Long View On Workplace Design

Hybrid work is here to stay—here’s how facility managers can refresh their office spaces to reflect this new normal.

By Facility Executive Staff
From the June 2022 Issue

In the past two years, the workforce has undergone a pretty drastic transformation. Employees in a variety of industries have now experienced what it’s like to work in a remote or hybrid setting—and many have liked the benefits.

According to Density’s 2022 Employee Insights on Hybrid Work Report, which surveyed over 1,000 employees, the majority of respondents (59%) said schedule flexibility is the most important element of hybrid work.

Now, as trends indicate that employees are interested in hybrid and remote roles, Density’s report also reveals that 88% of companies are keeping their offices open in 2022. Hybrid work doesn’t take away from the office space—but these spaces will need to adapt.

“These next generation, post-Covid workspaces offer more free-flowing environments that blur the line between work and private life,” says Jon Pickard FAIA, RIBA, the Principal of Pickard Chilton, “With many professionals still working remotely, the new workplace has become a place critical for collegial collaboration, face-to-face encounters, knowledge-sharing and team-building.”

Norfolk Southern
The outside sitting area at the Norfolk Southern facility. (Photo: David Sundberg)

Pickard Chilton recently completed a new 1 million gsf headquarters for Norfolk Southern in Atlanta, GA. The headquarters was designed to be a high performance, next-generation urban campus, which features space for socially distanced meetings, touchless movement and transactions, open workspaces, hospital-grade air handling systems, abundant outdoor greenspace and state-of-the-art technology that fully enables hybrid work.

Of course, building managers have to consider how these newly redesigned spaces will function after a project is complete.

“It has been our experience that building owners/operators have embraced these new workspaces as they not only are more tenant-friendly but also draw an increasing number of users back to the building,” says Pickard. “As such, they seem amenable to properly maintaining these redesigned workspaces and are open-minded to reconfigurations as necessary.”

Pickard highlights that employees have greater expectations from employees—and are looking for an environment that both features the design attributes they are looking for, as well as being able to accommodate their lifestyles. This why the Norfolk Southern headquarters is now designed with “on-site amenities [such as] a vibrant dining facility, an adjacent rooftop garden and private greenspace, a comprehensive fitness center, state-of-the-art conference and training facilities, on-site childcare, and a variety of workspaces to serve employees’ diverse needs while fostering interaction and collaboration.”

To learn more about how offices are being designed with hybrid work in mind—check out the following Q&A features.

Hybrid Work
A glimpse inside the newly redesign Aspen Insurance office, designed by HLW.

The Agile Workspace

Project: Aspen Insurance Office Redesign in Jersey City, NJ
Designer: HLW
By: Kate Caruso, Senior Interior Designer and Melissa Strickland, Principal

Tell us about this comprehensive design. What was the motivation behind it, and what were some of the main concerns that needed to be addressed?

[Caruso] The client’s vision was to reflect the new Aspen brand in the built environment. Aspen was downsizing their real estate portfolio and looking for a more agile workspace reflecting a hybrid model. Some of the main concerns were how to provide a space that meets the comfort and needs of an insurance company, while looking toward the future for a more flexible environment.

What systems and products have been newly introduced to the Aspen Insurance office as part of the redesign? What are some of the major improvements done to enhance this office space?   

[Caruso] The team sought to ensure the built space told the story of Aspen and tastefully translated the new brand to both the internal Aspen team and visitors. The overall design concept was centered around the idea of creating “pathways,” based on Aspen’s primary logo which features a leaf with a central vein called the “pathway” and several smaller veins, or “offshoots,” branching off the primary line at select angles. These pathways are seen in subtle ways in the ceiling, floors, and wall coverings, and also in more obvious ways such as text and graphics.

The design folds the brand story into every element and captures views of the Hudson River and Manhattan. The space is washed with natural lighting and the natural elements such as oaks, soft neutrals and marble incorporated evoke a feeling of calmness. The color palette was inspired by the Aspen branding colors, using hues of soft greens and blues throughout. Nature was present in the branding as well as the built interior.

Biophilic elements such as moss walls and plantings within built screens and shelves were displayed throughout. Details from nature and pathways of leaves were also woven into the handmade wall coverings and supergraphics throughout the space. All selected materials have a green or recycled component. These include Knoll Furniture, Davis Furniture, Custom Millwork for personal storage and cabinetry, custom area rugs, glass and stone mosaic tile, quartz counters, Bentley Carpet, Patcraft LVT, and Wood Veneer.

