5 Ways Activity-Based Workplace Design Impacts Contract Furniture

70% of participants in a study say an activity-based workplace design environment increases their productivity, and two-thirds feel their work is more stimulating (Kinnarps).

Over 60% in a survey say they have more energy in an activity-based working environment (Kinnarps).

Almost 80% of employees say their productivity is influenced by whether or not they have access to a quiet room where they can focus (Skanska and JLL).

In our blog “4 Ways the Evolution of Office Space Inspired Contract Furniture”, we discussed the history of the office landscape and how it factors in today’s workplace, asking the question…why can’t both open and private spaces co-exist?  The answer is in Activity-Based Workplace (ABW) design. As you know, ABW is typically designed for productivity, collaboration, and flexibility. All this while minimizing cost and maximizing real estate.

When collaborative and intimate workspaces collide, the beauty of an activity-based environment is created. In fact, ABW is an agile office space, designed for anything that may come up during the course of the day.

Time for a meeting? Gather in a huddle room. Need some one-on-one time with a co-worker to discuss a project? An office pod is perfect. Feel like socializing and craving engagement? Break out or lounge environments with no barriers are ideal.

The point is, no matter what the task, the undertaking, or the venture, there’s a space for that in an activity-based workspace.

Designing an office space based on employee behavior, such as the ABW concept, creates demand for contract furniture based on that behavior.

Below are 5 ways the activity-based working movement has impacted the contract furniture industry, how to transform your space, what to avoid, and examples of who got it right.

1. Break the Habit

As creatures of habit, we tend to gravitate towards the same thing day after day. Sitting in the same desk or chair. Eating the same thing for lunch. Playing the same song over and over. We become compliant with our own surroundings.

The Activity-Based Workplace design makes us move from ownership of any given area towards membership of that area. Meaning, by creating a non-possessive and diverse environment, you break the “habit” and promote participation. Suddenly the environment becomes enterprising and productivity soars.

In order to achieve this spirit, elaborate and attractive furniture doesn’t always mean it’s practical for activity-based workspace design. Transforming your workplace from open or dare we say, traditional cubicles, to ABW should be a well-thought-out initiative.

Consider formal meeting space, impromptu meeting space, quiet areas, focal points, and hot desks.

It’s about giving employees choice and the ability to adapt their diverse activities to an office design that speaks to their mobile environment.

81 percent of employees at businesses that use ABW say the company culture supports mobility and flexibility (Leesman).

 

2. Cost

Remember the days of Enron and WorldCom? After they crashed and burned, the SEC investigated off-balance sheet transactions and noticed there were loopholes…i.e.: operating leases. According to investors, accounting treatment for operating leases makes it difficult to obtain an accurate amount of a company’s real debt.

It only takes 2 billion-dollar companies and an epic scandal to ruin it for everyone else. Therefore, beginning this year for public companies and next year for private, new lease accounting standards will be implemented. This means companies will be required to add furniture and office leases as assets and liabilities.

Even with the new accounting standards, an activity-based workspace helps companies make the most of their office because they’re sharing environments such as desks; making it less square footage per employee compared to traditional offices. All these extra zones allow companies to create flexible environments that not only teams enjoy working in but have ample room for larger furniture like collaborative sofas, seating pods, and community tables.

 

community table

Custom Community Table by Venue Industries

3. Make Every Space Work

Maximizing your workspace means it should be carefully thought-out, taking into consideration how much of the environment is actually being used, opposed to how much you think is being used. Most offices utilize only about 42% of space during the day and venture away from desks to somewhere else 18% of the time, according to a global network of experts at AECOM Time Utilisation Survey.

Since every office is different, and every organization has unique needs, therefore, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint how much space you need unless you work with your employees and consult with an expert for how your needs can be maximized. Although one thing everyone – from experts to employees – can agree on, is that providing various office settings will ignite a productive and positive work ecosystem. And that is what activity-based workplace design is all about.

