Inspiring Spaces Reinvigorate the Office

16-0068861It’s not just a millennial thing. People of all ages are craving informal, casual and authentic spaces at work. These inspiring, breakout spaces can benefit the holistic wellbeing of workers while helping to promote employee engagement.

Yes, more people have the option today to work away from the office. But, those who predicted the office would go away have been proven wrong. That’s because leaders know the really valuable conversations and collaborations happen when people come together. Business leaders looking to innovate and create a culture resilient to a changing marketplace are looking to the workplace as a strategic lever for innovation and idea generation.

Steelcase global researches surveyed more than 12,000 participants in 17 countries around the world. The outcome was the Steelcase Global Report, where we noted that one-third, an alarming number, of workers reported feeling disengaged at the office. Engagement is a bottom line issue. Disengaged employees become a drain on company resources and a scourge to the bottom line while an engaged workforce generates new ideas and fuels economic growth.

Business leaders are prioritizing this problem, but evidence suggests efforts may be misguided or only attacking part of the issue. Fun diversions such as game tables or a fully-stocked fridge may be addressing the social importance of relationship building in the office, but they disregard the need for a workplace that helps workers perform better. Inspiring workplaces offer spaces for people to collaborate, to focus, to lounge and to socialize. Fun and function need to work in harmony to build an engaging office.

“I don’t need office hover boards or in-house seltzer machines or a shuffleboard court to keep me happy. What I need from my work environment is what most people need, regardless of generation: an atmosphere that is intellectually stimulating, collaborative and respectful of time,” wrote Meredith Bennett-Smith for Quartz.

Bennett-Smith goes on to say it’s very difficult to do this without having watercooler conversations with her co-workers. Apps, instant messaging, texting and email can only get us so far. These forms of communication don’t account for those “accidental” yet valuable hallway conversations. And, many companies aren’t yet harnessing technology to help eliminate the disparity distance can create. Facial expressions and body language are vital components to understanding. Text-only communication is too easily misinterpreted and conversations can be quickly cut off when a new ping hits your nearest inbox.

People are rejecting the sea of sameness many offices have become.

The office is a connection point for groups and teams, and that doesn’t just mean finding ways to relax with co-workers. It means supporting the physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing of workers by enabling them to build trust  with face-to-face conversations and move projects along with important breakout conversations or the ability to concentrate and focus or rest and rejuvenate.

People are rejecting the sea of sameness many offices have become. They want breakout social and personal workspaces to choose from when at the office. That ability to choose where to work gives employees a feeling of control which research shows contributes to engagement. Getting to pick between a private or semi-private workspace that allows someone to focus, a small team room with collaborative tools such as whiteboards and information-sharing technology, and a work cafe for more social conversation creates an ecosystem of spaces engaging works all day long.

“Interacting with my colleagues is one of the main reasons I get up in the morning,” wrote Bennett-Smith.

Led by this research, designers are creating purposeful breakout spaces that help everyone perform their best at the office. View the images below to see examples of these new informal, authentic and inspiring spaces.

Inspiring Spaces

Massaud – Social Space

nullOffices are rapidly moving from cold standardization and efficiency to supporting the wellbeing of people.







Massuad – Collaboration SpaceMassuad - Collaboration Space

Human-centered design brings the outdoors in with touches of nature elements.





Breaking Patternsnull

“Breaking rules and breaking patterns is where new ideas come from.” —Bruce Smith, Steelcase director of global design.




Lessthanfive – Collaboration SpaceLessthanfive - Collaboration Space

Places with inspired of design and solutions lead to inspired thinking.





Together Bench – Social SpacesTogether Bench - Social Spaces

Spaces designed for social interactions can help stimulate the brain and improve creativity.




Lagunitas – Collaboration SpaceLagunitas - Collaboration Space

Thoughtfully integrated, intuitive technology helps make the work experience more human.




Environment for People’s Needsnull

Environments designed with people’s needs in mind help them feel more satisfied, productive and engaged.




Breakout Spacesnull

Blur the edges of the office with breakout spaces.







Big Table – Collaboration SpaceBig Table - Collaboration Space

“In response to the greater fusion of work and life, people want to feel they can identify with the space.” — James Ludwig, Steelcase global head of design.




Hosu – Social Spacenull

Combining design + materiality + performance makes workspaces more meaningful.






Cafe Spacenull

The cafe is the new breakout hub of the office, encouraging community and creativity.





Written By:

Rebecca Charbauski

For Steelcase


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