Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces For Life: Office trends that won’t last

By Lance McCarthy

I usually focus on home spaces, but a good portion of our work is in commercial spaces–offices, stores, and other places that people work.  The goal is remarkably similar.  Something about the space isn’t working well and needs to change.  We are there to make it work.  

Recently I was in an old office building in Overland Park and saw some old wall systems.  These things were all the rage back in the 70’s.  They were full walls, with outlets and wallpaper already installed, but they were movable.  The idea was that when you wanted to change how your office was laid out, you would just disconnect them and then put them back together in a new configuration.  Like Legos!  

Can you guess what we do with them now?  Yep, they come out.  As cool as the concept sounds, nobody likes the way they look now, so they get thrown away.  

Got me thinking.  What are some other trends in office spaces that probably won’t last?  

Here’s my list:

  • The open concept (there is a collective gasp from hipster entrepreneurs around the country).  Turns out that working in a big office without walls is really noisy and full of distractions.  A lot of articles are starting to come out about how the concept Google, Facebook and many other corporate giants went to is a flawed concept that can actually lower productivity.  The solution?  Probably a combination of open space and private space.  
  • The bench desk.  I don’t know if you have run across this, but it exists in many modern spaces.  It reminds me of the study halls we had in college with long rows of benches and tables.  Like with the open concept, I think this concept is ripe for distraction and noise.  It can help with building rapport, but can force people to go elsewhere when they “really need to work”.  At our office we have a similar setup, and we have moved to wearing headphones to signal that we are not wanting to be interrupted.
  • The gimmick.  This is when there is a basketball court, or ferris wheel, or water park inside the office.  I’m exaggerating, but the temptation to make work space smaller but then add some big expensive piece of bling that makes the workers feel like they are still kids is something that will wear off I think.  

So if all these things are going, what is here to stay?

  • Openness  I believe offices will continue to be more open than they were before, but we will work out solutions to create private spaces.  We recommend what we call Superman spaces.  Like the phone booth that he changes in.  Just really small spaces where you can close a door and get some work done without distraction.
  • Lots of glass  Fortunately, light never goes out of style.  And glass helps that light move through a space.  I don’t think we are going to start putting less glass in offices anytime soon.  
  • Smaller Size  I believe square footage per person will stay low.  200-250 sf per employee used to be the norm.  Currently that number is heading towards 150 and showing no sign of stopping.  I think companies will continue to work to be more “efficient” with their office sizes.
  • Working elsewhere  There has been a steadily growing trend of workers working in places besides the office–home, the coffeeshop…I don’t see any way that will stop.  Technology is making it less and less important where we actually are.  

How about your office?  What works?  What doesn’t?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear from you. 

You can also view this column with our partner

Ready to Take the Next Step?