Open floor plans in office spaces first made an appearance in the 1940s and later evolved in the 1960’s where they were used as a means of symbolically showing the company’s culture. Offices with open floor plans continued to be prevalent during the tech boom of the 1990’s, and in 2005 they became a real inspiration for innovation.
In 2005, Google completely renovated their headquarters signaling the “dawn of a new professional era.” The project architect, Clive Wilkinson, explained that they got rid of the cubicle because of Google’s “We’re inventing a new world, why do we need the old world?” attitude. Many companies followed suit in later years, asking to be “Google-fied.” Just 10 years after Google’s office transformation, Facebook would follow suit, creating an office space that held 2,800 employees across 10 acres. The headquarters would claim to be the largest open floor plan office in the world.
Offices with open floor plans have become a major trend in recent years. Although they all don’t span across 10 acres like Google’s may, they still pose a timely question as people return to the workplace: Will this office layout and design work in a post COVID-19 world?
As the world rethinks how we work, it will be interesting to see how office layouts as we know them will transform in the upcoming years. Companies currently looking to re-imagine or add onto their office space may currently be weighing the pros and cons that an open floor plan offers. Let’s take a look at some of them:
One of the biggest arguments supporting the open floor office design is that it provides the employee with a unique social aspect that other office designs do not offer. The social interactions in an office can provide a large system of support to your employee, helping with the individual’s motivation and overall productivity.
Depending on its design, an office can provide a balanced social and cognitive environment for their employees. When optimized, an open floor office design will have a good mix of spaces that are intended for different uses and easily adaptable to fit the employees’ specific needs.
One way that our team at D&B likes to incorporate an open floor plan into a re-imagined commercial office space is through installing aesthetically pleasing glass doors throughout. This trend gives companies a modern, sleek and updated look. An example of this look from one of our past clients can be found in Power Kunkle’s large conference room.
Although many would argue that open floor plans are here to stay, some would dispute that noise, a lack of privacy, and opportunity for distraction may cause an increase in errors, lack of production, and sometimes stress with this layout design. In 2018, the Harvard Business Report found that “open offices reduce face-to-face interactions by about 70% and increase email and messaging by roughly 50%.”
This quick look at the pros and cons of an open floor plan illustrates that this design is not a one size fits all solution. Members of Team D&B believe that transformative office spaces will increase in demand, and it looks like the latest research agrees.
As businesses leaders look to redesign their office space in the near future, they will need to think of how they can cater to different employees and their varying workflows. Some may thrive on collaboration and interaction, an essential component to build company culture, foster relationships, and create a team-oriented atmosphere. On the other hand, there will be times when some employees may be more productive in a quiet environment where they can focus. The solution to these varying needs? A transformative office space.
D&B Construction’s Pre-Construction Manager, Bob Martzall, has noticed that “some businesses have been expressing their desire to have flexibility” as they work with D&B as their general contractor. One way they are achieving this goal is through modular walls. Bob explains how “modular walls can provide an office with a great amount of flexibility and safety, as these are walls that you can take down, move, or shift.”
On a larger scale, one company that has taken flexibility to a whole new level is Salesforce. In February of this year they announced that employees would “have the option to work remotely full time, even when it’s safe to return to the office.” Their new guidelines offer employees the option of working full remote, flex time in the office, or completely office-based. Employees who choose to work the “flex” option will have the flexibility of coming into the office between one and three days per week when they need to perform tasks that may prove challenging over a video conference call, such as working on collaborative projects or meetings with clients. So how will this extensive change affect the company’s 19 physical offices in North America alone… specifically the recently completed 1,070-foot-high Salesforce Tower in San Francisco? The company has announced that they will be redesigning offices as “community hubs” that will replace rows of desks with multiple collaboration and breakout spaces.
D&B Construction’s Philadelphia office recently completed a 10,246 SF commercial office design-build project for Berger Rental Communities at their new West Valley Business Center location in Wayne, PA. Their new collaborative room is one of their employees’ favorite spaces. Lesley Yocum, a Project Manager out of D&B Construction’s Philadelphia office who also played a major role in designing the client’s space, said that they knew they wanted this space throughout the entire design process.
Research looking at today’s high-functioning workplaces show that employees are spending much more time on collaborative activities. Lesley agrees – especially right now. “People are returning to a ‘new’ office layout with more space between their co-workers. Because of this, collab rooms will be utilized as both old fashioned conference rooms and a place where you can go to get ‘comfy’ and discuss since that’s what many people are accustomed to now after working from home for so long.”
