Gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all office space. Today you need look no further than the business section of any major news site to learn about all the focus -- and money -- large companies are placing on their workspaces. No longer does the word "office" evoke images of drab, dark-walled rooms of the "Mad Men" era; the ideal 2019 place of work is the result of considerable research into human health, psychology, and well-being, as well as feedback from employees.
Here is the rundown of the top 10 characteristics of the ideal contemporary office space.
These height-adjustable workstations might have seemed ripe for parody when you first saw them, but given the now widely known ill health effects of long periods of sitting, no one's laughing now. These desks are a game changer, and workers really want them. Beyond getting workers out of their chairs and thus improving their health (or at least mitigating some of the negatives of sedentary work), they've also been shown to improve job performance and productivity.
As the old adage goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but some things are universally appealing. Among these: calming, cool tones on walls; elegant, unfussy fixtures; simple, clean art and lots of natural light. Workers who sit near "sunlit windows" are 15 percent more productive, according to the World Green Building Council.
In decades past, working remotely was not only disallowed, but it was also often a technical impossibility. Now, thanks to the ubiquity, speed, and strength of the internet, permission to work remotely from time to time -- if not 100 percent of it -- is a highly valued commodity.
"I’ve been able to see firsthand the increase in productivity by incorporating telecommuting into several companies," entrepreneur Leonardo Zizzamia, co-founder of the organization tool Plan, said recently.
The perfect workplace of today knows that its workers want and need to sometimes be free of it, no matter how beautiful, feng shui-ed or full of sit-stand desks it may be.
It's no secret that the ultra-open, bullpen-style offices that have been all the rage in recent years are a flop among actual workers. The top reason? People naturally want some measure of privacy. With that in mind, the curator of the ideal office space may pay homage to the benefits of collaborative work with some open space but will keep some physical barriers between desks.
"For years, we've been decreasing the amount of privacy and personal workspace for employees," Jeff Pochepan, president of Los-Angeles-based office-design and -furniture resource StrongProject, wrote in a column for Inc. "Today, companies are realizing a balance must be struck, with a return to privacy and personal workspace without sacrificing the creative collaboration made possible through open-office design. So while we're not saying we need to once again embrace the towering felt walls of a cubicle, we need to realize that the open office is greatly suffering under its current minimalist aesthetic."
Including comfortable seating here seems to fly in the face of our first ideal-office characteristic, but hear us out. No one can stand all the time. For those periods when workers do have or want to sit, the ideal office chair is ergonomic and fully adjustable.
Coffee, tea, and water
It may seem too simple to make this list, but it's true. The perfect office has coffee, tea, and water. With the vast majority of employees drinking coffee at work, offering it at the office is a must. For those who don't drink joe, tea bags and a simple water filtration system with both hot and cold water will be greatly appreciated.
Another one for the simple-but-true column is that snacks are important to a lot of employees...really important.
"[W]hat your employees eat directly affects their performance," writes Ilya Pozin, Pluto TV founder, in an Inc. column. "[C]onsider that snacks impact one's overall diet (and, therefore, overall health) more than any other meal category. A study of more than 200 adults in a worksite wellness program found that snacking choices at work affected both the quality of one's diet and general health categories, like BMI. The healthier the snacking choices, the better the participants' overall diet and health. ... [Then] there's the emotional component of healthy snacking at work. Employers who provide snacking options for their workers signal to their employees that they are cared for and appreciated, which in turn boosts engagement. It's one reason why healthy snacks have been called the 'key to happiness at work'."
For those meeting times when a colleague's desk is too cramped and a conference room is too large, a small space often fits the bill. These can be simple, walls-on-three-sides areas with beanbag chairs and a whiteboard, a spot with a couch and coffee table, or even an open-air area with a bar-top and stool seating. Management ought to go with whatever aesthetic fits their particular office, but one thing's clear. Huddle rooms, or smaller meeting spaces, are on employees' wish lists.
As anyone who's been keeping up with "Superstore" can attest, the lack of a private room at work for nursing mothers can make for some embarrassing moments. More importantly, it could also be breaking the law. Today 70 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the workforce, and that means millions of moms who at some point could require a clean, non-bathroom place to pump breastmilk. The perfect office would have a clean, quiet, lockable, temperature-controlled pumping room with comfortable seating, a power outlet, and a small refrigerator.
Most people would use a gym if they had one at work, according to a recent survey. And while lots of office buildings in large cities do have gyms, many of these gyms are outmoded, small, poorly lit, or otherwise unappealing. The gym at the perfect office? It has space for whatever floats your boat, fitness-wise: shadow boxing, yoga, Cross-Fit-type plyometrics and more. It has natural light, up-to-date, clean, working equipment, and a water-filtration system.
Looking for flexible office space with a legit gym and other coveted amenities? Try one (or more!) of Metro Office's nine DC and Washington-area locations. Browse our locations here.