Future of Work: Innovative work spaces designed to inspire

According to global design firm Gensler’s “Design Forecast 2015,” Generation Y is the most urban, multicultural, and transient of all generations. Approaching 78 million in the US, these millennials will make up the majority of the world’s workforce by the end of 2015. They expect non-hierarchical organizations, access to cutting-edge technology, and places where work and lifestyle come together. To attract these workers, companies are reinventing their work spaces.

Professional services firm EY launched its “workplace of the future” concept in 2013. Activity-based spaces that feature state-of-the-art technology, these enhanced offices include walls and tables coated in whiteboard material as well as small pods for workers who need to have a private conversation or make a confidential call. In addition, these work spaces are designed with an increasingly mobile workforce in mind. This new workplace concept “stresses inclusiveness and flexibility,” EY’s Flexibility Strategy Leader, Maryella Gockel, told Forbes magazine last year. “Space is no longer based on hierarchy, it’s based on needs.”

Discover Digital Group, an “innovation consultancy,” helps establish start-up–like business units within larger companies. Aimed at sparking new ideas, these work teams often meet in what David Gaspar 02BBA, managing director of DDG, describes as “innovation studios.” They are “more Brooklyn than Mid-town Manhattan,” he says. While such spaces are often open and geared toward teams and collaboration, Gaspar warns that some companies have taken the open concept work space too far. “A large portion of society needs quiet space,” he says.

The best designs accommodate not only introverts and extroverts but workers of all generations. “Functionality trumps generational differences,” says Kelle Adams, a marketing specialist at Gensler. “This means taking a solid look at how people truly work, not just how we assume they work.”

These photos showcase several cutting-edge work spaces,  including Atlanta Tech Village, designed by Gensler (photos © Jasper Sanidad); other Gensler properties (photos © Michael Moran/OTTO); IBM Studio at 51 Astor Place in NYC (photos courtesy of Discover Digital Group); and EY’s “Idea Room” and “Vitra Workbay” in the company’s Charlotte, NC, office. —Allison Shirreffs

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