Home-ing from Work

Blending residential and hospitality design into the workplace.

12.01.2018

Home-ing from Work

Blending residential and hospitality design into the workplace.

 

The Digital Revolution has made a tremendous impact on our lives in a myriad ways, not the least of which is how it has reshaped the landscape of the workplace. Thanks to the advent of wireless technology, employees are no longer tethered to their desks and now are able to work virtually anywhere—and many of them increasingly choose to do so from home.

In fact, Gensler’s 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey revealed that 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is estimated to be independently employed by 2020, and a new survey from AND CO and Remote Year found that 55 percent of respondents said they worked remotely 100 percent of the time, while 28 percent said they worked both remotely and on-site. Interestingly, not only is work happening everywhere, but everything is happening at work as well, according to Gensler’s 2018 Experience Index. “Nearly all (49 out of 50) workers report doing non-work activities on a regular basis while in the office,” the report stated. 

As people increasingly spend their time working between the home, the office, and other third places, the design of the workplace is starting to look and feel a lot more like home or your favorite hotel getaway. The influence of residential and hospitality design elements (a.k.a. residentially inspired) are coming onto the office scene like never before. The kitchen island, for example, is inspiring new ways of creating more communal cafés, and the comforts of the living room are making their way into the places where people meet away from their desks (assuming they even have one assigned to them).​ Even the idea that someone could take a nap in the office to recharge is a not-so-subtle nod to the bedroom back home.​

But what exactly does “residentially inspired design” mean anyway, and what does it look like in practice? For the purposes of this CEU, residentially inspired design simply refers to a conflation of what’s in the home with what’s in the office. More precisely, it signals the migration of the home-style design aesthetic to the modern work environment, the intent of which is to make the office feel less “office-like.” This means bringing the homey, cozy, comforts of home into the office. 

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

interiors+sources’ Continuing Education Series articles allow design practitioners to earn continuing education unit credits through the pages of the magazine. Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this issue’s article. To receive one hour of continuing education credit (0.1 CEU) as approved by IDCEC, read the article, then log in to take the corresponding exam. To earn 1 learning unit (LU) as approved by AIA, read the article, then log in to take the corresponding exam.

After reading this article, you should be able to:

  • Explore the evolution of the office, focusing on key influencers of residentially inspired design elements coming into the commercial workplace.
  • Understand the main factors driving more residentially inspired appeal in these commercial environments.
  • Examine measurable results of environments that have created more residentially inspired spaces.
  • Educate designers with peer-insights on successful ways to incorporate residentially inspired products into commercial environments without compromising process, client-expectation, or the end result.

This involves bringing furnishings, fixtures, finishes, and materials that are reminiscent of residential or hospitality environments into the workplace. The range of products available to achieve this aesthetic runs the gamut: mix-and-match clusters of sofas, lounge seating, sectionals, guest chairs, credenzas, lighting, book shelves and more. The design combinations are endless and innovative like their home counterparts. These pieces reveal a little hint of utility, the arrangements of which resemble a well-appointed apartment or home living room rather than an office.​

Survey Says … Not “Resimercial”

To better clarify the shifting aesthetic trends in the office today, it’s important to examine supporting research rather than simply rely on anecdotal information. However, while industry blogs and magazine articles clearly point toward the influence of residential and hospitality markets within the commercial office segment, there is a lack of current, secondary studies to corroborate the trend with verifiable data.

As a result, National Office Furniture along with Contract Consulting Group (CCG), a research-led strategy firm that serves the contract interiors market, recently commissioned primary research to uncover more reliable data with tangible results with regards to current office design trends. The team conducted a survey and insight interviews from architects, designers, dealers, and thought-leaders (writers, psychologists, workplace strategists, etc.) from around the country to help identify the evidence and drivers of this movement nationwide—the results of which will be referenced frequently in this CEU.

