IS WORKPLACE DESIGN FALL(ING) FOR HIGHER ED?

Welcome back Fall! And, welcome back all the Fall favorites: colorful leaves, pumpkin lattes, cider doughnuts, new fashion and television shows, the holiday season, football and a new school year. Regardless of your age, or how many years removed you are from graduation, Fall brings with it a renewed sense of purpose and excitement. Everyone feels they are going ‘back to school.’  Personally, I cannot help but warmly reminisce about my college years and that excitement each Fall brought as I went back to campus for a new school year.

When you reminisce about College, what do you remember?  Perhaps you remember projects, coffee breaks, deadlines, laughter, lounging, focused work, sharing Ideas, feeling inspired, sounds of the marching band practicing outside your dorm window. That description (minus the marching band) isn’t too different from current Corporate Culture being embraced by many companies.

Is Workplace Design Falling for Higher Education Design?

The University Culture has always been one to embrace Choice and recognize there are a variety of work styles. The Professor provides an assignment and it is the choice of the student to determine how, where and when to produce their best outcome.  Depending on that student, he or she may choose to work on that assignment in a ‘huddle room’ to collaborate with peers, in a favorite lounge chair at a bustling coffee shop or perhaps at a desk in a quiet library to focus. Do those work style preferences change the moment a student graduates and enters the office?  Of course not! However, past attitudes expected incoming professionals to adapt – i.e. learn how to do your work at your cubicle from 8am-5pm, Monday-Friday.

The Corporate Culture has shifted. 

The current attitude has evolved and companies are instead adapting to the incoming professionals - specifically millennials. In an effort to recruit the best talent, companies recognize the need to design offices which are flexible and accommodate a variety of work styles. Technology enables the freedom to work at places beyond the desk. Regardless of technology though, it is still a company decision to embrace environmental diversity and invest in a Workplace Design which promotes choice.

At Whitney we work with our Clients to design the right combination of ‘ME, WE, FREE’ spaces. Our own office is a great example of Workplace Design which provides ample options of where to work. There is the individual desk; ME Space. There are plenty of collaborative areas from the board room to small huddle rooms; WE Space.  All other space is considered FREE Space. Free space may be standing at the break room bar or working at a coffee shop after an offsite meeting. As an employee, this environmental diversity is quite appealing. 

So is Workplace Design Falling for Higher Education Design? Perhaps, or maybe it is the other way around. Regardless, these two environments are becoming blurred and embracing a similar design vocabulary. One thing is for sure, students and professionals alike share a common desire to be provided Choice. With that in mind, let’s all raise our Pumpkin Lattes and toast to a great Fall producing our best work in the Workplace of our Choice!.

Written by Fall-loving: Nora King

Class Adjourned | Millennials & the Transition from Classroom to Office

Many corporate executives remember what it was like to trade in their school books for meetings and cubicles. For some millennials, it may be overwhelming to transition from the flexible college schedule to a full time job. Although this is a challenging adjustment for all, the workplace environment is actually quite similar to the educational atmosphere which, most do not realize, aids the transition. 

A typical college student attends classes, completes their homework and tasks, returns home, falls asleep, wakes up for class and the cycle repeats. This cycle actually mimics the typical workday. This schedule, along with many other societal patterns & habits, is an example of how young students unknowingly train their minds to mature and adjust to adult responsibility and pattern. College life requires teamwork, focus, time management, and even allows for some fun. A successful work ethic and company culture requires these same skills. 

As we employ these skills on a day to day basis, it is important to promote improvement and education in the workplace as well. Whether through human interaction, collaboration, experiences or new-technologies, it is in our human nature to crave the same growth we had engrained in college life. Nowadays, even the design of our office spaces can greatly promote or hinder workplace efficiency or help the millennial transition from college to work. 

For example, as more and more work environments change to open-concept floor plans, prominent figures and executives in companies are being viewed as more approachable. Being able to interact more with each other puts more emphasis on training, collaboration, and learning. With an open, equitable floor plan, millennials quickly become comfortable with their surroundings. They are more able to share with others the new ideas they've learned from school and better align different mindsets and personalities which could prove to be a large asset to any company or team. 

Written by one of our very own Millennials: Maria Vondrasek

Design Trends | Let's Get Personal

Whether you are designing an interior office space or renovating your home, you are likely on the constant lookout for design trends.  What is going to feel current?  What is going to retain lasting appeal?  What selections are you going to be patting yourself on the back for 5 years from now? Well, you can’t go wrong with an eclectic aesthetic…a little bit of everything you love, all mixed into one.

Living and working environments both thrive on a personal touch...you know, a fresh flower or two, a framed vacay pic from your last European excursion, a ceramic poodle willed to you by your grandmother….okay, maybe that last one is just me, but you get the idea.  It is acceptable for even a work space to tell something about its inhabitants, in fact, it is encouraged to do so for productivity and straight-up happiness.

While I am the last person to promote excess knickknacks, I am the first person to assure you that there is such thing as clutter done right.  When you get people together with common differences and have them represent a thing or two about themselves within a shared space, it is wildly exciting to see the outcome.  While a sea of workstations or cookie cutter homes can be underwhelmingly practical, adding a bit of personalization will create visual interest that brings joy to passers by. 

So, how do you make it happen? 

1. Less is usually more, even with eclectic design. Do not go overboard.  While it is crucial to include personal touches to your home and workplace, it is not necessary to tell your life story in your foyer or on your 72” wide desk surface.  Hone it down to a handful of your favorite things in any one setting. You will appreciate each item more if they are not overwhelmed by the 20 other items surrounding them.

2. Variety is key to create an eclectic collection - collecting is key to getting variety.   If you have a collection from your past that you absolutely love looking back at, there is no shame in displaying a bit of it in a place that you get to see everyday.  Maybe it’s a pencil collection from when you were 12 that you can showcase in a glass vase, or perhaps it is an old stash of sea glass that you gathered on a trip to the beach.  Whatever it is… dig it out and put it on display, because it represents you (!) and adds something unique to your daily surroundings.  If you have never collected anything…start today!

3. Frame it.  If there are photos or other flat items that express you, frame them to ground them!  I have a vintage Memory Game that I used to play for hours on end and have since replaced with a new version to play with my kids.  The cards from the vintage game are a perfect colorful frame filler to brighten my day and remind me of how simple things once were when playing Memory was my number 1 priority. 

The moral of the story: 

Surround yourself with an assortment of conversation starters that reflect you.  You will be surprised at who stops in their tracks and asks a question about an item that you thought you were the only person in the world who would appreciate.

 

Author: Melissa Mahoney