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The Future of Workplace Design: The FETCH Model

By Scott Van Heurck - 25 Mar, 2018

Corporate workspaces, physical offices and “places to work.” In the digital age, where the lines between work and life blur further, workplaces are becoming more than just offices. Both employers and employees are wanting more from these physical spaces. And, with good reason.

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Members work in a common area at the Embarcadero offices in San Francisco, California. Made.design. U.S. Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg

Even in the midst of more people working remotely, companies are realizing that modern workplaces have to change – and have to offer their people much more than a desk and a phone. There is a reason Apple, Facebook, and the likes are spending billions of dollars on their “campuses.” And, with increasing pressure to both attract and retain top talent, companies are scrambling to figure out which additions and strategies will help them offer the “extras” their employees are wanting.

Even if you don’t have the budget of an Apple or Facebook, your employees expect more. The good news is that there are best practices you can follow when designing for the workplace of the future.

Based on these best practices and the work with our clients at MADE.design, we’ve created a model to illustrate the key components of a modern workplace so that organizations like yours understand how to implement these principles. We call it FETCH, short for Fluid, Engaging, Technology-Driven, Convenient, and Heuristic.

Fluid

We’ve gone from the cubicles of the 90’s to dramatically open/pseudo-collaborative spaces to now realizing that the modern worker needs both – privacy and community, depending on the project they are tackling. There isn’t a one size fits all approach, and a well thought out office is a flexible one, allowing space for both “head down and get it done” style projects, as well as for collaborative brainstorming sessions. Integrated multi-function design is the hallmark of an empowered office environment.

According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, an empowered office environment can increase worker productivity on cognitive tasks by 25%, and possibly more.

Engaging

The modern office serves multiple purposes, and “engaged” could easily be seen as interchangeable with purpose-driven. Based on the type of work a company does, engaging can mean different things. Even within the same company, departments can define engagement in different ways. On a sales floor, the goal is clear – to close. In that sense, engaging would mean a layout and aesthetic which are inspiring and allow for privacy to take prospective calls. In IT, an engaging workspace may place the emphasis more on ergonomics. Engaged employees make for more productive employees.

Not only may different departments have different needs for optimal engagement, but different areas of the office may also be designed with distinct ends in mind. For example, the lobby may be arranged to engage potential clients and partners, whereas, the office kitchen’s focus may be on nurturing internal camaraderie. In the case of Uber’s new headquarters, key floors and areas are completely transparent — a symbolic gesture to convey to the public that they plan on embracing transparency as one of their key values.

Technology-Driven

ioT, the internet of things, seems to have impacted residences and entire cities (smart cities are on the rise) but has seen slower adoption at the office level where BYOD, bring your own device, has very much changed the game. Still, an office in the digital age has to be technology-driven, not from the perspective of vanity, but to increase productivity and efficiency. Some examples of this include:

  • Machine learning and software which looks at “people analytics” to determine how spaces are currently being used. WeWork has invested heavily in machine learning to algorithmically determine which areas are more likely to get used.
  • Automatic AC and heating which adjust based on people’s saved preferences.
  • Spotify playlists curated for the lobby and elevators where sound plays a role in the overall design experience.
  • Interactive office furniture…which may or may not talk to each other.

Convenient

There’s a reason for the meteoric rise of WeWork, and for the inception of their latest project — WeGrow, a school for elementary kids while their parents work.

It’s convenience.

As work becomes a bigger part of our lives, an office serves multiple functions. An ideal office design layout is one that’s convenient and prioritizes ease of use. Google’s biggest question when designing their campuses is — how can we get people to spend more time here?

Office libraries, fitness rooms, and kitchens are all examples of convenience and comfort within the office environment.

Heuristic

Heuristic simply means allowing people to learn or discover something for themselves. Afterall, eureka moments don’t have to be isolated to the bath or the rare strike of lightning. A creative space can serve as an incubator of ideas and imagination, and the modern office, through the use of aesthetics, layout, and technology, should be heuristic. This is where a bright red slide in the middle of the office, similar to the one in offices of iContact in North Carolina for example, serves as more than just a playful aesthetic. It becomes a strategic device for inspiring creativity and innovation.

In the last two decades alone, the modern office has experienced a transition from being known as a “cubicle jail” to a “distracting playground” to now, as we find the productive middle ground, a place where people can actually get work done – and enjoy it.

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