The study’s methodology included a 2017 survey of 250 respondents, 78 percent of which were interior designers with more than 11 years of industry experience.​ The results of the survey were then overlaid with participant interviews evenly distributed from across the Eastern, Central, and Western regions of the U.S., representing all 50 states. In terms of their scope of work, 74 percent of the respondents focused on corporate spaces, followed by healthcare and education at 10 percent.

Among the key findings of the CCG research is that designers overwhelmingly dislike the term “resimercial” to describe the current merging of corporate and residential markets within interior design. One reason for designers’ distaste of the word is because very few respondents (only 9 percent) believe it is limited to just residential influences. Rather, the majority of designers actually feel the trend is more inspired by the hospitality rather than the residential market (if they had to pick one).  Moreover, 68 percent of respondents said the “resimercial” trend is actually a blend of both residential and hospitality influences. In other words, the term simply doesn’t describe the current shift in design very accurately.

(Editor’s Note: Rather than using the unpopular term “resimercial” to describe the residentially inspired workplace design trend, a more fitting term might be “RespitalitySM.” This newly coined term describes the act of humanizing the workplace by adding greater comfort to commercial environments.)

Additionally, the term “resimercial” carries a negative connotation with the respondents due to the “disposable” nature of residential products, the survey revealed. In fact, industry experts rank product quality according to three levels: Residential, Hospitality, and Contract, where:

  • Residential is viewed as disposable.
  • Hospitality is seen as slightly higher quality that can take some hard use.
  • Contract is seen as the highest quality, lasting for 15 to 20 years. 

The issues of quality and performance are central to understanding the challenges facing interior design practitioners who are specifying more residentially inspired products in their corporate office projects. Among the most common missteps occurring as a result of this trend is also the easiest one to make: purchasing residential furniture for contract projects simply because it fits the client’s desired aesthetic—a decision that has proven to be problematic in real-life applications.

Residential furniture is not warrantied or intended for commercial use, so it becomes a liability to the designer’s reputation, as these products cannot withstand the high-traffic and abuse that commercial offerings can. Products that were built and engineered for the residential market that are used in a commercial setting will invariably result in application failures in the field. As a result, lawsuits have been filed against firms for specifying and installing furniture and materials that are less than commercial quality, and in worst-case scenarios, could present safety issues as well.  

As such, it’s difficult for design professionals to find quality, commercial-grade furniture with a residential look and feel, although the market is responding with increasingly more offerings to meet the demand. To assist designers in the process of better understanding and executing the residentially inspired trend, the balance of this CEU will examine the evolution of the office, the factors driving the residential trend, the results of successfully designed crossover projects, as well as offer strategies for successful application of residentially inspired products without compromise.

1. EVOLUTION OF THE OFFICE

It doesn’t take a seasoned designer or architect to recognize that today’s office environments bear little resemblance to those of bygone eras. Thankfully, the days of cubicle farms and corner offices are behind us, relegated to punchlines in comic strips (e.g., Dilbert) and cult films (e.g., Office Space) that poke fun at the once uninspiring workplace. In hindsight, the evolution of the office has revealed an interesting truth that we all somehow know intuitively: people are not meant to work inside of the box.

But how did we get from point A to point B, and what are the drivers and key influences behind the changes we’re seeing in office design? Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane to discover how residentially inspired design elements made their way into the commercial workplace:

