The Eight Challenges Faced By The Corporate Office Design Industry

We are living in an era of large scale changes and the corporate office design Industry is no exception. What challenges does this Industry face? What challenges are faced by the directors from diferent companies that are trying to attract and retain the best talent available by menas of design?

For some years, the concepts and trends applied in the design of corporate offices have been evolving. We have seen how the cubicles and private offices disappear and give way to more open and collaborative spaces. Today, the industry faces eight challenges, which have been discussed in different areas. We have reached the conclusion that there is no single recipe in terms of flexibility, mobility and the collaborative spaces. Each company has its own way of doing things, and the available space must be aligned to these work strategies. For one business, telework may be the best option, while for another the solution may be to have un assigned seats. Whatever the solution, companies must carefully analyze the different options and choose the one that best suits their own organizational culture.

What are those challenges to which designers, architects and managers should be paying more attention to?

The first challenge, mobility, a well debated issue during the last year, and it can not be taken too lightly. Many companies have implemented telework programs in which their employees can choose the place where they work, either at home or the office. Researchers have come to the conclusion that flexibility has a major impact on the increase of productivity and satisfaction; however, other studies sugest that physical proximity between colaborators is critical in the achievement of the objectives of the company. No extreme is good, and before any decision can be made it is as important to analyze the goals the company has set, as it is their culture, and so be able to decide whether this working method supports the processes of their specific company.

Secondly, the debate about the open office, has gathered some momentum in recent months. In prestigious publications such as The New Yorker, several articles for and against open plan offices have been published. Critics argue over the high level of noise and multiple distractions; and those in favor mention among other things, the decrease in square meters, the environmental benefits and the increased collaborative work. Both positions have a point. Both, collaborative spaces, which must be open and available to everyone, and also spaces of concentration, which could be telephone booths or small meeting rooms are just as  important.

Along the same line of thought, we can find the next challenge: the creation of appropriate spaces for collaboration. Many studies have concluded that this type of space encourages the exchange of knowledge it also increases productivity and innovation. Some strategies  that promote collaborative work are: locating meeting spaces close to the working groups, rather than centralizing them on a specific floor; providing multiple types of spaces for collaboration such as formal and informal meeting rooms, project rooms, ideation or hatching rooms, among others; designing small meeting spaces ( from 4 to 6 peersons more or less ), as it has been determined that the average number of people per meeting do not exceed six, in the majority of cases.

The encounter of four different generations in the same space, represents a major challenge for most companies. Every generation has very different expectations, objectives and ways of working. While the " Baby Boomers " prefer a traditional distribution ( closed offices, with cubicles ), those forming part of generation Y, are more inclined to spaces that encourage collaborative work, which includes an open layout. The challenge, therefore, is to design spaces that support different types of work, but are flexible enough to accommodate future generations.

On the other hand, more and more companies are committed not only to promoting the welfare and health of their employees, but also in taking good care of the environment. In fact, designing sustainable spaces has ceased to be an option and has become a non negotiable minimum. Providing spaces with access to natural light and ventilation, ergonomic furniture, energy and water saving strategies, spaces such as gymnasiums, cafeterias with healthy food choices, access to bicycles and alternative means of transport are just some of the strategies that are being developed within offices. Some studies conclude that new generations consider these factors when accepting or rejecting a job offer. So It has become a challenge for companies, to include this in their strategies and so to attract and retain the best talent.

The sixth challenge that companies have to consider is the integration of new technologies into everyday work. It is considered no secret that technology has become a central item in the persecution of effective achievement of the business objectives. The challenge, therefore, is not simply to incorporate new technological devices in space, it is also to provide the necessary tools to enable people to work from just about anywhere, and also be able to access information remotely from any device, be it a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop. It has also become necessary to inform and train all colaborators to ensure an efficient and effective use of technology.

To illustrate this, in recent years there has been a great deal of emphasis on trying to maintain the commitment of employees at a high level. Among other activities, there have been campaigns and management strategies to keep everyone informed about changes that are made within the companies, from the remodeling of spaces, to a change in the processes. Permanent communication campaigns with the different working groups, training and workshops are just some of the strategies that companies use to keep their teams committed. According to some studies, employees who are committed, not only to the company but with their post, are more productive.

Finally, the great challenge not only for every company but also for companies specialized in designing corporate spaces, is to create a work environment that is aligned with the strategy of their specific business, and it must also be a tool for that strategy. The buying or renting of an office, and also the remodeling of spaces is a big investment, so every square meter must be carefully designed to support the organizational culture and the working methods of the company. A pre and post occupancy diagnosis can be of great use to track the ROI, once you have obtained the new offices.

To deeply understand the needs and processes of each company is the first step  on overcoming these eight challenges, and to deliver a unique project that can suit not only the business strategy, but the organizational culture as well.