Unique spaces in open floor offices can include coffee bars, lounge areas, and other spaces designed to make everyone feel welcome, while still encouraging open communication and collaboration. This welcoming environment can be found at D&B Construction’s most recently completed project for Riverfront Federal Credit Union, who just held their ribbon cutting ceremony on June 16. The credit union’s newest branch and Operations Center features cutting edge technology with a drive thru consisting of three Interactive teller Machines (ITMs) and self-service kiosks offering Video Integrated Realtime Assistance (VIRA). Inside their new 34,000 SF office space, you will find that Riverfront’s strong belief in the value of face-to-face banking has not been lost. The interior is set up in a manner that’s more interactive than a traditional bank, and members are welcome to relax in a comfortable seating area while they complete financial transactions. A café will soon be open to the public as well, further promoting a sense of community. Learn more about this project and how it has created a grand customer experience through both technology and in person banking options here.
As D&B’s recent project with Riverfront Federal Credit Union depicted, and to no one’s surprise, an even stronger emphasis will be placed on technology as the future of work evolves. One way we are already seeing this? Our clients want their conference rooms to be decked out with cutting-edge technology that will allow them to host video conference calls in their meeting spaces. Our Pre-Construction Manager, Bob, has already seen rooms with cameras and microphones that are set up to instantly switch over to the person talking and simultaneously broadcast them to the Zoom meeting. A room like this is something businesses may want to seriously consider if they are designing an open-floor plan, especially if they predict to be in a hybrid working environment.
Bob predicts we will see “more hands-free devices and more technology-oriented safety” in the near future. This can include investing in Bluetooth technology throughout conference rooms so employees don’t have to touch a speaker or shared phone. Doors can also be fully controlled by an app on your phone or simply don’t need to require handles and can instead swing open both ways by pushing them with your shoulder or foot. Hands-free water dispensing systems are another trend that Bob has noticed. Want to be health conscious while also looking out for the environment? Try installing motion lights throughout the office, from conference rooms to bathrooms.
Limiting high touch point areas such as door handles strongly reduces the spread of germs, and for this reason, Bob imagines these current trends are here to stay for a long time. Case and point: The upscale conference room D&B completed for Berger Rental Communities’ new headquarters at the end of April included a specific wall mounted camera with multiple speakers in the ceiling, motion lights with sensors throughout all offices, and dimming lights throughout all other areas. View more photos and learn more about this project here.
A study by USA Today shows that 35% of Americans prefer a home-office hybrid working situation, and 25% of Americans want to go back to the office full time. With over half of the population hoping to return to the office in some capacity, the question of how employers will accommodate for safety concerns and the “new normal” of flex time still looms over many individual’s heads.
Bob believes safety will determine many office designs post COVID-19. He thinks that one of the most important things to include in your post COVID-19 office is environmental air filtration systems. This refers to how the air circulates through the office so that it is environmentally friendly, limiting the spread of germs and being sustainable. Bob has seen clients wanting to have this included in their project design.
Having more collaborative rooms may result in a more open floor plan being replaced with more individual office spaces (which may help some individuals feel more at ease with returning to the office). With 36 years of experience in the industry, Bob has noticed that “many offices are shifting away from a cubicle environment and instead building more individual office spaces.” He believes that building more office spaces can make it much easier for an employer to provide safe precautions for their employees when necessary, thus explaining this recent trend. These adaptations can make a work environment flexible and safe for everyone involved.
As many companies continue the transition of shifting back into the office, Bob has noticed that companies across all sectors have been trying to get their projects fulfilled by construction companies. He says that this is because “the cost of borrowing is so cheap right now, so the cost of doing business is more economical. The question is, do you need the space?”
The companies who answer yes to this question (and companies such as Salesforce who need to re-imagine their spaces) will be left to map out how their office space should look in a post COVID-19 world. In some way, shape, or form, many businesses will have to change their office footprint in the upcoming years, whether through down-sizing, expanding or renovating their current space to fit future needs. This is something that is weighing heavily on the minds of many employers. Although daunting at first thought, this is an opportunity to create a new blueprint that sets the stage for office spaces for years to come.
