One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Employee Needs Change Workspaces


Lois Wellwood, head of the global interiors practice at architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, known as SOM, said that before the pandemic, “the workplace tended to migrate to one size. There is now an opportunity to start thinking about a return to the office that is genuine for the organization. People are better supported when things are mobile and changing, with more options for workplaces throughout the day. In doing so, the workplace becomes more adaptable, resilient and responsive to what individuals and teams do.

For a 95,000 square foot tech company office in the Grace Building in midtown Manhattan, SOM has created what it describes as a “city within a building.” This includes a stairwell that goes up into the atrium of the office and acts as its central nervous system.

A media wall spans all three floors of the company and can be used for company-wide Zoom sessions and to display other information to employees around the world. The office also contains a reception, lounge, café and pantry combined with its entrance; work areas are open plan, allowing employees to decide when and how they want to work. There is also a wellness room for employees with newborns, as well as a shower for those who cycle or skateboard to work.

The SOM’S Central Place project in Sydney, Australia, slated for completion in 2028, will include 1,620,000 square feet of office and retail space and create a work environment closely linked to nature, with multiple terraces and a facade designed to minimize indoor solar heat gain.

For its clients, the firm further recommends what it calls “the anti-anxiety office entry”. This would involve redesigning the lobby of an office building so that it contains “breathable and easily navigable spaces. [so] we can choreograph the arrival experience to reduce clutter, ”according to a paper titled“ 10 Ideas for Post-Pandemic Design ”. “Employees and visitors, couriers and delivery people and people arriving on foot or by bicycle, each will have a clear and dedicated arrival path. SOM also recommends that this entry contain “more generously planned bicycle facilities”, as well as showers and lockers.

Likewise, a 13,000-square-foot New York office – currently designed by Gensler for the Rizzo Group, a building code consulting firm, slated to open in February 2022 – will focus on well- being and well-being. Its outdoor space, complete with tables and seating for meetings, will be as large as its indoor space, maximizing employee access to the elements year round.

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