Redefining the Ordinary

by Robert Nieminen

Definition of NORMAL
1: PERPENDICULAR; especially: perpendicular to a tangent at a point of tangency 2a: according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern 3: occurring naturally (normal immunity) 4a: of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development

While corporate interiors have increasingly moved toward the open plan and reduced their square footage as standard practice, a younger generation of workers equipped with mobile technology has been the real game changer. The “new normal” in which we find ourselves looks a lot more like the home than the office, and as you will discover in this issue, traditional models for the design of corporate interiors simply aren’t equipped for the new modes of work that are emerging.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Philip Tidd, head of consulting EMEA for Gensler, notes that today’s office needs to be reimagined and redesigned to make it more effective for a mobile workforce. And while the open-plan office “promised increased collaboration, economies of space and cost savings … What it’s delivered is a dilemma: visually exciting offices with lots of buzz on the one hand, and on the other, a lack of privacy and quiet,” he writes.

Tidd says that employees rate focus work as their most critical work activity, but Gensler’s own research reveals that it is the least-supported activity in today’s offices. “To function well, an office must provide a healthy mix of spaces—quiet, collaborative and social,” he says.

To that end, the design team at Baskervill ensured that the employees of one of the fastest-growing companies in the country, Snagajob, had plenty of quiet spaces in which to work by building more than 20 conference rooms into their newly-designed headquarters in Richmond, Va. Outside the glass walls of these focus work areas, however, employees are encouraged to make themselves at home and embrace the company’s playful attitude toward work. Whether it’s using an aluminum slide to get to the first floor, gathering after hours for beers in the kitchen or playing a game of ping pong, the “non-corporate” headquarters of this lively, creative company embody the concept of a flexible, playful and progressive work environment that is becoming more and more common.

“No longer just a place for getting the job done, the modern office has become a hub for socializing and collaborating—even after hours,” writes contributor Margie Monin Dombrowski in this month’s feature article, "The Results-Oriented Office."

"Increasingly, our workplaces are making room for recreation and relaxation, and are incorporating more residential design elements," she notes. "In short, our offices now have to multitask just as much as we do."

As our “A Day in the Life” series within our feature story illustrates, multitasking is perhaps the most common element that characterizes the workday of modern employees, regardless of which industry they find themselves in. For this issue, we spent some time with three executives to understand how their work styles and schedules are shaping up these days. What we found were three people trying to balance both their personal and professional lives in a time where specified works hours are a thing of the past.

Finally, in his round-up of products driving collaborative spaces, Managing Editor Adam Moore says that “it isn’t as easy as throwing some chairs and a table in a corner of the office and assuming workers will congregate. Employees are looking for spaces that make it easier to share information digitally, as well as furnishings that facilitate conversations and inspire creativity.” From Allsteel and Arcadia to Leland and Herman Miller, there are a number of suppliers that offer furnishing solutions that can bring a space and its occupants together.

Here at I&S, we have a “new normal” emerging as well, which you may notice in some subtle and not-so-subtle changes to our design. Still basking in the glow of a 2012 OZZIE Gold Award for Best B-to-B Site Design from FOLIO: magazine, we’re transitioning to a newer look in print as well, which we will continue to unveil in the year ahead. Happy New Year!