After considering the thoughts of our industry experts, years of research, and the current state of the world, how would you design your office’s blank slate to best meet the needs of your team?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
It’s hard to believe it has already been one year since we completed renovations that converted two existing administrative office spaces into a state-of-the-art orthodontic office! Aside from this healthcare project’s stunning design, this project was special to us because it was the start of Wyomissing native and local orthodontist Molly Hottenstein’s dream of owning her own practice. Molly knew she wanted to be an orthodontist since high school. It was then that she shadowed various doctors because she always knew she wanted to work with people in the medical field. She shadowed an orthodontist and immediately knew it was for her. “I loved the science behind making smiles beautiful… The perfect balance of physics and biology and art. I also loved being able to hang out with cool kids, teenagers and parents all day while really getting to form relationships with them over the course of their treatment. I loved that I could be part of an amazing community and hopefully make a difference in some of their lives,” explains Molly.
Now, she didn’t always plan on opening her own office. That wasn’t on the horizon until after she had worked four years as an associate at different offices. “It was then that I realized I wanted to bring something different to Berks County,” she recalls. She dreamed of opening an office that offered patients something more personal and a bit slower paced, allowing for more one-on-one time. In doing this, her patients would become her friends and family, not just another case. “I wanted to bring a little ‘Disney magic’ to my office, making it a place people wanted to come. I wanted them to feel like there was something different about what we were offering, and the only way to do that was to take the plunge and create it.” And take the plunge she did! It was the D&B team’s pleasure to be able to watch Molly’s hard work turn into a reality before her eyes through the construction of her one of a kind office!
Today, Molly Hottenstein Orthodontics is still loving their office as much as (if not more than) the day they first laid eyes on it. We’ve loved watching them grow since first opening their doors on March 10 of last year, and we are so happy to see them celebrating one year in their office space. Of course, it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that the date Molly’s business opened unfortunately coincided with state-wide shutdowns due to the spread of COVID-19. They actually had to shut down operations just two business days after their grand opening… Definitely not something that Molly was anticipating! In reality Molly and her team were planning two grand openings, one for the dental community and an open house for the entire community as a whole.
Like many local business owners, a lot of perseverance and adaptability from her team had to take place within the last year. We sat down with Molly to reflect on the rollercoaster of emotions that she and her team went through after having to shift gears from “grand opening of their beautiful office space” to “closing down operations due to a global pandemic” in a matter of just 48 hours. Here’s what she had to say:
“It was heartbreaking and terrifying. I was six months pregnant and would walk around my empty, beautiful office and cry because I just wanted people to be able to use and enjoy it,” recalls Molly. However, she didn’t let herself wallow in her pity for long. “After a few weeks of crying, I pulled myself out of the pit” she says with a laugh. “Fortunately, the office is laid out in a way that I can easily keep families separated and manage the flow in and out.”
Molly and her team continue to “learn, adapt and grow,” just as any start-up would – pandemic or no pandemic. “Honestly, I don’t have experience with any other start-up NOT during a pandemic,” she says. Molly applauds her staff, who have been “incredible at adapting, learning and being flexible.” The team of three has also received amazing support from the community and other dentists throughout the area. With a smile on her face, Molly says: “At this point, I feel like we are thriving despite the difficult timing!”
What all went into transforming Molly Hottenstein Orthodontics’ office space into the area the community knows and loves today? The team at D&B actually renovated two separate spaces and connected them into one larger space. Molly recalls the spaces being “pretty much bare bones” when she first saw them. Even still, she fell in love with a few key elements that our crew kept and highlighted in her new office space. Molly knew she wanted to have a lot of natural light to help keep her office cheerful and bright. “I love spending time outside, and I wanted my staff to not feel like they were stuck in an office all day,” she explains. Luckily, the space already had large windows around the exterior walls, and it was a no-brainer that they were here to stay. Another added bonus to these windows? Molly didn’t have to worry about decorating bare walls! “I love that nature is my best decoration. The property management group does an amazing job keeping the area landscaped and clean, too,” she says.
When it came to creating the vision for her office, Molly’s husband, Kyle, was by her side! “We always had a very focused vision for the look and feel we wanted for the office,” she recalls. “My husband and I are the perfect team because we have very similar taste. I have a very specific vision for the big picture and feel, while he is very particular and good at digging in to the details and making everything perfect.”
It also helped that this wasn’t their first rodeo. The couple worked together to decorate their home, and Molly’s husband even completed their home renovations. “We really wanted to have a professional space that looked and felt more residential. We met with three potential contractors and D&B was the first that completely embraced and understood that!”
