In pre-millennium days, office workspace design was pretty straightforward. Each employee had a dedicated office or cubicle, access to boardrooms or meeting rooms, and a common room to go to for breaks and lunch.
The office floor plan has evolved considerably since then. Today, according to the Staples Business Advantage Workplace Employee Survey, only 23% of those who work in offices work in closed environments that are predominantly offices and cubicles. The remaining 77% work in open or semi-open environments where much or most of the floor space is dedicated to open, barrier-free seating arrangements.
The transition has not been without growing pains. While 69% claim that they are able to work efficiently in their workspace, there is significant concern about the 31% who replied negatively to this question.
Varied requirements create a bit of a conundrum for office planners. On one hand, 22% claim that the design of their office space makes it difficult to interact with others. On the other, 25% claim that their office space is too open, while 39% working in open environments claim that the design of the office space creates distractions.
These concerns are being addressed by a new concept called agile office – a vision that Staples Business Advantage Canada has been introducing to a growing number of customers. In an agile environment, employees, instead of working in a dedicated office or cubicle, can move to different workspaces depending on the kind of work they are doing.
For example, an employee could conduct a team meeting in an open-plan project space, write up a report in a quiet booth, speak with a supplier in a telephone conversation space, and on the way out of the office, retrieve personal items from a locker.
Agility seating is getting high marks from employees, with 70% claiming that being able to work in different settings deepens their connection to their employer. While it’s clearly impossible to please everybody 100% of the time, matching the workspace to the work being done appears to be an excellent way to cope with the diverse needs of today’s office workers.