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From "Cubicle Farm" to "Spaceship Campus" - Office Design is Moving Toward the Future

One of the hottest invites these days is a visit to Facebook's offices in Menlo Park, California. Why? Because the Frank Gehry-designed space is innovative, fun, and fosters an environment of open communication among its 2,800 employees. Facebook has led the way, but Apple is close behind with its "Spaceship Campus" set to open in 2017. Is this the way forward for all companies? If they want happy, productive employees, then yes, companies everywhere will need to re-think their office design.

"Currently, only one in four U.S. workers are in optimal workplace environments. The rest are struggling to work effectively, resulting in lost productivity, innovation and worker engagement" states a 2013 Workplace Survey from Gensler, an integrated design company. Of course, not all companies are able to be as flexible and creative as leading-edge technology companies, when it comes to re-thinking their office design. Company and industry culture both play a role in how creative an office layout can be.

From Traditional To On-Trend

Traditional law office design featured private offices with secretarial stations nearby, narrow hallways, dark, heavy millwork and stately furniture. Today, global law firms are reinventing how they use their space in order to support client expectations, technological advances and a younger workforce. At the 2014 Association of Legal Administrators meeting in Toronto, Gensler debuted their "Law Office of the Future" complete with a set of innovative ReDesign Concepts:

1. Less is more. Smaller offices, more interior offices.
2. Build more variety and choice into people's work environment. Gensler's workplace study indicated that there is a 12 percent increase in productivity when people have workspace choices.
3. Future-proof your environment. Create space that can expand, contract, and be reconfigured as needed.
4. Ubiquitous technology enhances collaboration and mobility.
5. Connect the dots. Face-to-face interactions still build social capital.
6. One size doesn't fit all. Find the workplace strategy that works for your firm.

In short, when it comes to innovative office design, the outcome will vary depending on the company and the industry.

No matter what type of business you have, there are four primary types of office layouts: Open office layouts, office spaces with architectural dividers, rows of cubicles and private offices. In recent years, open office floorplans have become a highly popular option. Unfortunately, there have been many recent studies that conclude that these open office spaces can be distracting and bad for productivity, as well as contribute to an increased amount of sick leave taken by employees.

Providing Workspace Alternatives

Although it is not feasible to go to the lengths that some companies do in order to provide amazing work environments, maybe it's time to consider different elements you can add or additional spaces that could enhance your next office redesign. By zoning off the open office areas, you can create employee-friendly sub-areas designed for:

Refuge -A quiet area for two people to have a private conversation

Enclave - A space where three or four people can get together for a quick meeting

Team Meeting Space - Typically a conference room, and

Community Space- A shared kitchen area, outdoor area, etc. Fun fact: The Alexander Group had a bean bag room for several years.

Additional Productivity- Boosting Ideas

In addition to creating alternative work spaces, there are other ways to help boost productivity in almost any type of office setting. These include things such as:


Choose wall and furniture colors that will contribute to productivity, such as blue (which creates a calming effect) or green (which is linked to broader, more creative thinking). Adding colored walls or a few pieces of colored artwork helps to increase mental stimulation.


Incorporate natural lighting whenever possible, as it contributes to wellness and productivity. It can also be helpful to the office plants, which have been proven to help combat stress levels.

Seating Alternatives

Choose higher desks or add adjustable standing desks, so that employees may stand while working. Kneeling chairs or yoga balls have also proven to be great ergo-dynamic alternatives to the standard desk setup. For more on this, click here.


Cleaning your work space and eliminating clutter takes a little time, but will help with focus. A little bit of organization goes a long way when it comes to productivity.
Paying attention to these areas can improve almost any working environment, and thus help to promote a culture of productivity and wellness that every company strives to achieve.

Did this article get you thinking about your next office space design? Let's talk about it, tell us about your ideal workspace on The Alexander Group Facebook page.

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