affect the way designers approach office interiors.
During the 1990s, companies based in Silicon Valley, California were early adopters of open-plan offices and today almost 70% of American employees work in low or no-partition workspaces, according to the International Facility Management Association.
Tech giants such as Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook have gone one step further, offering their staff quirky “work and play” interiors, some even without assigned seating. Last year, Facebook employees moved into a new 40,000m2 headquarters, designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Frank Gehry, which is, according to Mark Zukerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, “the largest open floor plan in the world”.
At the same time, an on-going debate among designers over open offices was triggered by an essay “Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace”, published in The Washington Post last year.
With 11 regional experts weighing-in on current office design trends, Commercial Interior Design explores a number of issues that are affecting workplaces both globally and in the region. The majority we talked to agreed that although an open-plan remains a prevalent concept for modern workspaces worldwide, many companies are now diversifying their offices to include private areas where workers can work without being disturbed.
CUBICLES VERSUS OPEN PLAN
Gilbert Grino, marketing manager of BAFCO, says that the idea of using smart office design to stimulate creativity is not a new concept, nor was it invented by Google.
“The pioneering Walt Disney promoted this concept more than 70-years ago, believing that it ideally supported creative and innovative work,” says Grino. “Depending on what they were working on at the time, employees would assemble in different office areas, which offer different functionalities. At Disney, every participant in the creative process was able to use different spaces; according to their assignments – there were playful spaces for dreaming up ideas; workshop-like spaces for practical implementation; and even clear strict spaces for criticism. Utilising this approach optimised the Disney workspace by providing both collaborative and private work spaces.”
Today, as Grino explains, the average office space is 55% cubicle and 45% collaborative or shared.
“In our extensive UAE design experience, we have found a hybrid solution often works best: small private rooms for concentrated work, personal work stations in open office settings for team work, and a variety of formal and informal meeting spaces is the most effective combination,” explains Grino. “A properly designed office should combine both the collaborative and privacy requirements of its users. Communication and the quality of interaction become the focus, while honouring the need for privacy and providing spaces where one can work quietly on a concentrated task.”