  • Early 1900s. Early offices were heavily influenced by the manufacturing industry and were characterized by straight, linear layouts. American engineer Fredrick Taylor was credited as being among the first people to design an office space. As a leader in the Efficiency Movement during the progressive era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Taylor crowded workers together in an open-plan environment while supervisors and managers higher up on the organizational chart worked in private offices. Notably, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building, one of the earliest modern offices, saw a rise in open plan offices in an era where office layout reflected hierarchy and rank.
  • 1960s. The 1960s marked a transition away from top-down, power-driven office layouts to more socially democratic plans that encouraged interaction and human behavior, which came to be known as “Bürolandschaft” (Boo-ro-land-schaft). The German concept featured organic groupings of desks in patterns designed to encourage conversation and create a happier workforce. Typical designs used contemporary but conventional furniture, with lateral file cabinets and large potted plants used as partitions between desks. Interestingly, the trend toward biophilia we see today with living walls, for example, isn’t new and dates back to the 60’s!
  • 1980s. The concept of an “action office” was first developed by Herman Miller’s Robert Probst in 1968 as a response to the rising need for workplace privacy. ​Characterized by modular office furniture with low dividers and flexible workspaces, this concept allowed businesses to remain in their large spaces while offering some personal privacy. But by the 1980s, the concept of the “cubicle farm,” with high partitions and enclosed spaces became an unpleasant representation of office environments. To employees, it didn’t offer privacy—it reflected an economical mindset that allowed employers to maximize space without regard to staff well-being.
  • 1990s. The recession of the early 1990s coupled with increased ease of Internet access led to the rise of non-territorial offices. This “hot-desking” concept saved costs while promoting a flexible work environment. Employees were allowed to work remotely in places like coffee shops and hotel lobbies that doubled as casual offices. Remote workers and digital nomads became the new normal. Dot Com giants spearheaded this trend by incorporating quirky, open plan layouts that blurred the lines between work and play. Game rooms and bean bags were introduced to office environments, and employees were finally freed from their cubicles. Work and leisure activities were combined into one space, and offices officially became “fun” places to be.
  • 2000s. During the 2000s, as companies increasingly allowed employees to work from their places of residence, the home office as we know it was born. In home offices, as well as corporate offices, modern and sleek minimalist designs became popular. Vintage furniture and furnishings made from sustainable materials, such as glass and bamboo, became increasingly common. Simple furniture in solid colors was used to create a space that didn’t feel too busy or cluttered. As many employees transitioned back to the corporate office, they took the style and comfort of home with them.  
  • The last decade. During the past 10 years, the office has seen another evolution in layout in which employers and their staff realized there’s more to well-designed offices than game rooms. Inspired by home offices of the 2000s, today’s workspaces include biophilic design that incorporates nature and encourages a “whole person” view of people at work. Focusing on staff comfort, well-being, and natural light, today’s office spaces are dropping the “one size fits all” motto in favor of activity based working spaces that suit different working styles. The modern workplace emerged with a focus that encourages a sense of community, collective problem solving, and well-being. And in an effort to increase innovation, creativity, and attract and retain talent, they’ve even moved work spaces outdoors. In other words, utilization of the entire space is the new normal.

Evidence of Shifting Trends

As the line between home and office continues to blur, it’s reasonable to assume that residentially inspired design elements will continue to make their way into the workplace. But just how pervasive is the trend to date and in which types of corporate environments is this more relaxed aesthetic most common today?

According to the CCG survey results, as much as 33 percent of commercial projects completed in the past 12 months now reflect a residential feel. While the figure may seem rather low initially, it effectively means that one out of every three new office spaces is distinctly more casual than before. Further—and more notably—86 percent of respondents to the survey agreed that corporate environments as a whole are evolving to embrace a more residentially-influenced look and feel. 

As alluded to earlier in this article, the reasons for this shift are many, but as one respondent to the CCG survey added, “…if the office is as flexible and as welcoming as a home and employees feel that same level of comfort to a certain extent, job satisfaction rates increase as well as productivity rates. To large corporations this increase is worth the investment of more residential and flexible work spaces, and to employees it is invaluable for their day to day work experience.” Another simply stated: “Employers want people to work more so we are designing spaces that have home comfort/features so employees are compelled to stay.”

