These Modern Workspaces Are Just As Welcoming as Your Living Room

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By Diana Budds / Published by Dwell
West Elm and Inscape's new Workspace collection thinks outside the cubicle. Jeff Hannoosh, director of design at West Elm, walks us through the line.

What's driving the trend for offices to have a more residential sensibility?

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While the office furniture industry in the United States amounted to close to 10 billion dollars in 2014, it's safe to say that there's room to improve on the standard-issue tables and task chairs on the market. West Elm, in collaboration with Inscape, released a new collection that brings a residential sensibility into the contract market.

People are seeking meaningful change in the way offices are designed. We’re on our devices more, we have more flexibility in where we can "log in" to work. More organizations are understanding the value and importance of providing the comforts of home in a work environment. We’re seeing spaces that include casual common areas, breakout work spaces—even expansive food halls in bigger offices.

As a home brand, we understand how people live in their homes and how personal and impactful an environment can be. As the boundaries of work and home morph into more of a "lifestyle," West Elm Workspace offers a unique solution.

How can office design become more impactful for businesses?

Smart, adaptable design encourages creativity, communication, teamwork, and productivity. It can affect employees' overall wellbeing by providing a balance of excitement and calm that both energizes and puts people at ease, enabling them to do their best work. In designing this collection, we incorporated office solutions for private spaces that support concentration, workstations with thoughtful screening, casual lounge-like meeting areas and conference room solutions.

Thoughtfully designed workstations offer employees choice. Each of us works and succeeds under different variables and circumstances.

When looking at the current office systems on the market, what did you find was lacking? How does West Elm's line fill the void?

We set out to differentiate West Elm Workspace by focusing on three principles: 1) Incorporating a stronger residential appeal, look, and feel 2) Focusing on providing a complete suite of products from desk systems to conference solutions and 3) Developing a pricing structure that suits the needs of organizations both large and small.

How did you arrive at the four "Cs" of office environments—concentration, collaboration, creativity, and community?

Our own corporate culture was our starting point and Inscape brings to the partnership a ton of knowledge about workspace design and how it has evolved. We envisioned what we’d want for a variety of environments, from livable offices to communal conference rooms to social spaces with all the comforts of home.

Adaptability and flexibility are key components of a successful and modern workspace. There are times when employees need to dedicate themselves to a specific task and focus in order to be more efficient and effective. Space dividers allow for those times when concentration is needed for the task at hand.

But there are times when collaboration is critical, and the flexibility of workspace configurations can create more informal settings that support employee interaction and break-out spaces. To support community, we have designed soft seating, access to technology and furniture that can create fluid floor plans that spark the innovation that happens in communal spaces and chance encounters that produce great ideas.

Where do most modern offices fall short?

There is a tendency for office environments to feel cold and sterile, but our solutions afford us the opportunity to completely transform this common practice.

What were the main ergonomic challenges in developing the line?

Work wellness was something we knew we needed to address when imagining the West Elm Workspace collections. We wanted to provide options for how individuals elect to work and use their spaces. One example is we designed sit-stand desks so employees can adjust the height of their work surface from sitting to standing at the push of a button. Ergonomic products—such as movable monitor arms, keyboard trays, and fully adjustable task chairs—support the people who use these pieces day in and day out.