Some questions to ask yourself and your team before implementing ABW and deciding on what direction fits best…

  • What part of the office is used most?
  • What parts are used the least?
  • What features (tech or otherwise) are necessary?
  • Should you invest more in office equipment?
  • Do you really need a ginormous conference room, or can you downsize and use the extra space for seating pods or booths?
  • How many employees are full-time, part-time, freelancers, work remotely, in-office, etc…? 
  • Which employees use their desk 80-90% and how many use it 20-50% of the time? Perhaps fewer desks and more space for a lounge would make better sense? Or will “hoteling” desks work for your team?

It’s estimated by Accruent who provides commercial real estate advisory services in their blog “Modern Office Space Optimization to Improve the Employee Experience” that one desk can cost a company between $8K and $10K yearly. Answering these questions and using analytics will allow you to blend an Agile/activity-based workspace into a flexible design, enabling you to pay for only what you need for a mix of vibrant environments.

custom booth

Custom booths by Venue Industries (Photo: Studio M, Inc)

4. Furniture and Elements of Activity-Based Workplace 

Now that the hard work of mapping out the floorplan based on your team’s needs is completed, it’s time to select the contract furniture that will achieve the ideal space…or a.k.a., the fun part.

Below are 5 general activity-based working office areas and what furniture works best for each space.  

Meeting in 5: Meeting Room

Pretty much no matter the office, there’s bound to be a designated meeting room. This room should be equipped with tech, including phones, Wi-Fi, monitor, and something as fancy as a SMARTboard or as basic as a whiteboard. Depending on the size of your office, it should hold from 5 to 20 people with a conference table and depending on the length of meetings, comfortable chairs.

High Tech: Technology and Resources

Not only is tech important in a conference room, but it should be considered thoughtfully throughout an activity-based workplace design. Where will printers go? Where will supplies be available? Do you have enough outlets and charging stations? How many collaboration boards will you need and where will you place them? How about monitors and other AV equipment?

collaborative seating

Assemble Seating Collection

Share it: Shared Workspace Areas

Although open office floorplans may have a bad rap, don’t brush them off so quickly. They still have a purpose and can easily be integrated into ABW. Use that open environment as a shared space. Select collaborative furniture that allows seating configurations so they’re simple to arrange in a variety of positions and settings. Include cool ottomans, community tables, swivel arms with task tables, benches, casters or a swivel base, comfortable sofas, console tables, and don’t forget power options. Make this area spacious enough for teams to gather when discussing group projects but useful enough for individuals who either work remotely or freelance and only make it into the office a few times a week. The idea is to create a space that’s agile for diverse groups and people, promoting engagement.

Quiet, Please: Quiet and Private Spaces

These areas are for what the name implies…projects or tasks which require focus and concentration. Quiet spaces should be positioned away from open or shared environments so that trickling noise doesn’t create interruptions. Use seating pods and enclosed booth seating for privacy and quiet.

Just Lounging: Break-out and Lounge Areas

Similar to the collaborative space but not to be confused with it is the break-out or lounge area. This space should have comfortable furniture such as upholstered sofas, armchairs, banquettes, ottomans, and coffee tables. It’s meant for people to chill, converse, and unwind in a casual atmosphere. This environment can double as a collaborative area for colleagues to gather when brainstorming, hold a last-minute meeting or also be a waiting area for guests.

Excellent employee experience doesn’t happen accidentally—it is the result of an approach that puts the employee and their role in the organisation at the centre of leadership attention. ~ Leesman’s “The World’s Best Workplaces 2018” Insight Report

5. Don’t Try This

Every company and office space are singular to their culture and size, so obviously what may work for one company may not work for the other.

Before you begin mapping out all the great spaces you’ll create for your team with the activity-based workplace design, consider some “Don’ts” before you “Do”:

Don’t select the first activity-based workspace model you read, hear, or see. There are several ABW concepts, so be sure to explore all options before you decide.

Don’t make the commitment to go ABW alone. Speak about the pros and cons with your team to make sure they understand what is ABW and how it will affect their workspace. If you have a very large team or don’t feel comfortable talking about the topic, consider inviting a consultant to provide a causal presentation and answer questions. This way, everyone feels they’re included in the decision-making process.

Don’t lose sight of creating a better work environment that will lead to increase productivity and all-around efficiency just because a few people are not on board and may not see the bigger picture. Those naysayers will witness improved organization, sustainability, and overall effective space and will go from thinking this was a horrible idea to thinking it was the best idea you’ve ever had. And for those who don’t, unfortunately, you can’t please everyone all the time.