One would rightly assume that creative firms and tech companies like Google and Facebook are leading the charge as far as embracing the more casual work aesthetic. Interestingly, however, respondents to the CCG survey indicated that nearly a quarter of their law firm and insurance company clients—traditionally considered much more conservative and formal—are also leaning toward a more casual look and feel in their approach to workplace design and planning. Overall, 60 percent of those surveyed also said that the number of non-contract pieces they’ve specified over the last three years has increased, which is consistent with the finding that one in three new commercial projects has a more residential feel.​

2. DRIVERS OF MORE CASUAL DESIGN ELEMENTS

The natural evolution of the office environment in response to changing economic conditions, political ideologies, and business philosophies are all major historical factors in the changing office landscape, as noted earlier in this article. Additionally, respondents to the CCG survey cited a number of converging factors behind this shift, including what people see on TV and on Pinterest, the rising costs of real estate, and technology’s ability to un-tether people from their desks.​

However, recent data suggests there are at least three primary drivers that have led to a more casual design aesthetic in today’s workplace. According to the CCG study, 86 percent of respondents identified talent attraction and retention as the most important influencer in workplace design, followed by work life balance (84 percent) and wellness (68 percent). Let’s take a closer look at these factors.

Recruitment Across Generations

While technology start-ups drove this trend initially, other companies have followed suit to attract talent. A great deal of secondary research on the topic of changing workspaces today focuses on recruitment and related strategies. This is driven primarily by changing demographics in the workforce.

For example, nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring every day, and a study by Forbes projects that by 2025, three out of four workers will be Millennials. ​The latter statistic is especially pertinent because Millennials have a significantly different workstyle than generations past. They don’t like isolation and have a lower demand for privacy than their parents did. Millennials are also ambitious, tech-savvy, and creative and may be more productive sitting in open plan, collaborative spaces than in traditional workstations. In part, the residentially inspired trend is the result of moving meetings from offices or cubicles into collaborative or huddle spaces that appeal to this generation.

Also, quality of life matters to Millennials. They want a workspace that reflects their technology-embraced anytime/anywhere way of working. As employers work to attract the next generation that will come in as the Boomers retire, giving them a place to work that values them as workers is especially important.​ Architects agree that many workplaces are becoming the physical manifestation of the ‘business casual’ trend, but what matters most is making employees feel valued. Recognizing that the quality of their lives matters—and letting prospective employees know that—will always give a company a leg up on the competition.​

On the other hand, Gen Z is set to be the most diverse generation ever seen in the workplace in terms of race and views, and they will expect to see that diversity all the way up the organization. This group is focused on personal brand and want to identify with a company that fits their own brand and connects with their values. Having grown up amid tweets and instant status updates, members of Gen Z are good at articulating succinctly, sharing opinions, and posting them on the internet to effect change.

They know the power of the Internet inside and out and will bring that knowhow to the workforce. With Gen Z occupying increasingly more jobs, expect a more adaptable workforce—adaptable to changes in technology and the way people work. The boundary-less nature of work will be even more relevant to this generation, with administrative control, temporal, and physical boundaries becoming even less relevant.

Additionally, Gen Z is more likely to be practical and risk-averse, especially with money. For example, they want to steer clear of crippling student debt, which has left millions of 20- and 30-somethings unable to buy homes. They have seen how finances impacted their parents and older siblings, and they want to establish stable financial ground. This financial mindset carries over to how they spend. Members of Gen Z want their things to be cool, hip, and in line with what is going on in the market now. 

When designing for longevity, people have a tendency to focus on the newer generations, which begs the question: what’s after Gen Z? Futurist, demographer, and TEDx speaker Mark McCrindle is leading the campaign to call anyone born after 2010 a part of Generation Alpha. According to McCrindle, 2.5 million Alphas are born every week. This generation, who he playfully refers to as “screenagers,” will grow up with iPads in hand, never live without a smartphone, and have the ability to transfer a thought online in seconds. These massive technological changes, among others, make Generation Alpha the most transformative generation ever, according to McCrindle. (Notably, the word of the year in 2010 when they were first born was “app”).

“In the past, the individual had no power, really,” says McCrindle. “Now, the individual has great control of their lives through being able to leverage this world. Technology, in a sense, transformed the expectations of our interactions.”

Naturally, this shift has extended into the office. Now that everything is connected and the workplace has been more humanized, the “office” as we know it will look far different than ever before—and the next generations will feel right at home.

