Redesigning the Natural Workplace

Redesigning the Natural Workplace

Latest  designs encourage movement and discourage assigned work stations and offices

Steelcase 2There is a counter-height desk on wheels for the worker who is more productive walking through the office while working on his computer.

There are areas for groups of employees to collaborate. And private spaces for when workers need to take important or private calls. Work areas, equipped with traditional seating as well as counters for people who prefer to stand, are arranged for use by all.

The corner offices for high-ranking  executives are gone. So are traditional work stations assigned to a specific worker. A work café – for group and individual work – also is a must.

What is this place? It is the workplace that promotes health, wellness and the most efficient use of space at a time when businesses do not want to spend for new buildings, says John Shideler, workplace consultant for Steelcase.

“You have to have a building where people want to come to work, and that offers a variety of work environments,” he says. “You don’t need those fifty work stations anymore … . And you don’t want people sitting down for eight hours.”

Courtesy of Steelcase office systems

Courtesy of Steelcase office systems

Instead of an assigned desk, these workers now have assigned lockers for valuables, and a place for family photos on top. They move from area to area as needed, using equipment designed for the best ergonomics, in addition to having Cradle-to-Cradle certification, which includes testing that ensures furnishings do not emit unacceptable amounts of potentially harmful chemicals.

These are all important concerns to today’s recent college graduates entering the workforce, Shideler says. “Their top questions include, ‘What type of technology will I have access to?,’ and ‘What does your company do to safeguard indoor-air quality?’ “

Business owners designing office spaces are not the only ones grappling with these issues. All walks of the retail interior furnishings industry have seen an increase in customers asking about a product’s impact on indoor-air quality.

“That is why we have spent considerable resources testing low- and zero-VOC floor finishes and implementing a Natural Interiors®Scorecard Program for every product we carry,” says Ben Lanich, regional retail manager for Carpetland Carpet One and Schumacher & Co. Custom Hardwood Floors in Cincinnati. “With our scorecards, we can show our customers what third-party certifications our products have for indoor-air quality in addition to sustainability.”

Shideler acknowledges, however, that the Steelcase trend away from assigned work stations and private offices might take a little longer to take hold in many businesses. As he works mostly off-site, Shideler doesn’t need and office at company headquarters.

In buildings with the newest designs, some companies have had to set time limits on use of the private spaces because some workers have wanted to use them as their own throughout the workday. And there are two generations of executives with corner offices who may have to retire before this traditional fades. ©

Schumacher & Co. Custom Hardwood Floors also does hardwood flooring installation and finishing for Buddy’s Flooring America.

— Nancy Kibbee is editor at www.naturalinteriors.com.

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