Today’s law offices face the same challenge as other businesses across industries post-Covid–creating a space that employees want to work in. Previously designed primarily as a tool to demonstrate status and prestige for clients, firms are being more responsive to their employees’ work modes and needs, employing a more human-centered approach.  

Steelcase researchers discovered what legal professionals need and how to design spaces that meet these needs. They found that employee inclusion, flexibility, and regeneration are the three key factors driving the workplace experience for legal professionals today.

Law firms are making changes and redesigning their offices to meet these new employee expectations and ways of working. Barbara Dunn, a principal and studio leader at Gensler’s Los Angeles office, sees law offices becoming “smaller, more flexible, more collaborative and more client-focused and technology-enabled.” Gensler’s tips for rethinking the law office can be found here.  

Deborah Nemeth, an Interior Designer at SmithGroup, shares how inspiration from two other industries, higher education and hospitality, are influencing the next evolution of the law office. Today’s law students are trained through highly interactive educational experiences that take place in a variety of active learning classrooms and environments, including small group collaboration and problem-solving activities. This has led to the creation of more social spaces within law offices, such as lounges, teaming areas, and huddle rooms.

A hospitality-centric space is another key driver for the future law office as attorneys have become accustomed to the comforts of home while working remotely during the pandemic. The addition of large open café spaces and hotel-like bar areas to host clients and firm gatherings has become popular amongst offices. “These spaces are infused with a variety of seating types, much like one would see in a coffee shop or hotel lobby, with an emphasis on soft seating,” Nemeth continued.

Law offices are also challenged with using their physical office space most efficiently to reflect today’s changing expectations. In 2022, CBRE Workplace surveys found a preference for flexible work in many law firms. While most associates and partners reported a preference to spend at least 50% of their time in the office, they also placed a high value on a policy allowing for some remote working.

Some firms have successfully implemented open and hybrid strategies to improve collaboration and talent retention while reducing their occupancy costs. CBRE states that space trends will continue to evolve, so most firms are designing flexible layouts that include portions of their space (10%-40%) to accommodate hybrid/non-assigned teams in the future. 

Law firms are making changes. Existing design typologies are transforming to meet new demands. There are new expectations around flexible work, inclusive of everyone, and regenerative experiences. These expectations are impacting the functionality of traditional spaces, shifting to be more high-performing and multi-purpose.  

A new set of workplace priorities is gaining traction with leaders around the world – and the most urgent issues now focus on designing better futures for people and the planet.  

In the latest Steelcase global research, leaders in 11 countries identified what workplace issues are most important in the years ahead. Employee wellbeing, sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion topped the list. This fall, Steelcase is sharing this research, along with new insights and designs all geared toward addressing the new emerging leader priorities.  

Where can you find this information? 

Season 3 of the Work Better podcast features an interesting group of people who are making an impact on people and the planet. Scott Sonenshein, New York Times Best-Selling Author, co-wrote Joy at Work with Marie Kondo. Caroline Casey an inclusive design activist who is legally blind, founded the Valuable 500 focused on disability inclusion at work. Each episode is designed to think about work and ways to make it better.  

The Fall 2023 New + Notable broadcast explores the most sustainable products and new carbon-neutral offerings from Steelcase, introduces new height-adjustable desks, and highlights stories from Designing Better Futures. Watch the 1-hour Broadcast or select individual segments here.  

The pandemic has had a lasting impact on how we work, the spaces in which we work, and the resources that we need to do our best work. Similarly, the way in which healthcare spaces are designed has shifted to reflect a more hospitality-focused, warm, comfortable, and secure environment that reflects the current needs of patients.  

The number of people seeking treatment for conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder has steadily risen over the past decade, and the pandemic has significantly exacerbated this trend.  

Now more than ever, “it’s essential that behavioral health spaces are insightfully and purposefully designed to be both safe and welcoming,” says Seth Starner, Steelcase Health Advanced Explorations leader. Starner believes “healthcare furniture doesn’t need to look unapproachable and uncomfortable. The goal is to create spaces that will help patients relax and be open to receiving treatment.” 

To help organizations and designers create safe and welcoming behavioral health spaces, Steelcase Health synthesized their research into seven design principles that together form a multilayered strategy. 