Retention and the Work Environment

Hiring top talent is obviously a priority for every company, but keeping them once they’ve come onboard is of even greater importance. As a result, it’s critical for employers to provide flexibility and choices for where, when, and how work happens in order to retain the best and brightest people.

The challenge is formidable one, too. Many large countries—including the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, and Italy—will face talent shortages as their workforces age and experience declining growth rates. ​In the United States, for example, the labor force is expected to grow less than 1 percent between 2010 and 2020, in effect shrinking the availability of qualified workers.​

As a result, employers must consider the effect their workplaces have on employees and whether or not they are designed as not only a competitive advantage in attracting new talent, but also flexible and comfortable enough to keep them. Indeed, a new Wellness Together study emphasizes the link between workplace design and employee retention. The research shows that 48 percent of the respondents indicated that the design of their workplace had a significant impact on their decision to stay with a company. ​

Encouraging Work-Life Balance

Researcher, author, and workplace strategist Leigh Stringer notes that many employers are now trying to “humanize the workplace,” to better accommodate the needs of employees outside of the office. “As work life integration continues to increase, we will bring our work lives home and our personal lives to work,” Stringer says. “Leaders must ask themselves, ‘Do we have a space where people want to bring their lives to?’”

In other words, the concept of “working from home” is essentially being flipped on its head to more accurately reflect the nature of the work-life balance today, best summarized by the phrase, “home-ing from work”—a concept put forth by Phil Kershner, director of workplace strategy for global co-working space provider, WeWork. ​Figuring out how to “home from work” effectively, however, has proven to be an interesting journey, especially as employers try to determine how to attract and retain the next generation. Companies can no longer assume that employees need to work within their walls, so they must create environments—and cultures—where people actually want to show up. ​

Wellness and the Workplace

One of the most influential trends in the market today, supported by data from the CCG survey, reveals a strong focus on wellness to help improve worker satisfaction and happiness, which can also lead to increased productivity.​ According to the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), corporate health and wellness are a major concern for U.S.-based companies. In fact, nearly 50 percent of employers say health and productivity programs are essential to their company strategy while 91 percent of employers report offering health and wellness programs beyond medical cost savings. Further, the IWBI reports the physical workplace is one of the top three factors affecting job performance and satisfaction, citing a study in which 90 percent of employees surveyed admitted their attitude about work is adversely affected by the quality of their workplace environment. Add to this the mounting evidence-based research linking buildings to human health and it’s clear that the design of our buildings and wellness are interrelated.

With these drivers in mind, it seems the residentially inspired approach to office design may be more than a passing fad. So, will these ‘respitality’ spaces last? According to 94 percent of those surveyed by CCG, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ And while some respondents felt the trend would evolve based on technology and generations to come, the consensus is that the office will most likely not revert to a more formal aesthetic—not any time soon anyway. 

3. MEASURABLE RESULTS OF RESIDENTIALLY INSPIRED SPACES

With the evolution of the modern office and the drivers behind the residentially inspired trend in clearer view, it’s worth considering the impact these casual spaces are making on the workplace. While common sense dictates that work should feel like work, a growing number of companies are demonstrating that the more work feels fun and familial, the happier employees are and the better their performance will be.​ In other words, environments shape our mood, energy, and creativity.​

However, companies that simply want to buy some casual furniture and scatter it across the office are in for a rude awakening of sorts. Applying design strategies (even good ones) without considering company culture is a mistake. As management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “culture eats strategy for lunch.” In other words, the reality is that a design strategy—no matter how well thought-out or successful at another company—will never actualize if a company doesn’t have the work culture that attracts motivated people who put their best into their work and remain engaged. ​

For example, online mobile marketing provider AppLovin has the highest rating for employee satisfaction on Glassdoor, and Paylease has been named to San Diego Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” list for two years running. ​What these two small companies have in common is that they have successfully created work cultures that their employees describe as home- and family-like where they feel involved and valued.

