As a new generation enters the workforce, local executives are caught in the midst of a delicate balancing act: Respond to cultural demands for greater work-life balance and increased emphasis on health and wellness, but also adapt to the most cutting-edge technology in the industry.
To witness this up close and personal, simply walk into a newer Baton Rouge office; it’s the composite, tangible result of all these broader trends.
Specifically, the layouts, designs, color schemes and furnishings of these workplaces answer certain demands coming from younger generations.
The results of this are five design trends that are becoming increasingly prevalent in Baton Rouge’s office environments.
Collaboration and mixed-use
As individual offices become fewer and smaller, walls are coming down. They’re being replaced by open, flexible workspaces that not only encourage collaboration, but allow for multiple uses.
“There’s a desire to build flexible gathering spaces in an office building—particularly if you have an amenity like a view or rooftop—where you can bring clients for meetings or where employees can hang out,” says Chris Remson, principal at RHH Architects.
Increasingly absent from these layouts is a separation between boss and employee. Instead, flexible spaces inspire workers to regularly converse, asking for help or guidance on projects—a side effect many employers find increases productivity.
Flexibility also means accommodating different types of workers. Some might curl up in a lounge chair with their laptops, while others might prefer sitting around a conference room table to collaborate on a project with coworkers.
Of course, this concept brings about several challenges; namely, acoustics and privacy. Companies try to remedy these issues by interspersing the office with small, enclosed conference rooms called “huddle spaces,” with some employers offering their workers soundproof refuge in the form of phoneless booths or “quiet rooms.”
Striking a work-life balance
Sometimes, companies take the concept of “work-life balance” to heart, equipping their offices with the furniture, appliances and decor typically found in a residence. The national trend has inspired yet another buzzword—”resi-mercial”—which local architects and designers say shows early signs of picking up in Baton Rouge.
A company might add pieces of furniture, like throw pillows or area rugs, to soften a workplace for aesthetic purposes. But the warm touches also mark a concerted effort to subconsciously attract younger millennial and Gen Z employees who want to feel more comfortable on the job.
“As older executives retire, we’re starting to see this trend move upward and become more desirable for recruitment,” says Jennifer Romero, an interior designer with Coleman Partners Architects.
Playing up the effect are warmer colors and wooden accents, as well as larger kitchens in break rooms, complete with islands and up-to-date appliances.
3. Health & wellness:
All about the ergonomics
Thanks to an increased focus on health and wellness in the workplace, the popularity of features like massage parlors and ergonomic furniture—ranging from office chairs and keyboard trays to height adjustable desks—is also on the rise in Baton Rouge.
“A lot of people don’t think to ask about [ergonomic furniture], but the ones who do are very specific with what they want,” says Elton Pullett, an interior designer at Louisiana Office Solutions Co. “Usually they’ll have a preexisting condition and want something that’s better than what they have.”
Employers who fill their offices with ergonomic products tend to do so in an effort to boost employee morale, as well as their physical and mental wellness. Human interaction is factored into the engineering and design of the furniture, a consideration that often makes people feel safer, more productive and more comfortable in their work environments.
Another thing they might add is a massage parlor, providing a physical space in an attempt to alleviate employee stress.
4. Natural light:
Oh say can you see…
Forget the glaring fluorescent rays of yesteryear; instead, designers are keeping it simple, using natural light as a primary element when renovating workplaces.
One way a company might do this is by moving meeting rooms and private offices to the core of the building, replacing any wooden doors with glass to better reflect sunlight. Meanwhile, employees line the perimeter of the space, also getting access to direct sunlight from the windows near their workstations.
Other businesses might install skylights, which designers say are becoming more popular because they can lower energy bills and reduce worker stress levels. It’s also gaining traction as the concept of circadian rhythms enter the public consciousness.
“It offers a comfort factor, and having natural light decreases the need for artificial light during daytime hours,” Romero says, adding it’s the top trend she sees from her recent projects. “And everyone loves a connection to the outdoors.”
An essential demand
Incorporating technology into a modern office environment is not only a given; it’s essential. But companies are getting more creative with their aesthetic approaches to tools and gadgets otherwise deemed purely functional.
Recording studios, rotating graphic screens, large flat-screen TVs and wireless internet access are among features popping up in Baton Rouge workplaces. The rising prominence and expanding scope of technology means employees can work from anywhere, a consideration that usually manifests itself in more flexible office designs with more lounge areas and fewer designated cubicles.
Skype sessions, conference calls and other common activities requiring technological use also call for some private spaces to be included in the layout and reserved for those purposes.
“Fifteen years ago, it was a computer and a monitor, but now it’s about being able to have flexibility in terms of technology,” says Steve Maher, principal of Ritter Maher Architects. “You might go from a single-user workstation to a larger station with two people working on laptops.”