Conference room at the Veteran's Affair Medical Center in Fresno designed by TETER Architects and Engineers. Photo contributed.
Written by Frank Lopez, Staff Writer
The nature of business is changing, and—not surprisingly—so are workspaces in old and new businesses.
Instead of the familiar bullpen office setup where several desks and cubicles are centered in a room and private offices line the perimeter, companies are opting for more open-office concepts that encourage employee collaboration and provide a working space that employees can enjoy.
Employers are trying to create workspaces that facilitate workflow, communication and efficiency, while also providing environments that reflect the values and cultures of their companies.
The shared office space is a growing trend and, according to a study conducted by the online statistics portal Statista, in 2017, 7,800 co-working spaces, or a shared work where coworkers might not be employed by the same organization, were established in 2015. That number is expected to increase to 37,000 in 2018, the website states.
One company involved in constructing these new types of office spaces is SIM-PBK Architects, a Fresno-based architectural firm.
John Smith, a founding partner in the firm, said that these days there’s more team collaboration across all industries, and companies are trying to promote that.
SIM-PBK Architects staff designed their own offices in Fresno to provide their own collaborative space where the team has room to work together.
The office has large windows to allow in natural lighting with single desks and long tables in the middle for collaboration, and a modern architectural design.
“These days, there’s just a lot more collaboration than five to 10 years ago. There’s more team project-based learning,” Smith said. “To promote that, we’ve got a big, open space.”
Creating an organic feeling
Another important facet in new office design is the utilization of technology, as Smith said most new or renovated offices are going wireless, while also having more large monitors and interactive computer projections on the walls.
These new spaces also are intended to effect workers emotionally, creating organic feelings among employees to want to be there.
“To try and create something that feels a little more residential is also a very relaxing feeling to give your employees, and that helps productivity and makes it a more fun place to be,” Smith said.
Clay Davis, a senior partner at TETER Architects & Engineers in Fresno, said businesses are putting more conference rooms in their office spaces, as well as “touchdown space,” usually a presentation room or a collaborative area used as a temporary work space for employees working from their homes and other sites who occasionally come into the office.
Employee retention is important for any company, Davis said, and companies want to invest in a work environment that will make employees want to come to work, while also fostering creativity and productivity,
Davis said millennials generally want to work for companies with values and cultures they agree with, and they’re attracted to businesses with offices using the newest technologies.
“To attract the young talent, you’ve got to show that you’ve got that flexible technology and that you’re up to speed on all the current technology,” Davis said. “If you’re interviewing candidates to come work for you, and as they walk around and see what you have to offer, if you’re using old-school technology, they’re probably more apt to go work for the firm that is more current.”
At Facility Designs, a full-service interior design firm, account executive Cassie Weibert said office features her clients want include sit-stand desks that allow employees to stand or sit while they work, as well as large windows to provide natural lighting and give all employees views of the outside.
Telling a business’ story
All businesses have a story to tell, said Carrie De Young, Director of Operations at Facility Designs, and business owners can tell their stories with the workplaces they create.
“That story is different for every client, and that’s up to the client to share with us, and we are just walking them through. That story may be for their customer, their team, but an important part of that is that the team wants to come back every day,” she said.
Some workers push back
But open-office concept isn’t for everyone, as there has been some pushback from office workers 30 years old and older, Davis said, explaining that many people still see the corner office or the individual office as a status symbol and yearn for more privacy.
A study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health concluded there are negative effects from working in open spaces that include increased distraction, reduced privacy, increased concentration difficulties, and increased use of coping strategies such as taking more breaks.
The open-office concept gained more popularity as an economic move than for employee comfort said Tom Zimmerman, president of CORE Business Interiors, an interior solutions firm in Fresno.
“It’s not a working environment where most people want to work; it’s an answer to escalating real estate prices and cramming as many people into a space as you possibly can,” he explained.
As such, some companies have concluded that employees being in a state of constant interaction might not make them the most productive, and they’re trying to make workspaces that find balance for employees that might need to do collaborative work and those who might need more privacy, Zimmerman explained.
Zimmerman said that with the current business expansion going on in Fresno and the rest of the Central Valley, more companies will continue to work on their office space.
“Anyone who is in the building industry is already seeing a lot of work. It’s going to continue to mature, and as long as people are moving into the Valley, then there is growth.”