Work is no longer tied to a discrete location. It happens anywhere, at any time, yet offices struggle to reconcile what they were with what they are becoming. Offices need to attract, nurture, enable, and retain the talent that will drive innovation, and bring an organisation’s strategy to life.
In 2013 Herman Miller first introduced us to their interpretation of the next big rethinking of the workspace: the Living Office, an enlightened and more human-centred approach to contemporary office design.
They wanted to address the ‘wants and needs’ that are fundamental to all humans within a working habitat. When Herman Miller set up his business he looked to inspire and enable a more natural and desirable workplace, fostering greater connection, creativity, productivity, and prosperity throughout the office space.
The Living Office has offered individuals and organisations a strategy to respond to the new landscape of work, by putting people and their passion first. Most workplaces offer a standardised, generic solution that could just as well suit the next set of tenants however Living Office offers a methodology to create an office where people will want to be, and where everyone can do their best work.
It has given individuals something that cannot be had in any other place: a spiritual connection to work and for colleagues a platform for a more natural human experience of interaction and creation.
“The most important thing in the room is not the furniture—it’s the people”
The way businesses work, how they work and the tools they use to work are constantly evolving. The concept of the Living Office focuses on a broader connection between people and inspiring success. To introduce this concept into a working space Herman Miller had identified ten important locations within the office in a quest for a more streamline and connected workplace:
Haven is the safe place for workers to concentrate without distractions.
Hive is where workers are working in close proximity to boost creativity and exchange ideas.
Jump Space desks are placed in highly approachable work points where workers can come for periods of time between activities to discuss ideas.
Clubhouse is a sub-division designed for teams concentrating on long term projects.
Cove is a compact space within the vicinity of other work areas, a place for workers to come and create and communicate.
Meeting Space is self-explanatory, a place for people to share information whether it be for presentations or a one on one exchange.
Landing is an open and inviting office situated next to meeting rooms. Employees can use this space to warm up and cool down before and after meetings.
Workshop is the place where people can come together to complete a specific task away from the rest of the office.
Forum is the place with the big screen, where employees or clients are brought for those all-important presentations.
Plaza is the heart of the office, a dynamic area where people can escape their desks, and reflect on their work with colleagues.
Herman Miller not only concentrated on the settings of a workplace but also recognised the 10 different activities and ways in which people work:
Chat is an incidental and impromptu interaction between colleagues.
Converse is a purposeful interaction among a group of colleagues to address a defined topic.
Co-Create is the generation of new ideas and content among groups.
Divide & Conquer happens when team members spread out within a group space to work on their own pieces of a larger project.
Huddle occurs when a team needs to address an urgent issue, or discuss and receive instructions for a plan of action.
Show & Tell is a planned information session for teams of colleagues, with or without their clients.
Warm Up, Cool Down occurs in the time leading up to and immediately following a formally scheduled meeting.
Process & Respond occurs in response to the feedback loop of emails, phone calls and texts that drives work forward.
Contemplate is an opportunity for an individual to pause and reflect on their work, or to ignore it momentarily and seek respite.
Create occurs when a person engages with the content associated with their role and develops deliverables.
Each Living Office is unique, based on the distinctive purpose, character and activities of its inhabitants.
This ‘uniqueness‘ is what also makes the working space more appealing to the ordinary worker.
This space has been designed and constructed to encourage people to want to come to work; "Today's technologies allow us to work anywhere. So why come to an office at all? Living Office aims to provide to knowledge workers what the stage or recording studio offers to musicians- an environment optimized to inspire and enable people's ultimate performance”.
They also expressed desire for work environments that do not look or feel like an office, but seem more like home, that flow between casual and formal, reflect team space, and enable and encourage interactions.
“The ideal working environment being a ‘daytime living room’ that would be welcoming and humane”
Happy colleagues equals a healthier business. Herman Miller have helped organisations consider this evolution in working but providing a framework that for implementation. This framework aims to continuously provide an adaptable working surrounding through inspired designs, inventive technologies and strategic services that will help people do great things and organisations perform to the best of their ability through their own Living Office. Office workspace requirements are evolving all the time as the way we work changes. We expect this evolution to continue in years to come and we think that it’s great that a company like Herman Miller is forward thinking enough to start defining a framework to describe this evolution allowing for visualisation and implementation of these visions.