  1. Design for physical safety 
  2. Balance needs for privacy, social interaction, and safety 
  3. Design a welcoming environment that supports psychological safety 
  4. Offer choice and control where possible 
  5. Support positive distractions 
  6. Remember: One size does not fit all 
  7. Support therapeutic interactions  

The space around us can have a profound impact on health outcomes — influencing the overall well-being of everyone involved in the complex work of care. It is within these settings that people go through a wide range of experiences and emotions. Today it is important to make space for health by creating welcoming, inclusive, and comforting environments for patients and families. 

As a company, Empire is committed to responsible environmental stewardship and doing what we can to create a better world for generations to come. 

We have seen client requests for sustainable products dramatically increase in recent years, and our brand partners are also heeding the call. This June at Neocon, sustainability stories were front and center, and the new buzzword in every showroom: circular economy. 

Steelcase started with its most popular work chairs, Steelcase Series™ 1, certifying it as a CarbonNeutral® product in 2022. As of July 2023, Steelcase’s portfolio of high-performance chairs including Steelcase Karman, Gesture, Leap, Think, Amia, Steelcase Series 2 and Steelcase Series 1 are available with a CarbonNeutral® product certification to help businesses achieve their climate commitments.  

In 2022, Humanscale became the first and only furniture manufacturer to be awarded TRUE® Gold and Silver certifications for all factories globally. TRUE® stands for Total Resource Use and Efficiency and is administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) to help facilities define, pursue, and achieve zero waste goals while becoming more resource efficient. Additionally, 26 products from Humanscale’s portfolio have been certified net positive. 

The retreeve Tables Collection from BOLD Furniture includes innovative, sustainable statement pieces that champion a circular economy and environmental responsibility. Displaying striking butcherblock surfaces, the retreeve Tables Collection is resourcefully crafted from recycled solid wood, MDF, particle board, and plywood, all recovered from BOLD Furniture’s own manufacturing scraps. This direct reuse of industrial materials in the table designs not only reduces waste but also supports a circular economy, minimizing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. 

Andreu World is the first company in the world with a complete 100% FSC offering and the first European manufacturer to achieve LEVEL® certification. They have developed their own fabrics from plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles and textile waste and are committed to achieving 100% of materials and processes in the circular economy by 2025.  

Just like in many other industries, sustainably made products, responsibly sourced materials, and zero-waste are top of mind topics for companies as they plan and design their workspaces. As sustainability and circular economy principles gain traction, there is a growing emphasis on extending the lifespan of office furniture through refurbishment, reallocation, and reuse. 

According to a recent report from Deloitte, about half of Gen Zs and millennials are pressuring businesses to act on climate change. And many sources cite that consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium for sustainable products and solutions. 

Our manufacturing partners are dedicated to the protection of the environment and the health of employees, neighbors and clients through proactive environmental management that reduces waste, conserves resources, and promotes recycling. 

New tools such as Ecomedes, and others like it, are aiding in the availability of this type of information, making it easier to find and specify products and materials that fit a certain level of certification—all within one searchable database.  

If your workplace requires a certain level of sustainability commitment, having a partner to help guide you through what to do next is key. Here are some practical tips for how to implement a sustainable approach within your workplace strategy:  

Trade up 

With the explosion of ancillary, the options are truly endless. Empire can help recommend like-for-like alternate products that meet at the sweet spot of the right design aesthetic, price point, and lead time, yet offer a more green-minded option. Our Creative Studio specialists are experts at knowing what to specify now 

Think ahead 

Developing an end of life and reuse strategy can also help drive towards a sustainability goal in identifying ways to deal with existing, unwanted furniture. Whether the outcome is donation, liquidation, recycling, or reuse, we sensitize clients to the issues of environmental care in the decommissioning of their products.  

Data speaks 

You may not even realize the impact your program is already having. Environmental metrics reporting can help a company track the progress a program is making over time, especially with large or frequent purchasing, and is available with some of our major manufacturing partners like Steelcase.  

Regardless of whether a project is going for LEED or WELL certifications, with all things being equal, doing what’s right for the environment is always the right call, and every little bit helps. 

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