Design Principal of Interiors, Jacobs and President, International Interior Design Association, International Board of Directors
Commercial interior designers must create workplaces that support and adapt to the evolving needs of today’s employers and employees. The industry must continually reassess the work environment to accommodate the ways in which technology is shifting and enhancing where and how work happens, which ultimately affects how designers work.
A mobile workforce
Gone are the days of corner offices, cubicles, desktop computers, and heavy towers. The cord has been cut. Now, work can happen anywhere, anytime, and among employees who are geographically dispersed. Despite these capabilities, more companies are recognizing the importance of place for employees. They are turning to designers to create work environments that harness the power of face-to-face interactions and the creative connections that can be made during casual conversation and chance encounters in the workplace. Mobility, both within and outside of the office, is driving the design of comfortable and casual work environments. These offices serve as a destination for employees, elevate and enhance an organization’s brand, provide options for a variety of work styles, encourage productivity and collaboration and support employee health and wellness.
Adapting to technology
Employee mobility requires technology that reliably supports the ability to work from anywhere. Wi-Fi, video conferencing, charging stations and power sources are essentials that must be integrated into a design plan from the beginning of a project. Employees also expect a higher level of control over their work environment. Furniture manufacturers have become crucial to providing this flexibility. Furniture for commercial spaces is designed to respond to individual users, including pieces like smart desks and furniture with integrated technology to support workplace mobility.
Technology and the design process
A decade ago, the process of designing and building out a commercial space was linear. The designer created plans, then handed off those plans to an engineer and eventually a contractor. Building information modeling (BIM) software has changed the dynamic by creating a cohesive process that allows building partners and stakeholders to be involved in every step of a project. This increases efficiency and maximizes opportunities to troubleshoot issues with all parties. BIM software has been available for years but in the field, designers are now seeing its true potential as a tool for collaborative building — just like the kind of tech integration designers are striving to provide to employees in the work environments they create.