A champion of the open floor plan envisions a more diverse post-pandem

As a longtime designer of workplace areas for large corporations reminiscent of Google, Microsoft, and the promoting agency TBWAChiatDay, Los Angeles-based Clive Wilkinson Architects has helped outline how workplaces round the world feel and appear. One of its greatest improvements was a push towards the open workplace floor plan—the large, wallless room full of clicking and chattering desk staff that optimized the sq. footage of workplaces and democratized the office.

However for the precise workplace staff utilizing these well-known open workplaces, the expertise has been lower than superb. They’re noisy and lack privateness, they reinforce sexist habits, they usually even make individuals give up their jobs.

Now, as the pandemic leads many corporations to dramatically rethink how their workplaces perform, Clive Wilkinson Architects has laid out a redesign technique to attain a more diverse, more multifunctional workplace. It begins with ditching the open floor plan.

“The open workplace is useless,” says Amber Wernick, an affiliate at Clive Wilkinson Architects. “We actually see that being one of the greatest adjustments to return out of this pandemic and the method persons are going to really feel coming again into the office after working from residence for over a 12 months.”


Wernick and her colleague Caroline Morris have spent the previous a number of months surveying purchasers and researching workplace design approaches to get forward of what corporations and their workers will need from workplace house as they regularly shift away from working at residence. Based mostly on suggestions from purchasers in industries starting from expertise to shopper merchandise, they’ve created a 12-piece workplace kit of parts that defines the completely different varieties of areas most workplaces will want shifting ahead.

“We strongly consider that the one-size-fits-all workplace can’t exist in the future of work, with even stronger causes now than there have been pre-pandemic,” says Morris. “A homogenous answer doesn’t deal with the selection, the wide selection of wants that every worker has. You find yourself with an extremely flawed office technique and an extremely flawed office.”

These three sorts of areas in the package of elements exemplify the greatest adjustments coming to workplaces in the post-pandemic period.

[Photo: Courtesy of Clive Wilkinson Architects]

The Library

Impressed by the openness of the open floor plan however designed to deal with its noise and commotion, the Library is a collaborative, unassigned working house that mixes giant working tables, particular person nooks, and soft chairs for quiet focus. Like a practice’s quiet automotive, a steered no-talking coverage helps cut back distraction.

“It addresses some of the greatest points of the open workplace that we might hear from our purchasers once we began working with them time after time, which is, ‘The open workplace is flawed, and I can’t get any work carried out,’” says Morris.

To this point, the idea has confirmed surprisingly interesting to their purchasers. “I used to be anticipating desks to nonetheless be a well-liked vote with some of our more conventional purchasers, however the library has simply been overwhelmingly well-liked throughout the board,” Wernick says. “Not a lot the conventional desks, which is actually exhibiting us that persons are prepared for a change.”


[Photo: Courtesy of Clive Wilkinson Architects]

The Plaza

After months of Zoom conferences and lonely, couchbound workdays, workplace staff are able to work together with their coworkers in actual life. The Plaza is a kitchen and lunchroom kind house that has all the workplace’s food-related infrastructure and seating to create a energetic hub of exercise. Like the kitchen of a residence, it’s a most important house inside the workplace the place social interplay can occur as soon as once more.

“We’re listening to again and again from our purchasers that that’s one of the lacking items of working from residence, and that’s one of the issues that’s going to drive individuals again to the workplace,” Morris says. “It’s a place you may go and replenish your cup of espresso and run into a colleague or meet somebody there, and have these spontaneous encounters that you just actually can’t have nearly.”

It’s a flip away from the development in giant workplaces to have a number of small kitchenettes all through the constructing or floor, giving staff in a single space a close by place to rapidly get a drink or seize their lunch from a fridge and return to their desk.

“We actually attempt to get away from that altogether, and produce individuals to at least one plaza as a result of it actually simply will get individuals out of their little neighborhood or nook of the workplace and forces them to return along with a bigger group of individuals outdoors of their quick group,” says Wernick. “It’s this idea of practical inconveniences. You truly need these social zones to be a little bit inconvenient to get to, and in flip, it actually forces individuals to return collectively that usually would by no means work together.”

[Photo: Courtesy of Clive Wilkinson Architects]

The Avenue

Serendipitous interactions can occur wherever, particularly if there’s room. The Avenue reconfigures the typical straightaway workplace hallway to have nooks, seating, and barlike areas the place passing colleagues can cease and chat with out getting in the method.

“So it’s not simply a walkway. It turns into a place for interplay, with landing tables and stools and possibly there are cubicles situated off of them,” says Wernick. “There are locations the place whenever you go away a assembly you may have a dialog with coworkers as an alternative of instantly having to return to your neighborhood.”

The package of elements is now being utilized by Clive Wilkinson Architects throughout its visioning workout routines with purchasers. Wernick and Morris say purchasers throughout the spectrum are starting to combine these concepts into how they’re planning to welcome staff again to the workplace. Although not each workplace might want to use each one of the 12 areas outlined in the package, most are adopting a minimum of a few of its elements for a more diverse house that makes the open plan appear to be a remnant from the distant previous.

“The pandemic has actually accelerated a lot of the concepts and ideas that our purchasers have been asking for for many years now,” Wernick says. “As soon as they have been pressured to do business from home and be away from the workplace I believe it opened a lot of peoples’ minds to what the workplace might be.”