An office's atmosphere and culture are becoming major
selling points for workers, as companies pay more attention to what's being
incorporated into the design and layout of their work areas.
"We are seeing a big shift between designing what used
to be workspaces that were designed for efficiency, and now it's a focus on how
design can create a great workspace by elevating creativity and
innovation," said Janet Pogue, principal and work sector leader at
Gensler, a design and architecture firm. "Companies are putting the focus
back on people."
That means cubicles and more defined work areas are going
away and being replaced with open spaces, more vegetation and easy access to
Amazon took this concept to the extreme with The Spheres,
which recently opened at its Seattle headquarters.
The space, which is open to all Amazon (AMZN) employees,
provides a direct link to nature, the company said, featuring river and waterfall
features, more than 40,000 plants, paludariums and epiphytic trees. Workers can
even hold meetings in a tree house.
When company leaders started thinking about expanding its
office space, they realized that its urban headquarters was missing a
connection with nature, and hired architectural firm NBBJ to design the
"We know there are tons of studies out there that talk
about how people react and feel when they are among greenery and in
nature," said John Schoettler, senior manager of global property
management at Amazon. "We thought about how we could bring that to today's
workplace. It's a place for people to have the chance to meet to think and
refresh and work and collaborate among nature with coworkers."
Innovative workspaces among tech companies and startups are nothing
new, but the idea of incorporating more nature and open spaces is happening in
the traditionally more "stuffy" corporate world as well.
Financial companies, law firms and other types of businesses
are redefining their workspaces and getting rid of the long-hailed corner
"They are trying to attract and retain the same
employees that are working at Facebook, LinkedIn and Google," said said
Tom Polucci, director of interiors based in HOK's New York office. "They
are finding they if they don't design their space in a different way they won't
be able to attract talent."
But companies don't have to go to the extremes of building
an indoor rainforest.
Just being able to offer workers some outdoor space can
enhance creativity and innovation and also help workers relax, said Pogue.
"There is a huge trend to activate all the
rooftops," she said. "They are adding wonderful rooftop amenities to
At the new Polsinelli law offices in Denver, architectural
firm HOK incorporated different types of wood to mimic the forest and along
with various shades of green, yellow and blue found in nature. The offices also
have a 1,250-square-foot rooftop terrace.
The terrace has been good for recruitment, according to
Jennifer Evans, office managing partner. She takes potential hires to the space
to help emphasize that the office likes to collaborate. "It's a nice
change of space from the regular workspace when you need some uninterrupted
time to concentrate and get work done," she said.
The headquarters for Dairy Farmers of America opened last
year in Kansas City and offers employees outdoor conference rooms. The
headquarters also embraces the idea of more open space for collaboration: Its
previous headquarters had 175 private offices. The new space has 10.
"You didn't even see people in the old office. Now you
are able to see teams interact," said Kim O'Brien, a spokesperson for
Dairy Farmers of America. "It's been transformational for the culture as
well as for collaboration and innovative thinking. You see people meeting in
the new places, and there is a sense of productivity."