There is no 'one size fits all' in conference rooms

In order to effectively design an office, you must take into account how employees will be using every part of the space, experts say.

"Every office design is unique. There is no 'one size fits all' office plan because every company works differently. So, you need to have a good understanding of what activities will be taking place and what the general workflow looks like," said Mike Warren, workplace culture consultant at Rieke Office Interiors of Elgin.

Rieke has a design division called Vertical Interior Design which works with clients to produce an optimal interior design plan for each situation and then they, in turn, work with account managers to execute the design.

Collaboration spaces should be designed to allow teams to brainstorm, create presentations and jointly solve business challenges. Vibrant wall colors are preferred in these types of spaces so workers stay on-task and engaged. The spaces should be equipped with white boards, video walls, video conferencing and space for employees to stand up while working.

And Des Plaines Office Equipment installs video walls, ranging in size from 60 to 109 inches, in offices. "More and more people want to be able to brainstorm with others around the world via videoconferencing instead of having to travel," said Chip Miceli, co-owner of Des Plaines Office Equipment.

"They like to write down ideas that come up during their brainstorming sessions. Instead of having someone transcribe into a computer file what has been written down on a large pad or on a blackboard, they can just save what has been written on the video wall for later reference," he continued. Multiple video walls in different facilities can be tied together.

Lobbies are another popular place for video walls. Videos introducing a company can be run on a continuous loop for those coming through the front door. Interactive video walls which allow visitors to ask questions and get answers are also popular. Northbrook YMCA has an interactive video wall in their lobby and Alpha Baking Company Inc. and Terlato Wines International, both in Chicago, have introductory videos in their lobbies.

A trend when it comes to personal work spaces, is less space. This leaves more room for common work areas. Offices are smaller because workers don't need as much space to store paper, Warren said. "In addition, tall walls around the work space have been replaced with shorter walls which allow for collaboration with co-workers," he said.

He added that "acoustical furniture pods can accommodate two to four-person meetings. Larger standing white board tables allow for larger groups to brainstorm together. Single acoustical egg chairs or pods are great for those times when solitude is needed for problem-solving."

And the days of executive offices getting all of the access to daylight are gone, too. Private offices along the perimeter of office buildings are now rare and where they still exist, they are generally equipped with glass walls which allow sunlight to wash through to the interior work spaces. The value of natural light in an office setting - shared by all - cannot be underestimated, especially when it comes to morale and creativity, Warren said.

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