By: Donna Metallic As we begin 2015 let’s take this new beginning to help create balance within our work environment. An effective workspace must be designed using the concept of balance. So how do we get to this thing called balance? Most clients want a one-size-fits-all solution for its employees, but balance is about creating a variety of spaces beyond the traditional cubicle set up. Our design goal is to create a balanced space that accounts for a range of work functions and work types so that all employees can be productive and achieve optimal wellbeing. This includes open collaborative spaces and individual work stations, as well as work style-specific areas that accommodate tasks that require private, quiet environments. In 2013 Herman Miller came out with the Living Office, a new approach to human-centered workplaces that focuses on what motivates people at work. The company’s research found that workers need a sense of security, belonging, autonomy, achievement, status, and purpose. These needs are not new concepts, but a growing number of workers are beginning to emphasize these attributes in the workplace. The office space should support numerous activities and a variety of work environments, and employees must be able to choose how they use the spaces. Balance is created when the practical demands of the job are considered along with workers’ psychological needs. Herman Miller’s Drew Himmelstein writes, “Workers are looking for something more than a desk: they want to spend their days in an inspiring space that contributes to their purpose, facilitates their cognitive and physical well-being, and allows them to concentrate and interact productively with their colleagues.” Although many people think the laptop, smartphone and other technological innovations have eliminated the need for individual workstations, our corporate office design experience has largely shown this theory to be incorrect. Most people need a space they call their own. One thing that we have found to be true here in the Midwest is this: The hoteling concept (workspaces designed for nomadic-style work) often makes people feel that they are not worthy of a space, making them question their worth to the company – and in turn, their commitment to their work and company. Something to think about! Although balanced workspaces create a better environment for employees, designers face the challenge of selling this concept because of the cost of real estate and deeply ingrained cultural management practices. Balanced workspaces most often cost more upfront than the traditional “cube-farm.” But in the long run, employee satisfaction with balanced workspaces drives employee retention and performance. Some managers see open collaboration workspaces and ask, “How can any work get done in this environment? It looks too comfy and relaxing!” The culture has to change with the environment to understand how changes in workspaces can actually increase – not decrease – productivity. IDO has several clients who have worked towards balanced environments for at least five years. We have been able to understand the pendulum swing from the “cube farm” to the open collaborative work environment. We take this firsthand knowledge to our clients who are still trying to understand the ramifications of moving to the balanced collaborative work environment. As designers, we are confronted with ever-changing ideas about the ideal workspace. But we must always reflect upon our firsthand knowledge of the human experience in these environments and make suggestions to improve these spaces to make them more productive, which is the main objective for our clients. Let us know how we can help you and your team by creating balance in your work environment!