The Smarter Workplace

The new workplace is universal, customizable and seamless—and instructions are not included.

it’s seamless
Design solutions that can adapt to new demands without heavy investment required are just as essential to the success of the iPad as they are to today’s workplace. As designers, we are able to alter the physical environment through the use of cost-effective solutions, while still satisfying a client’s need for personalization and diversity. These solutions are balanced against a greater investment in sophisticated architecture and infrastructure, which anticipates and plans for the evolution of future business needs.

For example, an iPad may cost more upfront than a textbook, but over the course of a college education it will easily prove to be a more valuable investment. Up-to-date information is provided in a more sustainable, accessible way than a traditional textbook, so that the owner always has the latest information in hand and can stay a cut above the competition.

Recognizing a similar need for product differentiation and a boost in mobile software development, our client at AT&T asked for a highly adaptable workshop-lab-incubator space. In the new AT&T Foundry, employees can easily reconfigure the workspace through means such as sliding panels with writable surfaces and untethered work components, such as desks with wheels that can be moved anywhere.

The performance results, as Peter Hill, vice president of innovation at AT&T, explains, speak for themselves. “A common comment from visitors is simply, ‘I want to work here.’”

As the speed of business continues to accelerate and more information is required to make informed decisions, content connectivity will play an even more critical role in the success of the workplace. The ability to get ideas out fast and collaborate in interactive ways is emerging as a true differentiator in the race for innovation. Many of today’s workplaces demonstrate an understanding of “information persistence,” but do not ultimately allow information and ideas to come together via the multiple mediums that support employees transitioning between handheld devices, surfaces and/or rooms while at work. Therefore, users cannot yet make the real choice.

The iPad already provides the user with the ability to effortlessly create and distribute ideas virtually, and often physically. If the smarter workplace can respond in the same way, the potential for success is limitless. We’ve recently seen this formula for success take shape at Plantronics, a global audio technology company, who challenged us to transform their workplace in Santa Cruz to better align with their new branding initiative, “Simply Smarter Communication.”

They envisioned an open and collaborative work environment that would employ sustainable strategies, address mobility and technology integration, and allow work to happen anywhere at anytime. The Gensler design team responded with a fully free-address environment, removing set desks and incorporating technology to support a seamless workflow. Now, employees are encouraged to work wherever in the office they need to or to work from home.

In short, the smarter workplace is not just smart in its solutions, or hip and sleek in its design. It’s a gateway to innovation. It’s un-prescribed and ever-evolving. It’s up to the user to shape and define it, and as such, it becomes a true embodiment of the culture of an organization. With that, it’s intuitive, responsive and adaptable.

Through engaging layouts, interactive settings and immersive environments, today’s successful workplace has become an authentic reflection of the workforce and its spirit—ultimately driving forward the mission of the company and its business. No instructions required there.


Amanda Carroll is a senior associate and workplace practice area leader in Gensler’s New York City office.


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