How is this design expected to impact employee productivity when they do come into the office?

[Caruso] The journey from the entrance through the workspace with stopping points for collaboration and socializing along the route creates a more engaging environment for staff. Biophilic elements and access to natural light provide for a more productive day. Having access to a variety of spaces such as community cafés, quiet libraries, wellness rooms, vista seats, focus rooms, breakout booths and huddle spaces draw teams into the office for connection, reinforcing the intent of the space in Aspen’s new hybrid model.

How long did it take to complete this project? What were some of the most challenging elements of this redesign, and how have you/ are you overcoming them?

[Caruso] The project took one year to complete from the beginning of strategy and programming to construction completion. The schedule was very aggressive, and the entire team worked collaboratively with the clients and consultants to finish on time.

Facility managers in this day and age have to be agile and able to adapt to change—especially as hybrid work continues to be as popular as it has become. What advice might you have for facility managers embarking on an office redesign?

[Strickland] The key elements to the hybrid model are variety, flexibility, and technology. As the organization grows and changes, the work environment can transform to fit their needs by modifying components and space types throughout. Having the right technology in place to support the types of changing functions within a space to accommodate both the in-person and virtual work modes are important for an inclusive experience.

Hybrid Work

Hybrid Workplace Design
The Power Home Remodeling Houston office’s design was inspired by Houston’s dynamic art scene.

Bold & Bright

Project: Power Home Remodeling Group Houston Office in Houston, TX
Designer: CRTKL
By: Liz Wozny, Associate Principal at CRTKL

Tell us about this comprehensive design.   

[Wozny] The 16,000 square-foot office space for Power Home Remodeling Houston office was inspired by the city’s vibrant street art scene. The CRTKL design team collaborated closely with the client to create a bold and exciting office space with an industrial feel. More natural and subtle elements balance out areas of high visual stimulation, and the overall office design encompasses the local culture. Conference rooms, training rooms, and breakout areas are spread across the office to offer multiple work settings.

What was the motivating factors or goals of the company occupying/owning the space?

[Wozny] Power Home Remodeling is a forward, brand-driven company looking to make its mark in Houston, Texas. Employees are typically out making door-to-door sales, a task that is frequently exhausting and physically taxing, so their office space needs to be a hub for large company meetings, training, and team building gatherings.

What were must haves for the space?

[Wozny] It was important for the space to evoke a connection to the local community. Bold textures and colors create a connection to the local street art concept and make employees feel like they are “part of the art.” One highlight is the large custom mural in the café created by a local artist. The mural is a combination of elements special to Houston, as well as Power Home Remodeling’s culture and values. A large green wall and natural wood tones were essential elements to balance the mix of vibrant colors and dark metals within the space. As a nod to the city’s notable attributes, large branded graphics are spread throughout the space, and a custom metal scaffolding feature wall was inspired by the scaffolding used to hold NASA’s spaceships.

Multiple locations throughout the office were must-haves for touchdown work. Employees begin their day at large all-hands meetings in the training room before the day of sales. After, they make their way into smaller breakout rooms for individual teams to meet and strategize before sales. Once they complete their day of sales, they can return to the office to relax in the lounge or cafe, play games, or hang out after a long day of work.

What were some of the highlights of this project? What were some of the challenges?

[Wozny] Highlights of this project include the unique conference rooms. Power Home Remodeling’s Houston office is fitted with conference spaces designed for a high-energy user experience. The unique experience starts with music playing as employees enter the conference room. As directors present the top sales of the week, loud praises set the tone for the day’s sales goals. As employees leave the conference room to complete their sales for the day, music plays again, and Power Home Remodeling’s core values appear on the wall. CRTKL’s design focuses on the user experience and incorporates branding elements and lighting design synced to the beat of the music. As the music changes, the lighting and audio visual (AV) technology changes to enhance the experience and build-up excitement for the meeting. Words of encouragement and Power Home Remodeling’s values are displayed as they enter and leave the conference room and can be programmed to change.

Several challenges were faced during the early stages of construction. CRTKL’s design team worked closely with the client and the General Contractor to develop significant value engineering ideas without sacrificing the original design intent. During construction, when lead time issues arose, the design team was able to assist the General Contractor in finding alternates that still worked with the design.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at jen@groupc.com.