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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Despite employers’ best efforts to entice everyone back to the office with free snacks and fun events, people are dragging their feet. Their reluctance isn’t about COVID: If you look at the data, far more people have been to a restaurant, movie theater, or traveled on an airplane than who’s gone to the office, according to the Kastle Back to Work Barometer. People’s resistance doesn’t seem to be about flexible work either. Hybrid work has been embraced by 71% of global leaders, giving people the option to work two-to-three days from home or other locations.
Our partner, Steelcase, has determined a successful recipe for companies striving to bring their employees back to the office and willingly stay. A well-planned hybrid work policy is more than just allowing your employees to work from home a few days a week. The best plans include a reimagination of workplace design as well as in-office policies and technologies. Looking beyond the typical carrot-and-stick approach, employees are demanding a change in their experience while in the office. Is your workplace optimized for hybrid work?
Read more by visiting: Hybrid Needs a Home: Designing Neighborhoods at Work.
As we returned to Chicago in June, we were inspired by the innovative designs of Neocon 2022. This year’s theme, Design Makes a Statement, emulated from every showroom.
Even as hybrid work remains top of mind, the typical workplace is certainly not forgotten. As evidenced by what was on display at Neocon this year, brands are doubling down on technology solutions, resimercial designs, enhanced collaborative solutions, and areas for focused heads-down work.
Curved features, geometric shapes, Scandinavian-inspired designs, and earthy color tones dominated Neocon this year.
Check out all that’s new in our annual Neocon Trend Report.
Gary Levitan, Global Head of Procurement, Sourcing and Supply Chain, WeWork spoke to Procurement magazine on why the time is now for flexible working and the need for procurement talent.
In the enlightening conversation, Gary discusses the importance of data, technology and category management processes in scaling the business at WeWork given the explosive growth the company has continued to see in the face of the changing realities of work coming out of the global pandemic era. He also talks about good partnerships being critical and highlights Empire Office as one of those partners for WeWork.
A brief excerpt from the article is below.
“Partnerships are critical,” says Levitan. “ It’s a bit of a cliche, especially in the procurement world. Our global supply chains are posing never-before-seen complexities and only by proactively leveraging true, collaborative partnerships do organizations stand any chance of mitigating these potentially existential risks.”
“Empire Office is an example of a partner who helps us buy furniture directly from multiple manufacturers. Although our product is space, that space comes furnished with fixtures and technology, and we need to get those products to our customers and members on time,” says Levitan. “Our partnership with Empire allows us to deliver fully furnished space on time and on budget.” This partnership helps WeWork create clear communication and clear expectations on both sides, at a time when having a reciprocal relationship is more critical than ever.
Read the full article here.
The world of hybrid work is here, and it will require brands to reanalyze their workspaces. Leases are becoming shorter, companies are reassessing their physical footprints, and business needs are changing daily. When planning for these workplace changes, one traditional office staple remains in high demand, the need for meeting rooms.
Meeting rooms will always be necessary for workspaces as they are integral for successful team collaboration. But traditional meeting rooms can be expensive; they are a fixed workplace feature and offer little adaptability for brands needing agile spaces that can flex and change as quickly as they do. This is where modular meeting rooms come in.
Modular meeting rooms offer a better way for companies to have the collaboration spaces they need without adding additional construction time, cost, and lack of space flexibility. Made from reconfigurable frames or free-standing pods, modular meeting rooms adapt to meet every brand’s unique and ever-changing needs.
Unlike traditional meeting rooms, modular pods & meeting rooms can be positioned anywhere in your office. They can even be moved to a new location or floor, making them a truly sustainable workplace staple that can grow and change with your brand.
At a fraction of the cost of traditional construction, modular meeting rooms create a space for teams to collaborate successfully without breaking the bank. Their cost-effective price point also makes them attractive for startup brands whose needs will likely grow quickly.
Modular options can be installed in a matter of hours, and they don’t require additional permits and contractors as traditional meetings rooms often do, providing you with a seamless and easy installation experience.
The options are endless with modular meeting rooms. They offer a wide array of finish, configuration, and branding options, making your solution bespoke to your brand. Several modular options also include integrated power solutions that keep your team’s power within reach during collaboration sessions. To make them even more productive, you can add glass or acoustical foam panels to add sound buffering so your teams collaborate without disturbing the rest of the office.
Ready to get modular? Explore our recommendations:
Contact us to learn more and get back to the workplace safely & successfully.
A strategic return-to-office for the world’s workforce will require a change in mindset, approach, behavior, and space. Despite a flurry of ever-changing rules and regulations, employees are ready to get back into the workplace. Business leaders are seeking best practices.
