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Aug 10, 2023 By Laura Botham
Perspective Future of Work: High 5
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We take a look at new ways to think about the workplace
By Laura Botham Aug 10, 2023
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Today’s workplace has to be hyper-flexible, personal, and must be community-driven. Whether designing spaces that encourage employee comfort and well-being, or support sustainable choices and the local economies, it should always consider the various users from small groups within a large company, to neighborhoods, cities, and the world. Let's take a look at the ways some designers and companies are thinking about their place in the larger global community of work.

Locally-Sourced

Studio Lab La Bla sourced aspects and materials used for the interior of energy company E.ON's headquarters in Malmö, Sweden locally from cork to diabase rock. In reaction to the often non-sustainable practices in the interior design industry, the studio used repurposed nylon fibers and MDF board to create bright yellow furniture for the reception area. The studio also created a modular sofa from recycled wine corks from local restaurants.
(Below: MDF board and repurposed nylon seating with a glass and aluminum table; and a recycled cork-covered modular sofa. Images courtesy of Lab la Bla)

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Rethinking Ventilation

Tropical Space based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam integrates perforated brick structures into their projects as a way to utilize natural light and ventilation while reducing energy consumption. Spaces like Premier Office and Cuckoo Coffee House maximize the benefits of their modern take on breeze block by working with the tropical climate and using traditional local and eco-friendly materials to reduce the need for air conditioning with the use of high ceilings, atriums, and breezeways that put the wind to work as a cooling agent. By creating more “porous” structures and floor plans designed to take advantage of wind and natural light, founders Nguyen Hai Long and Tran Thi Ngu Ngon are saving energy while putting the environment to work.
(Below: Premier Office by Tropical Space in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and it's innovative use of atriums and "porous" walls to ensure natural airflow and light. Images courtesy of Tropical Space)

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Future-Focused

If you attended NeoCon this year, you may have been lucky enough to visit Haworth’s DesignLab, an artist and designer collective focused on looking beyond the industry for new ideas about the workplace. Creative Director and Designer Christina Fehan’s contribution, the Phil Lounge was inspired by working alongside her dog Phil during the pandemic. An oversized chair inspired by the curled up form of Phil with ‘pet-able’ upholstery, the lounge provides as sense of playful comfort with the added benefit of releasing stress by mimicking the soft feeling of petting a pup which has been shown to lower cortisol, the stress hormone.

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The tactile Phil Lounge designed by Christina Fehan as an anxiety-soothing piece of office furniture. Image courtesy of DesignLab Haworth
The tactile Phil Lounge designed by Christina Fehan as an anxiety-soothing piece of office furniture. Image courtesy of DesignLab Haworth
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The bike facilities at Boynton Yards 101 South building, providing bike storage, lockers, and shower facilities to encourage active transportation to the workplace. Image courtesy of Boynton Yards
The bike facilities at Boynton Yards 101 South building, providing bike storage, lockers, and shower facilities to encourage active transportation to the workplace. Image courtesy of Boynton Yards

Active Transportation-Oriented

It’s no secret that people who bike or walk to work have better physical and mental health than those that drive, save money, and have a lower carbon impact than their counterparts that drive—all important things to want for yourself and employees. Studies show that alternative modes of transportation also drive productivity. Boynton Yards’ 101 South building is the first purpose-built Class-A lab building in Somerville Boston that includes bike facilities and is part of a larger progressive mobility management plan to encourage car-alternative transportation modes. The facilities join others like The Bike Vault in Houston in supporting bike commuters with access to storage, lockers, and showers while supporting local bike advocacy groups.

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Emotionally oriented work benefits from spaces that encourage collaboration and a sense of community. Image courtesy of Oktra
Emotionally oriented work benefits from spaces that encourage collaboration and a sense of community. Image courtesy of Oktra
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Idea oriented workers benefit from multifunctional spaces and informal workspaces. Image courtesy of Oktra
Idea oriented workers benefit from multifunctional spaces and informal workspaces. Image courtesy of Oktra

Spaces that Support Neurodiversity

It’s only been just over three years since the pandemic, and we are still adjusting to what it means to return to the office, even in a hybrid fashion. In a post-work from home era, we’ve relearned comfort in the workplace not just in a tactile sense, but what it can mean for a neurodivergent workforce. UK-based firm Oktra breaks down the four different work styles and how to design for them that can benefit not only neurodivergent folks—data, detailed, emotional, and idea-oriented. Their designs consider acoustics, adjustable lighting, privacy, social areas, collaboration spaces, low stimulation spaces, and other subtle ways to provide emotional comfort while doing different types of work.

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