According to research from global design firm HOK, engaged employees are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations—so much so that they can boost a company’s bottom line by up to 20 percent. On the flip side, in a survey across 142 countries, only 13 percent of employees reported feeling engaged in their jobs, and disengaged workers (those who are negative or even hostile to their organizations) outnumber engaged employees by nearly two-to-one. Further, research shows that companies with disengaged employees experience 30 percent to 50 percent more turnover.

With these statistics in mind, it follows that involving employees in the design or retrofit of a workplace provides a wonderful opportunity for engagement, and the residentially inspired space is presumed to increase employee engagement to their work. In fact, 30 percent of employees with easy access to flexible work arrangements report feeling very engaged in their jobs, according to HOK. Compare this to the 19 percent engagement among those with moderate flexibility, and the 10 percent engagement among those with little access to flexibility, and it’s clear that workplace design has a direct impact on employees.

Respondents to the CCG survey corroborate these findings. One participant noted, “By taking away cubicles and assigned offices for a major biopharma, the speed to market of new drugs was markedly increased. Additionally, after a wholesale corporate relocation into this space there was only an 8 percent negative rating in post occupancy surveys.” Similarly, another respondent said clients are reporting excellent results “especially when it comes to employee attraction/retention and supporting different work styles and ages,” as a result of designing more casual work environments where people feel connected to their surroundings and the company’s mission.

New Ways of Measuring Office Effectiveness

Residentially inspired offices. Engaged employees. Increased productivity. These all sound like ideal outcomes for a newly designed or renovated workplace, but is there a way to actually measure how effective an office really is?

According to a Harvard Business Review article, most companies only use one key metric to measure space, which is focused solely on efficiency: cost per square foot. The authors note that few companies actually quantify whether or not a space’s design helps or hurts performance—but they should. “They have the means. The same sensors, activity trackers, smartphones, and social networks that they eagerly foist on customers to reveal their habits and behavior can be turned inward, on employees in their work environments, to learn whether it’s true that getting engineers and salespeople talking actually works,” the authors suggest.

As it turns out, it does work. The HBR article cites research in which a variety of tools from simple network analytics to sociometric badges to capture employee interactions, communication, and location information were deployed in workplaces ranging from software companies to hospitals to gather data. The results confirm what many design professionals are already aware of: that face-to-face interactions are by far the most important activity in an office. “[W]e’ve begun to unlock the secrets of good office design in terms of density, proximity of people, and social nature,” the authors write. “[O]ur data suggest that creating collisions—chance encounters and unplanned interactions between knowledge workers, both inside and outside the organization—improves performance.”

Interestingly, the article points out that office environments can even be designed for specific performance outcomes, such as productivity or innovation—or both in the same area but at different times. “By combining the emerging data with organizational metrics such as total sales or number of new-product launches, we can demonstrate a workspace’s effect on the bottom line and then engineer the space to improve it. This will lead to profound changes in how we build our future workspaces,” the authors conclude.

Some companies are going so far as to require employees to use wearable tracking devices while in the office to capture data, which raises interesting questions about privacy. In fact, in August of 2017, a software design company called Three Square Market (32M) started offering microchips to employees​which were implanted underneath the skin between the thumb and forefinger. The chips allowed employees to pay for food and drinks in the company’s break room, open security doors, and log in into their computers without any special cards or passwords.

Obviously, the mere thought of this kind of invasive data collection makes some people understandably uncomfortable, conjuring images of a dystopian future straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. But the technology is in place to more accurately understand how people interact at work, and the effectiveness of office design can be measured.  

4. SUCCESSFUL STRATEGIES TO INCORPORATE RESIDENTIALLY INSIRED PRODUCTS

Now that we’ve established how the “Respitality” design trend has made its way into the corporate office and identified ways its effectiveness can be measured, let’s take a look at a few successful ways to incorporate residentially inspired products into commercial environments without compromising process, client expectations, or the end result.​

While most designers have likely had corporate clients who want the latest look from Pinterest or a certain product from the Crate and Barrel (CB2) catalog, it can be nerve-wracking to determine out how to give clients what they want without compromising what’s best for the longevity of the project.​ ​As such, the CCG survey sought to uncover how much non-contract product is being specified across the nation and for what reasons.​ ​The study found that 71 percent of respondents specify non-contract sources less than 25 percent of the time. In other words, they’re still using contract-grade furniture, finishes, and materials in their projects 75 percent of the time.

