Scott Lesizza Guest Post, Written By: Scott Lesizza, Principal at Workwell Partners

I have spent the past six months attending seminars, reading articles, and listening to just about everyone share an opinion on what the office of the future will look like. It seems that almost everyone that you speak to has an opinion on what offices will look like 10 years out. I’ve heard everything from finding ways for people to work in outdoors spaces or bringing the outdoors “indoors”, to creating spaces that are a home away from home – all great concepts. But what about those folks we call “clients”? You know, the ones whose leases are up and need to move within the next 6 to 12 months and are looking to create a space now that does not become obsolete in five years? The ones who understand that it might be cool to go and work from a hammock in ten years but they have to work in an office space now? The ones who sign our checks? Sometimes we need to see the trees, before we can move on to the forest.

There are some immediate client concerns for creating a new workspace:

How can we make our space future proof?

This is a tough one, but rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Hands down clients want simple, elegant, sturdy and timeless furniture. None of this has to come with a ridiculous price tag. We often think that clients are wowed by the incredibly ornate masterpieces that get created in the mad furniture scientist lab. Although that product has the effect of the Cadillac Escalade, reality is that they end up leaving with the Crossover. At the end of the day, the client is most interested in what they are going to be sitting in on a daily basis and that’s benching systems. And I have never seen a time when clients are as educated and more interested in the ALL of the specifics of “the bench”. Here are a few things that I have found from listening to clients about what their current requirements are to keep it simple:

Finishes: Do this by using colors that won’t become dated in a few years (think off-white, or if you’re feeling frisky, light woods). There are a few clients out there that prefer purple worksurfaces, but unless you work at Yahoo, or share a workspace with Grimace, stay away from the bold colors, if you want to ensure that the look of your space stands the test of time.

How can we make sure we have enough room for growth when it’s almost impossible to predict?

Components: Benches are simple because there aren’t many parts. They consist of worksurfaces, some storage, sometimes privacy panels, and electrical plugs with data. The simplicity of them, coupled with loss of personal space, is what makes every detail amplified to the user. Adding too many bells and whistles defeats the purpose of the bench. However, because people are losing space, you do need to offer up some way to personalize their five foot domain. A few simple ways to do this are by adding a utility rail to clear monitors and clutter from desk top, slim charging drawers to lock away and charge tablets, smartphones, laptops, and storage. Storage for benches started out complicated and bulky. Now they are minimal and are frequently kept limited to a ped and perhaps a small side return with some personalized storage cubbies. The components are the best way to make your users feel more “at home”.

Flexibility: Nothing in the bench (perhaps the worksurface and wire raceway) should be a permanent fixture. I often am told “we have no way to determine our growth rate, so we want to be able to densify if need be”. I don’t blame you Ms. Customer. New York City is booming right now and I know for sure not many companies expected to have to double up their space the last three years. . Best way to do this is to KEEP IT SIMPLE. The less fixed components, the easier it is to add people to a run of benches when you grow. If you are providing storage, make sure it’s not fixed, and can be stacked up or stacked down. Think of it as a Kit of Parts. Height adjustability is now affordable, intuitive, and is a healthier way to work. Standing at work also wakes you up at 3PM when you’re beginning to drag. When sit to stand is the norm in two years, you will never have to ask, “why didn’t we do it then?”

Manufacturers should take note that it is wonderful to think forward, and always strive to make a innovative products for a changing workplace. But let’s not get too far ahead of the curve because the folks that keep our lights on are most focused about how we can help them now. They want to know that we are forward thinking and “cutting edge” but also cognizant of ensuring the investment that they entrust us with today guarantees that they are creating a space that is as relevant in ten years, as it is today.