Don’t cut corners. Let’s face it, every business has some kind of budget when it comes to optimizing office space. Therefore, you should be mindful of the costs to transition from cubicles or a totally open floorplan to activity-based workspace design. You should also keep in mind to deliver what you promised your team. Meaning, if you’re too focused on cost rather than function, you’re bound to drop the ball on the ABW model. To change the dynamic of your office environment, you’ll need to go all the way.

Who got Activity-Based Workplace design right?

By now you’re thinking…sure this all sounds great and I’m ready to jump into an ABW design, but do you have examples to show me of other companies who have successfully adapted their space to the activity-based workspace model? Glad you asked.

5 companies around the world we think nailed activity-based workplace design.

activity-based workspace design

Microsoft | Amsterdam, Netherlands (Photo: OfficeSnapshots)

 

activity-based workspace design

Unispace | Melbourne, Australia (Photo: Unispace)

 

activity-based workspace design

Gerson Lehrman Group | Austin, Texas (Photo: Dezzen)

 

activity-based workspace design

ENECO | Rotterdam, Netherlands (Photo: Inhabitat)

 

activity-based workspace design

UNILEVER | Schaffhausen, Switzerland (Photo: Urbanpeek)

Office Seating Pods

4 Ways the Evolution of Office Space Inspired Contract Furniture

As the story goes…sometime in the 1990s, a community of techsters called C-Base in Berlin, Germany set up shop in a collaborative environment. This community-run hackerspace soon caught on and by the end of the ’90s grew to other countries.

In 2005, Brad Neuberg was working at a startup in San Francisco and grew tired of the static private office environment. He didn’t want the stuffiness of an office but also didn’t want to work from home. He found a space which he rented twice a week and opened to those with the same mindset. That’s how the first collaborative workspace was born.

From folded card tables and chairs of Neuberg’s San Francisco CoWork Space to chandeliers, gyms, rooftop gardens, yoga lessons, and event space, collaborative spaces have certainly evolved. Along with that evolution has come the transformation of contract furniture to fit this growing industry. 

We explore the evolution of the corporate collaborative space (aka, open office floorplan) and the co-work concept and how it inspired and shaped contract furniture to come full circle back to the private space movement with office seating pods.

Believe or not, the open office concept came before the cubical.

We go back to Germany where a space planning consultant firm developed the “office landscape”. This was an early movement in office open space plan. Office landscape consisted of traditional office furniture, large potted plants, curved screens, and natural shapes for large workgroups.

Open Landscape
Osram Offices in Munich

Office furniture companies caught on to this trend and soon saw the need for various furniture schemes such as panel-hung systems to accommodate the office environment, but focused on privacy, storage, and volume. 

Soon after, the office landscape concept shifted to the conventional cubicle mid-1970s.

Cubicle: The Birth of the Cube

The word “cubical” derives from the Latin “cubiculum” and was used for small rooms or study spaces with patricians. Prior to the cube, offices had what we now call an open floor plan with desks in rows, right up against each other. Think the classic 1960s movie “The Apartment” with Jack Lemmon in a noisy New York insurance company trying to work his way to the top.

By the 60s, Herman Miller started the Herman Miller Research Corporation. Its focus was to solve problems related to the use of furniture and how it functions in an office environment. This entailed learning how people work; how they receive information; and how the office floorplan affects the way they perform their job. There was an entire science around this study which included behavioral psychologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians.

Although the study showed a substantial increase in the 20th Century of how we work and receive information in an office, little had changed to move with the change in communication for office furniture. Employees were still sitting back-to-back and side-by-side, with little to no privacy or a feeling of one’s personal space. The study also showed that an open office space reduced communication between employees…just the opposite of what you’d think an open floor plan would do.

From these findings, two furniture lines were launched by Herman Miller, Action Office I and Action Office II.

Action Office I had different sizes of desks and workspaces to fit the uniqueness of the people who used them. The downside? The line was expensive, hard to assemble, and not ideal for conglomerates. The upside? It won the Alcoa Award for product design. 

