The Role of Community in Workplace Design
KI understands the evolving ideas of a workplace and focuses on meaningful work.
Time and time again we see workplace designers crossing over to the realms of hospitality and retail, gaining insight on fluidity of program and a broader range of shared spaces. But for KI, hospitality isn’t the only source of inspiration for the workplace. Education or “collegiate design” can also be a successful strategy in attracting and retaining talent, providing flexibility, and building a sense of community.
“We have seen an inability among recent college graduates to transition and adapt to new workstyles than they were used to in school. It causes a lot of stress and angst,” Jonathan Webb, KI’s Vice President of Workplace Strategy, explains. There is a fine line between employee’s desire for privacy and their need for communal and collaborative spaces, and Webb believes collegiate design has a lot to offer in terms of creating that balance in the ever-evolving workplace. Drawing inspiration from colleges can help designers and clients step out of the “one-to-one” mindset of individual employees having a singular workstation. “When we think about the attraction and retention issue and look at the next generation of workers, we need to study where those individuals have spent their last six years,” Webb says. Students lean towards mobility and the potential to work wherever they can: libraries, cafes, hallways, or even outside on a park bench.
While Gen Y and Gen Z workers have a strong desire for community and collaboration, privacy is not quite a thing of the past. With this in mind, KI has developed furniture solutions that offer the “best of both worlds.” Their Tattoo Collection celebrates an individual’s creativity and expression, which not only boosts productivity but shapes a community culture at large. Winning a Best of Neocon gold award last year, the collection offers a kit-of-parts approach that cultivates the freedom of choice and allows employees the opportunity to move seamlessly between workstyles. It gives individuals control over their work environment through the ability to move panels for privacy or arrange lounge seating for ideation and reflection. According to Webb, “By sharing experiences, a culture can be created that promotes unity and makes people proud of where they work.”
To build pride in a workplace community, however, maintaining individual wellness is also key. “It’s simple—healthy people, happy people,” Brett Shwery, Senior Vice President and Interior Design Director at AECOM, comments. “The word community comes from the latin root meaning ‘shared in common’—a perfect definition for the workplace. Creating a space that provides a sense of shared, common goals comes from when the built elements and operational or company culture work together in tandem.”
Following principles of active design, creating more social hubs, and offering wellness programs is a start, but both experts acknowledge how quickly the workplace is shifting and how other factors outside of the building itself are introducing the imminent changes office design will face in the near future. “Over time, our design process will change,” Shwery says. “The onset of never-ending technological advancements, data, and economic shifts will impact how we design. We just have to be nimble and prepared to evolve.”