Designers that responded to the CCG survey cited a number of concerns when asked to specify non-contract furniture, including damaging their credibility/reputation due to a product failure; warranty, codes, and certification issues; lack of dealer and customer service support; and availability of products being in-stock. Nevertheless, designers will often choose retail furniture options due to the desire for a lower price point, but there are tradeoffs​​. First, there can be quality and warranty issues because residential furniture isn’t built to BIFMA standards or tested with the same rigor commercial products are. Some clients don’t seem to care (initially), because they just want the residential aesthetic. But what happens when the product begins to show significant wear or fail in just a few years?​

Likewise, residential brands don’t offer the same types of e-specification tools (like CAP or Configura) that help professionals design and order in seamless ways. Further, hand specification and coordination between commercial and residential pieces can leave a wider margin for error.​ Also, codes and certifications like LEED, LEVEL, or WELL can be critical to a project’s success, and residential pieces don’t always meet the requirements or have testing performance criteria to help towards achieving these protocols.​

Order logistics can also tend to be problematic with residential furnishings. Dealers aren’t always accustomed to coordinating with residential manufacturers, which can lead to trucking and shipment confusion. Additionally, products, fabrics, and finishes can go in and out of stock making warranty and replacements difficult. There’s also a stark contrast between calling a dealer and a customer service line to help resolve issues. And the list goes on. ​

​While it doesn’t mean a  specifier shouldn’t ever use a residential brand, it does mean they should proceed with caution, understanding the extra management it will take to pull off a seamless installation.​ ​Designers should also determine which areas are best-suited to use residential or retail-type products and where  they should be avoided (at least for now perhaps) or used with more caution.​ ​The designers surveyed by CCG who reported using residentially inspired pieces did so in the following areas:​

  • 92 percent—Break/community areas​
  • 91 percent—Scattered throughout the space​
  • 87 percent —Entry experience​
  • 86 percent —Accent pieces that help communicate the company brand​
  • 48 percent —Enclosed meeting spaces​
  • 35 percent —Individual work areas​

​It’s clear that designers are willing to use residentially inspired products, but they are (wisely) restricting them to ancillary spaces that are used less frequently but that are important to help set the tone for the culture and brand.​ ​At the end of the day, however, the majority of specifiers surveyed (55 percent) still choose to rely on contract furniture manufacturers the majority of the time, while 13 percent report using retail stores, and 31 percent say they shop online to find the products they need.

As one might expect, the CCG survey confirms what most specifiers have experienced in their practices already in terms of client satisfaction; namely, that 75 percent of clients who purchased from non-contract sources would not do it again.

The Best of Both Worlds

As the lines between work and life and home and office continue to blur, designers, specifiers, and manufacturers of contract interior environments have a tremendous opportunity to help people “home from work.”​ ​They are keenly aware of what clients want in their workplaces: They want productive employees that they can attract and retain, especially as boomers retire and Gen Z enters the workforce. ​And the road to get them there is to create products and spaces that respond to current cultural needs.

Employees want to be happy, healthy, and inspired at work. Otherwise, they won’t stay long enough to make a difference or be as productive as they can be.​ ​Finding ways to create spaces that have the “respitality” feel with the assurances of contract quality you can’t find at Wayfair is where the magic happens. ​

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References

  1. Gensler 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey
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  19. https://www.cfn.news/features/2016/9/22/west-elm-workspaces-sweating-the-details
  20. https://hbr.org/2014/10/workspaces-that-move-people
  21. http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/07/24/wisconsin-company-to-implant-microchips-in-its-employees-in-august.html
  22. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-schneider/how-residential-brands-ar_b_9662194.html