The second line was Action Office II. This line was the introduction to what we know as the office cubicle. This mobile wall unit was just the opposite of the first try at contract furniture. The line was interchangeable, easy to install and assemble, most of all, versatile so that a company was able to change its floorplan as needed.

Action Office II, Herman Miller
Action Office II, Herman Miller

Needless to say, since the second time around was much more successful than the first, Action Office II revolutionized the workplace and other furniture makers soon copied its concept.

Let’s Collaborate: The Co-Work Revolution

The cubical eventually became a little too quiet; a little too drab; a little too close for comfort as companies jammed more and more cubicles into small office spaces, creating cubicle farms. 

So back we went to open office space as new tech companies started to hack and disrupt everything, including the office norm. Down came the walls and up came the openness and freshness with cool desks, chairs and other furniture to congregate with your fellow peers and work on cool projects together. The idea was to create an environment to promote conversation, transparency, collaboration, innovation, and where employees and employers could sit side-by-side on the same playing field.

Collaborative Space
Photo by Jordan Stead, Amazon

Although it was not technically a new idea, an open office plan was a new concept after years of enclosed cubes. It worked…that is until the distractions increased, the job performance decreased, the sick days became frequent and people began complaining how their chatty co-workers always interrupted them, how their bosses were continuously looking over their shoulder, and how they just couldn’t get a minute alone.

Much like the cubicle was copied, the open office plan has been replicated by much larger companies from their much smaller counterparts because it’s been the trendy thing to do and not because it’s worked for their particular environment. Since every company’s culture, mission, and ethos is different, so should their office space.

Now let’s circle back to the co-work environment we started with. Co-work spaces take a page from the open office plan in private or corporate offices, as they are very similar with their shared goal to collaboration, innovate, give a feeling of belonging, all without the hierarchy.

Let’s take it a step further… since we can set up an office space pretty much anywhere from restaurant/bars to hotel lobbies to YMCAs to “corpoworking”, office furniture design needs to evolve, considering the human factor.

Office Seating Pods
Link Up Collaborative Seating Collection, Venue Industries

Furniture needs to be welcoming, comfortable, functional and inspiring. It should allow co-workers to collaborate in common areas, work independently in office seating pods, or hold meetings with clients or small groups in “huddle” rooms or spaces. Let’s not forget the areas that allow people to unwind, reflect, and have a minute to themselves before getting down to work.

The idea is to create a versatile environment using contract furniture that moves with not office trends but transcends time and adapts with how people work. Whether it’s a trend or timeless, ask yourself, just because everyone is doing it, is it right for your office? 

There’s no cookie-cutter solution to the more than 4,043 co-work spaces in the U.S. alone and the more than 30% of companies who’ve invested in an open-office floorplan.

What’s Next: The Future is Office Seating Pods

The great debate of ditching the open office concept and going back to private spaces still goes on. But why can’t both co-exist? Sometimes you feel like collaborating and being social and sometimes you just want to be left alone to get stuff done in an office seating pod without interruptions. There’s no right or wrong; just personal preference based on the needs of your team. Along with the evolution of the open or private office floorplan comes designing office furniture that speaks volumes.

What’s next in office furniture trends? “Hot” desks, “smart” office furniture, dedicated conference rooms, office seating pods, “botanical” offices, and desk panels. No matter which trend you decide is the best fit for your office space, one thing is certain, it’s moving in the intimate, private, and distraction-free direction of office seating pods.

Office Seating Pod
Bondi Escape Office Seating Pod, Venue Industries

Before the Beginning: The Private Movement of Office Seating Pods

Before you begin to layout your dream office space, evaluate who you’re designing it for. Are the bulk of your employees millennials and want to feel like they’re surrounded by nature or are they seasoned professionals who don’t like to move from one desk to the another each day? How many employees does your space need to accommodate? Will they need to collaborate or require private areas to take calls, have either virtual or in-person meetings, need time alone to get in their “zone” in office seating pods, or a bit of everything? How many work areas are you designing? Are you considering lighting, plants, accessories, and art for a complete ambiance?

Keep in mind, the better thought-out your workspace plan, the more on point your office furniture design will be, leading to happier employees and a more dynamic workplace. 