Molly and Kyle took care of the design and selection, while the D&B team gave this dynamic duo direction so it was easy for them to find exactly what they were envisioning. Molly recalls spending A LOT of time on Pinterest and Houzz looking at architectural and design aspects so they could gain an understanding of what they loved and wanted to incorporate into the space. Kyle even made an extensive PowerPoint showing all of the images and aspects they loved to illustrate where they wanted to utilize them. From there, D&B helped make the vision possible.
One of Molly’s favorite parts of the construction process was meeting with the subcontractors and seeing how all of the little pieces fit together to start making her vision come to life. Molly’s husband, Kyle, enjoyed seeing the progress made every single day and how each small step got them a little closer to the beautiful finish!
“Honestly, Kyle was the most involved with the entire process. He is amazing! This wouldn’t have happened without his hard work and dedication, and I am forever grateful for that,” Molly says. “Kyle was very hands-on throughout the entire process, and D&B was amazing at staying on schedule and keeping us informed.”
Molly and Kyle had known of D&B through friends. “We knew they had done amazing work with different offices, and honestly, we had the most amazing experience with D&B. I can’t imagine having it go any better. The amount of detail and communication they had with us was unmatched. I was so impressed with how thorough they were and how well they kept us in the loop and on schedule. My husband and I already talk about how we will use their residential services for our home project when that time comes. In fact, my co-resident even used D&B’s Philadelphia office to renovate his office after our experience,” says Molly.
Once construction was complete after just five months, Molly was moved in and all ready to go in less than a week! She was in disbelief when she first saw her new office space. “I felt like ‘WOW! No way is this mine. It’s here. It’s done. It’s better than I could have imagined,’” recalls Molly.
After nine weeks of being closed, Molly and her team were able to open up their office and enjoy the new space! Although they weren’t able to have the two grand openings they had been planning and many things they originally envisioned did not look exactly the same due to safety precautions, they were thrilled to be starting this chapter in their new office.
“The team has really grown into the space and gotten into a groove with our patients,” says Molly, who has two favorite spaces throughout the office. She loves her doctor’s perch because it allows her to be totally present with all of her patients, while also being available to her staff and still able to get work done. Another favorite spot is the consult room, which is the first space that families see. “I am absolutely obsessed with the windows,” exclaims Molly. They remind her of her time in college at Villanova. It was here that she fell in love with the beautiful side sun rooms that all of the older Main Line homes had. “I’ve wanted that look so bad since then, and we made that happen in the office. People LOVE it!”
With confidence Molly reports that “within the first five minutes of arriving, 99% of patients will comment on how much they love the office. They love how inviting, clean and homey it feels. People even take pictures for inspiration for their own projects!” Molly’s patients love the farmhouse sinks at the toothbrush station, and parents tend to love the bench at the foot of the clinic chairs because it allows them to enjoy the view outside the window. “We also always get comments on the colors and the counters… Everyone just says it has a good feel.”
Katelyn, Head Orthodontic Assistant, and Lyn, Patient Coordinator, appreciate the hominess of the office, just as the patients do. They describe the office as their “home away from home,” both feeling so comfortable at the office that they almost feel like they are at home and not at work. The beautiful space definitely makes it easier for them to not dread coming to work!
Aside from the overall aesthetic and design of this office space, another aspect that makes it so enjoyable to visit and work at is the atmosphere. Molly’s motto is “Personal. Passionate. Precise,” and a quick visit to her Facebook or Instagram will show you that her office is big on bringing fun and friendliness back to orthodontics.
“I think the number one key to anything in life is being genuine,” says Molly. “You can’t force yourself to be something you aren’t. To be happy and successful, I knew my office had to be a genuine reflection of who I am. I love to joke and have fun, while also being honest and a good communicator. I don’t ‘try’ to make my office fun… it just happens. My staff members are naturally this way, too. They are naturally kind and focused, and they smile and laugh. I want them to be themselves. The rest just follows,” she explains. Molly prefers this natural, organic approach over getting hung up on what her competitors are doing or feeling. “I want people to choose our office because they feel comfortable here. Orthodontics isn’t a once and done thing. It’s a relationship over a series of a few years,” she says. For that reason, she wants people to feel like her practice is the right fit for them. She doesn’t want people to come to her because she has contests, prizes, or toys. She wants them to come to her because they trust her and feel comfortable.
“I think people are starting to talk about their experience with us, and we are starting to be a little more known in the area. I hope this is just the start to the forward momentum. I am so thrilled with the outcome and so proud. I feel like the space is a true reflection of who I am and the type of service I am offering,” says Molly, with a lovely smile – of course.