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Designing for the Unknown Future of Work

by Mike Skaar


Architects and interior designers face an almost impossible responsibility. They are tasked with building for the unknown, anticipating the unimagined, and future-proofing our environments for the inevitable changes ahead. They are required to anticipate every hint of physical, psychological, or sociological human evolution and recognize every clue of cultural transformation.


Designers who include the workplace in their practice are studying every ounce of scientific data on the evolving safety and efficacy of gathering places for businesses. The goal is to integrate all of these changes in designing environments that push the boundaries of where and how we work.


In the past, workplace design was often led by architecture and the desired messaging of the “C” suite, with less focus on the nuances and individual needs of employees. Trends are changing, however. Traditional workplaces are transforming, and the office of the future will be whatever each employee wants to make of it to do his or her best work.


The hybrid office is the workplace of the future. According to the New York Times, workplaces are being reimagined to encourage face-to-face interaction and collaborative work as a means of building company culture. With work-from-home options expanding, companies will need to create compelling, welcoming environments to coax associates back to their offices.


These workspaces will provide open collaborative areas for employees who need to work within a team, as well as private work areas for those who need to focus on individual tasks without distractions. In this article, we explore some of the latest designs and solutions that architects and interior designers can use to incorporate the flexibility that clients demand from around the globe.


Is The Office Dead? Maybe Not.


The office continues to evolve and is a central part of how we get work done. Forbes says “if 2020 was the year of remote work, then 2021 will be the year of the hybrid workplace.”


Digital technology is reshaping the way we need to imagine, build, and run our workplaces. As our world of work is evolving, so must the ways we use to design, build and maintain the office. The modern office has to support and adapt to the collaborative and interactive needs of employees.


We should not overlook some of the foundational aspects of collaborative spaces that have remained unchanged since they were first defined by Emile Durkheim's concept of collective effervescence in 1895.


The concept of fusing individual consciences, the genius of collaborative work, and the principle of “the sum is greater than the parts” was lost in the era of the office cubicle. However, the value of collective effervescence was rediscovered by the tech startups who harnessed this concept to build Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and a hundred other collaborative-idea-fueled giants.


The productivity of “tribe” and the genius of unconstrained “what-if-ism” is not going away. Designing spaces that encourage this competitive edge while offering a safe, productive, transformative environment is the goal of many of the design teams we work with today. Fortunately, solutions are arriving at just the right time.


Technology now enables us to collaborate with other groups in other parts of the world. However, we all meet on a shared piece of real estate—whether it’s a single table or a group of tables. But the “table” as we know it may not look the same today.


It has changed in ways that delight employees, space planners, architects, interior designers, and facility managers. Want something that looks permanent, ceremonial, formal, substantial, and elegant, but can disappear in a heartbeat? There’s a solution for that.


With MOTUS, Halcon has redefined the world of reconfigurable tables both aesthetically and functionally. MOTUS is a collection of adaptable folding tables that integrates seamlessly with existing workplaces and enables effortless transformation from “boardroom” setting to flexible multi-use spaces.


The Flexible and Reconfigurable Office


Throughout the last few decades, office settings have become increasingly more adaptive as architects and designers ditch the one-size-fits-all mentality. According to Forbes, employees should be perceived as customers.


Employees want the freedom to choose what type of space to use for any task. As a result, designers and manufacturers are creating the right mix of space and furnishings for both private and collaborative areas throughout the workplace.


Several companies are providing standing and height-adjustable desks to reduce the risks of sedentary lifestyles for their employees. Neutral Posture is using its ergonomic background to ensure 100% of the US adult population has a seating option that meets their needs.


Adapt Global is another leading manufacturer of ergonomic office furniture. With their ergonomic monitor arms, you can adjust your display to the perfect height and angle, and even for multiple user workstations.

On the other hand, leases are getting shorter in every country where they are tracked and employers are looking for the holy grail- ways to future-proof their businesses. Companies are demanding the newly-possible: spaces that appear fixed but can also be moved and reconfigured easily.


Collaborative spaces that seem open and casual, but can be sealed off for private meetings effortlessly; furnishings that look immovable but can be whisked away quickly. All of these elements are essential to creating the flexible work environment of tomorrow.


Halcon recently released the Crew Table- edgier, a bit smaller, but equally unique in its ability to transform and disappear. The Crew Table solution was just introduced and yes, it actually does what you see in this video.



The Workplace of Tomorrow


Employees alternate between digital and physical workplaces several times throughout every working day. As a result, office designs should take into account the wide range of factors that contribute to an employee’s well-being in the workplace.


For years, office furniture design has been largely influenced by style and material. However, the furniture of the future will be geared towards supporting the lifestyles and creativity of employees rather than just appearing attractive alone.


What if you could transform an entire space at the push of a button? From expansive to intimate, from public to private, from buzzing with activity to a quiet, private enclave?

This technology arrives this month, with the launch of Expo 2.0. Muraflex’s demountable glass walls, as we wrote last month, provide a healthy light-filled work environment that can be reconfigured, but Expo 2.0 does this at the push of a button.



Some of the changes we anticipate include a more frequent work-from-home option for many fields. This will mean a smaller real-estate footprint for offices, but it will also put more demand on “space”, since multiple users may share a single station.


Redesigning the Workplace for the Future of Work


The days of show up, get work done, go home and repeat have passed. More and more offices are becoming spaces that reflect how we work and live rather than simply a place where we get work done.


Employees no longer measure prospective job opportunities by competitive salaries alone. Maintaining a healthy and creative workspace is crucial for both established firms and start-ups that want to retain top talent. These spaces should allow for collaborative work, natural ventilation, and even lighting.


Tomorrow's workplace will be increasingly flexible, creative, and collaborative. However, the need for ergonomics—for a chair that can accommodate a wider range of people and a workstation that can do the same—will require advanced designs. Designing for the future requires increased adjustability and accommodation for those who fall outside of the range most seating manufacturers design for.


Neutral Posture made a commitment to serve 100% of the US adult population, regardless of size or shape, and they have an impressive range of seating from extra-small to extra large individuals. The FDA certified Neutral Posture’s seating as a registered medical device, and insurance companies understand the value of solutions that can support workers in unique ways to allow them to continue to work.


For executive, conference, administrative, and breakroom seating, Wilkhahn leverages the impressive legacy of German design excellence to offer advanced engineering quality for individual, executive, and conference seating. In their quest to anticipate and meet future workplace needs, these office manufacturers are constantly creating solutions for our designers.


We at Knak Group have the good fortune to work closely with the top minds creating flexible and functional workspaces that are making employee well-being top priority. The architects, designers and manufacturers we collaborate with are continually innovating to meet the demands of modern workplaces. To see some of the latest and most popular workspace designs of the future, Knak Group invites you to make an appointment with us today.

About the Author

Mike Skaar continues to move Knak Group forward as an industry leader in supporting progressive workplace design, innovation, and strategies to facilitate collaboration. He has been privileged to work on projects around the globe with leading architects and designers from California to the Pacific Rim. His success comes from appreciating the balance of work and life. His passions include travel, snowboarding, community service, and he has attended Burning Man 21 times and counting. Mike holds an MBA from Arizona State University and completed additional post-graduate work in international business at UCLA.

More articles from Mike Skaar:


Demountable Walls: Designing a Healthy, Safe, and Transparent Workplace


The Year of Essential Workplace Design

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