After Open Space, What’s Next?

Post-pandemic office layouts will facilitate interaction with social and work zones.

Open office layouts attracted criticism before COVID-19, but they became even more of a lighting rod after health concerns emerged along with the pandemic. The critics haven’t always had a replacement layout in mind, however. One critic with solutions is Los Angeles–based Clive Wilkinson Architects, an early proponent of open offices. After surveying clients and researching alternative office designs, Clive Wilkinson is recommending specific layouts for employees’ return to the workplace, according to Fast Company. The architectural firm has designed a workplace kit of interchangeable parts that defines types of spaces they believe employers will want, including these three.

  1. The Library is a collaborative working space with “large working tables, individual nooks, and cushy chairs for quiet focus,” according to Fast Company. Amber Wernick, an associate at Clive Wilkinson, said she had expected traditional desks to continue to be popular, but research found the opposite. “People are ready for a change,” she noted.
  2. The Plaza is an office version of the at-home kitchen, combining social interaction and food. Instead of the multiple small lunchrooms that have been the norm, one large gathering place attracts people from different teams to mingle and grab a coffee or lunch. “You actually want those social zones to be a little bit inconvenient. It really forces people to come together who normally would never interact,” Wernick told Fast Company.
  3. The Avenue reimagines the typical office hallway as a “place for interaction, with touchdown tables and stools, and maybe there are booths located off of them,” explained Wernick. “When you leave a meeting, you can have a conversation with coworkers instead of immediately having to go back to your neighborhood.”

Wernick said being away from the office during the pandemic helped people imagine what the office could be and accelerated readiness for change.

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