The sun is setting on the American cubicle.
Millennials have already overtaken baby boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S., and they’re poised to dominate the workforce — according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle, millennials will be the dominant demographic by 2020. And as Boomers retire, so too is the outmoded office design that came to define their generation’s corporate work environments.
Since the emergence of the modern startup at the turn of the century, tech companies like AOL, Google and Facebook have led the charge in reimagining the rigid formalism of traditional offices in favor of more flexible, human-centered workspaces. As a result, traditional corporations are following suit with ambitious design aimed at fostering work-life balance, retaining the best talent, and inspiring greater productivity.
Here are a few ways that the values and design aesthetics of tech startup culture have infused the offices of forward-looking organizations as they strive to provide their young workers with spaces for creativity and collaboration.
Open floor plans
Perimeter offices are in decline. The notion of everyone sitting in a big room, coming up with the next big idea, has literally brought the walls down and opened up spaces that are more informal, interactive and dynamic. The result is a more egalitarian layout than the traditional setup with exclusive corner offices.
“Hierarchy, tenure and seniority are no longer the key factors in design,” said Karen Thomas, a a certified interior designer and principal with California-based architecture firm LPA Inc., in an interview with BDC Network. “Flexible work zones are displacing high, opaque walls.”
Bloomberg LP, the financial tech and media company, was a high-profile adopter of open-plan seating, doing away with cubicles altogether so that employees sit elbow to elbow, regardless of hierarchy, to encourage a trading floor vibe. This setup enables speedy troubleshooting and technical cross-pollination. And when there’s breaking news, it allows for quicker communication and more immediacy than you’d find in traditional office spaces.
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