The future office? It will be just as individual as the needs of companies and employees, according to planning professional Barbara Benz. She – together with her team – makes DAX and mid-sized companies future-proof.
At Boysen, one of Germany’s largest automotive suppliers, the employees are given top priority. One can clear see and sense this when visiting the new innovation centre in Nagold, where new exhaust flaps, particulate filters, pipe elbows, and mufflers are developed on a plot of 4,100 square metres. However, nothing here reminds you of the typical unattractive industrial halls. People instead walk on silver-grey carpeting, past champagne-silver-coloured walls, with colourful chairs and bar stools, offering splashes of colour next to desks of real untreated wood, all this interspersed by green oases with babbling fountains in each of the six open-plan offices, inviting colleagues to share their creative ideas.
This is the design for the new work environment of the 120 employees if Barbara Benz and her team assume planning and design duties. “The classic office is passé”, says Barbara Benz. For some years, the architare founder has observed a fundamental change in our work environment.
Successful companies such as Google, Amazon, KPMG, and Vitra already utilise new workspace structures to ensure that their companies are future-proof: fewer individual desks, more meeting and conference areas, a lot of greenery, and above all zones to exercise or relax. With the following goal: to make developers and designers as well as event and sales experts more creative, helping them reach their goals quicker. The customers of architare, who can be read as the who’s who of German premium brands, increasingly rely on architare’s team to plan and design their office situations over the last few years.
„Those who enjoy their work for a company like Porsche, Daimler, or Boysen spend a lot of time at their workspace”, explains Barbara Benz. “For this, we need to draft different offers, a kind of incentive, to make the work environment more attractive”.
This can entail tailored work areas, places of retreat with berths, a think tank or library, or even a living or war room. During the planning and design phases, the design experts from Stuttgart and Nagold support her customers as professional partners. But it all starts with an analysis: Where do people do concentrated work? Who needs to be able to retreat if need be, and where to? And where do colleagues naturally encounter one another for creative exchange? All that needs to be carefully planned,
for an attractive office stimulates the creativity of the company – making it fit for the future.
In 2014, architare redesigned parts of the new Porsche Design Studio at the Weissach branch. Employees of the sports car manufacturer develop their new product ideas in the so-called White Cube. This requires creativity and interdisciplinary thinking. Exactly this drive forward is reflected in the interior of the white think tank. The colourful staircase turns into a vivid meeting place. On two mezzanines, pink, green, and turquoise-coloured seating poufs invite to spontaneously exchange thoughts. Communication, the exchange of knowledge, and the wellbeing of employees are decisive parameters for Barbara Benz. This is why she opts to break through rigid planning grids, offering employees the chance to retreat – by themselves or with colleagues for a brainstorming session.
Her recipe for success: “Our concept of a well-designed office supports the further development of a company instead of impeding it”, says the trendsetting designer. Many of the hot new office and property concepts have been known to the architare team for a longer time, already familiar from their planning activities for private customers. Large sofa groups, creatively designed room dividers, and lovingly arranged vintage quotes increasingly spruce up everyday office life.
The modern office more and more resembles the private atmosphere
says Barbara Benz. That this includes consideration for design and the building’s architecture, comes natural to her. In the end, the company name already reflects this: architare.
Welcome to the office! The lobby and waiting area are among the most important rooms in a company building, for no company gets a second chance at a first impression. The interior of these areas needs to live up to a host of demands. Aside from individual, corporate aspects, we as designers also need to consider representative and communicative aspects. Recently, the so-called workplace wellness trend sweetens up our daily office life: selected plant pots, e.g. by Domani and Vertical Gardens, are conquering the offices. But also natural wood, soft forms and colours, as well as plenty of art are making rooms cosy and comfortable. Lounge furniture calls into mind the interior of city hotels, not that of classic offices.
Working in a quiet small room? A thing of the past. Today and in future, our business world is characterised by openness and flexibility – and by a healthy work-life balance. Employees can choose between various workspace options. In this way, less individual desks are necessary in future, in turn requiring more space for communication and collaborative work. And – since we know how important physical activity is for body and mind – focus is increasingly placed on ergonomics and height-adjustable furniture in our work environment. So, the future employee works in standing? Exactly. This allows for better blood flow, we are more fit and more capable to perform. Flexible furniture and a creative work environment stimulates innovation.
Let's talk and meet
In future, offices will no longer primarily be buildings where we process data. Emails can indeed be read and answered everywhere. Offices will above all turn into communication centres for spontaneous meetings or discussions. This is reflected in the interior architecture – less chairs and workrooms – and in the design of meeting and conference areas; the places where people meet each other to exchange thoughts. To this end, attractive seating islands with comfortable armchairs and sofas will sprout up alongside high-tech areas for presentations and video conferences.
Whether for individuals or small groups, offering possibilities to retreat is the be-all and end-all of modern office design
for the desire for quiet and concentration is paramount to the capability to perform. Room dividers of all different kinds and colours, such as by Arper, Vitra, or Buzzispace, help shape offices accordingly. Whether large or small, one- or multi-piece, as a vertical garden, bulletin board, or visual leitmotif – anything goes!
Oftentimes, matching accessories and mounting brackets for work lamps, paper, pens, or monitors are also offered by the manufacturer. This keeps the height-adjustable desk surface clean. Some manufacturers also offer acoustically separated single or communal berths, high-back sofas, huts and boxes, nests, honeycombs, igloos, or armchairs with helm-like backrests, ideal for retreating.
Openness and flexibility are desired from engaged employees – and their managers. These are however also the qualities that make out future-oriented office design. Even if our work environment has changed quite a bit recently: The manager’s desk is still a welcome status symbol for many. No problem. We feel that those who bear responsibility also deserve first-class office furnishings.
Premium manufacturers such as USM, Vitra, or Walter Knoll offer their own collections for the executive office. Management also appreciates a flexible location to concentrate and communicate, for a manager also shows his or her leadership skills in conversation. Whether consulting, discussing, or video conferencing – the modern workspace promotes conversation while offering room for PC equipment and personal utensils.