Over the last year, workspaces have been retrofitted with safety in mind. But what comes next? We have some insights on that.
DESIGNING FOR PRODUCTIVITY
Open-plan offices of the past lacked support for employee’s focus. Moving forward, organizations will benefit from creating multimodal spaces that support collaboration and focus work equally.
Post-pandemic workspaces should offer areas for effective team collaboration, heads-down focus work zones, and easy access to tools and resources for employees to stay productive. Privacy pods, workbooths, and modular seating are great product solutions that offer employees a range of work modes.
DESIGNING FOR COMMUNITY
In our remote-working reality, employees are missing their coworkers and the sense of belonging that their workspaces used to provide them. Organizations will need to rethink the purpose of their office from simply a workplace to becoming the infrastructure for building social capital and fostering a sense of purpose and belonging.
As employees return, offices can foster this feeling by offering spaces designed to encourage employee engagement and interaction. Communal areas like cafes, game rooms, and bleacher-style seating meeting spaces provide employees with a gathering place to collaborate with their coworkers and access to a sense of belonging that they were missing while working remotely.
DESIGNING FOR FLEXIBILITY
The pandemic has taught us that companies need to embrace flexibility. The workplaces of the future will utilize multi-use spaces that will support diverse types of activities.
These spaces will use furnishings that easily move to allow settings to expand and contract, supporting distancing needs when necessary and accommodating different-size groups and activities seamlessly. Mixed location teams will collaborate in uninterrupted harmony with integrated technology solutions, like e-meeting rooms, with screens preset for video conferencing.
With a few tweaks like these, offices can morph and change to serve employees’ ever-changing needs and expectations in the post-pandemic work world.
Download our complete guide on “What’s Next In the Workplace” here.
Learn more from Steelcase’s Global Report: Employee expectations have changed. Is your workplace ready?
Empire’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Elizabeth Irizarry co-hosted a special podcast along with special guests Steven Burgos, Senior Associate | Design Director at Gensler Miami, and Randy Carballo, EVP at Blanca Commercial Real Estate, on the topic of The Future of Work, It’s Complicated.
The spirited conversation touched on many interesting topics related to where many of us find ourselves today – navigating the hybrid work environment and what’s to come for the future of offices.
Top of mind for many companies in planning their return to work is a space that enables flexibility and agility. All speakers agreed that in order for companies to transition their workforce back into the office effectively, there needs to be an apparent reason for them to come back, and the space must provide for a specific purpose. The days of going into an office to “punch a timecard” are gone; now, employees are coming in to get something they can’t get at home. Whether it’s meeting with clients, collaborating with coworkers, or participating in a shared experience, the office can still serve a purpose. However, the true intent of the office coming out of this pandemic will be something to continue to watch. Companies must be prepared to make adjustments as needed to best support their employees’ needs.
Other changes include transforming the commercial office to function more as our home offices do. Heads-down time and focused work product improved for many during the pandemic with the ability to work from home. For companies looking to retain that spike in focus and productivity, an open office where all employees sit in a large space all together may not be the answer. Adding focus rooms or nooks can balance out the time spent collaborating amongst coworkers with the quiet, focused time we have become accustomed to at home.
Lastly, the speakers see technology continuing to play a huge role as we transition back to the office. The rise of Zoom was not limited to just the WFH era. As more and more companies roll out their hybrid workforce plans, many predict you’ll see even more need for technology that can connect both virtual and in-person conferencing. In addition, spatial intelligence technology will be even more critical to monitor space usage within the office, enabling companies to make better decisions regarding the design of their space based on actual data.
Overall, there is a greater focus on worker wellness, health and wellbeing after one of the most challenging periods many of us have faced in our lifetimes. Providing employees the freedom to work where they do it best, along with making company-specific decisions on bringing everyone back together, remains a considerable challenge and highlights a paradox in workplace planning that won’t be solved overnight.
As the speakers suggest, there is no “one size fits all” approach, and every company’s needs are very different. The question is not whether we need more or less office space but rather: why are my employees coming into the office? As Steven pointed out, this can be a massive opportunity for companies to impact change within their workforce and create a more productive and innovative environment.
At Empire Office, we are excited to play a role in planning the future of work with our clients and industry partners such as Gensler and Blanca Real Estate. There is no doubt that we will indeed feel the trends and impacts of this pandemic era for years to come.
To listen to the full podcast, use the following link and select your preferred platform: https://linktr.ee/Infiniteattraction.