Bondi Escape Seating Pod

Office Seating Pods “Intimacy” Making Workplace Comeback

By now, we’ve all heard of “disrupting” industries. But what happens when office influences such as noise, disrupt employee productivity because of the open office trend?

According to the International Facilities Management Association, 70% of offices in the U.S. are open floor plan. In addition, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace shows only 11 percent of workers are engaged and inspired at work, and 63 percent are withdrawn and detached, therefore uninterested in the company’s overall performance. One of the reasons they’re unhappy is because of their work environment and that environment includes an open floorplan.

Although the concept of an open space office is to boost communication and teamwork, it’s becoming increasingly distracting. Being out in the open for employees has become a mix of stress for some and spontaneous collaboration for others. After several years of employees voicing their concern, companies are now beginning to take notice. Trending now is office seating pods designed to be placed in such open space, creating intimate settings where either a group can gather to collaborate or an individual looking for privacy to get work done.

Here are 4 reasons why office seating pods, like the Bondi Escape, may be the solution to the challenging open floorplan for a dynamic office environment.

Bondi Escape Seating Pod
Bondi Escape Seating Pod

Work Seating Pods for the Overwhelmed

One reason why employees decrease getting tasks completed in an open space is the feeling of overstimulation or sensory overload. When people, especially introverts, are swamped with too much noise or activity, they become distracted and therefore, unproductive. No matter how much we’d like to think we’re multitaskers, the truth is and science says, we can only really pay attention to one thing at a time in order to do it well.

In order to maximize an individual’s time spent at work, they should be given the opportunity to concentrate on the task at hand without interferences from the murmur of an open office space. This is where office seating pods provide the atmosphere to decrease interruptions (research shows as often as every three minutes) and increase efficiency.

Meeting in the Work Pod

The conference room is naturally the first area with privacy when you want to meet established or prospective clients and where to gather for a last-minute meeting with co-workers. Although for large groups this room is ideal, for only 2 to 3 people, a long conference table makes any meeting distant and impersonal. Connecting on a smaller and personal scale allows for greater conversation, focus, and collaboration.

Q-Bo Seating Pod
Q-Bo Seating Pod

Request for Privacy with an Office Seating Pod

According to several research reports, the number one reason people have concerns about open concepts is privacy. Not only does this apply to traditional office spaces, but also to healthcare organizations, and higher education institutions.  We’re constantly immersed in “social” whether online or in the office, leaving little time for the individual. Collaboration is a wonderful thing, but sometimes you need to remove yourself from the conversation.

Therefore, privacy can mean different things to different people. It could mean we need time to decompress from a long meeting, concentrate on a task, have a private conversation, or just need some time to compose ourselves without noise and interruption. Office seating pods turn one of the biggest complaints of an open space into the ultimate solution. 

Let’s face it, there will never be an ideal space for everyone to work harmoniously. Designing custom office seating pods for environments with a variety of settings can benefit those who want to engage in open collaboration, those who need to work in teams, and those who want to work alone. It’s about creating a floorplan to encompass these desires while maximizing the workflow of those who dwell in it day in, day out.

After all, we spend 30% of our lifetime at work. Shouldn’t we have the flexibility to allocate our time with a mix of collaboration and privacy when we need it?

CUSTOM FURNITURE

Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? We’ll make it. At Venue, we know how important it is to make the perfect impression with your business’ interior. Unlike most furniture manufacturers, we have the unique ability to work closely with our clients to ensure they get the perfect fit, and if the right furniture doesn’t exist, we’ll create it. And as with all our furniture, custom furniture from Venue is always made right here in the United States.

Venue has made custom furniture for a great number of clients, including hotels, universities, and entertainment centers across the country.

BOOTHS

From restaurants to entertainment centers, booths are an important part of your interior decoration, as well as a central part of your guests’ experience! And finding a quality booth that stands out and doesn’t look cheaply manufactured or imported is no simple task. At Venue, we’ve created a myriad of booths in different heights, shapes, and sizes, and all of our booths are fully customizable. Or we can create something completely new and custom from scratch with you to get that perfect fit for your business, and manufacture it in-house to achieve the level of high quality that our clients expect.

Want to see more? Check out our gallery to view all of our furniture, or contact us to get something custom for your project.