The New Normal: The Results-Oriented Office

By incorporating creative residential design ideas into the workplace, office spaces are exceeding their expectations.

by Margie Monin Dombrowski

A strict all-work-and-no-play policy is the norm for most offices, but like everything else in our rapidly evolving world, that is starting to change. As the workday continues to stretch beyond the traditional punch-out time, the line between work life and private life gets fuzzier every day—and that’s not always a bad thing.

Americans are accustomed to putting in long hours at the office, but their office environments are putting in some overtime, too. No longer just a place for getting the job done, the modern office has become a hub for socializing and collaborating—even after hours. Increasingly, our workplaces are making room for recreation and relaxation, and incorporating more residential design elements. In short, our offices now have to multitask just as much as we do.

“One of the things that’s changed the most is the rise of the laptop,” says John Campbell, principal of workplace strategies at Francis Cauffman in Philadelphia, who recently did a study on the use of space for daily activities in the workplace. “Suddenly, you’re no longer tethered to one place. That’s because you can work anywhere, anytime.”

This freedom has led to the design and production of unique crossover products, such as Hosu (a portmanteau of “Home” and “Studio”), designed by Patricia Urquiola for Coalesse. Meant for relaxing or catching up on work when you don’t want to sit at a desk, the low-lying Hosu has two postures—reclining or lying down—and provides room for setting up a laptop or spreading papers out around you.

“Usually when you put ideas together on floor, it helps you get sense of order,” says Karin Gintz, vice president of marketing for Coalesse. “We found that there’s a connection between being close to the floor and clarifying your thinking.” With Hosu, you can also set yourself up near the action—near the living room at home or other co-workers—without having to fully engage, which Gintz calls “alone together.”

Providing areas for socializing has become more important than ever, and the idea of programming these areas around food or the water cooler is very much inspired by residential interiors. “In your house, people typically gather around the kitchen—it tends to get the most use,” says Tom Price of Pittsburgh-based design firm Strada, which was the project architect on Google’s uber-hip Pittsburgh office.

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