Tamala Herd of Bridge Commercial Real Estate shares how a hospitality inspired workplace can provide a welcoming, destination-style environment that champions connectivity and community for all users.
Throughout history, designers have been influenced by one another, other design sectors and the world around them. These influences contribute to the evolution and enhancement of modern-day design and play a significant role in responding to changing perspectives. Workplace design can integrate elements of hospitality design to make the workplace a more desirable environment that attracts people even in the midst of the work-from-home revolution.
Offices of the past were designed for function with a nod to form. This orientation created spaces where people were about getting work done and going home, but today’s workforce expects more. This demand for better environments spurred an amenities arms race in commercial real estate and forced owners to up their game and push the envelope to create atmospheres that resonate with what today’s workforce wants. Workplaces are increasingly becoming centered around flexibility and high-level design, with more amenities and the strong emphasis on placemaking that is an intrinsic part of the hospitality sector.
Make Work a Destination, Not an Obligation
When planning a relaxing getaway, it’s all about the destination. The resort or hotel you choose sets the stage for the overall experience. On a tropical beach getaway, the resort can be the destination itself. This concept of a workplace being a destination is something that most of the office sector has only recently grasped. However, in a world where hybrid work models are now the norm, workplace professionals must strive to make the office an attractive option, turning the office into a destination and not just a place to accomplish tasks.
To engage and retain office tenants, workplace designers can take inspiration from hotels, restaurants and the hospitality industry at large to discover innovative and new ways to elevate the built environment for users, through texture, color, and flexible furniture. Offices of the past used hard-edged unimaginative furniture in serviceable fabrics. Today’s offices should pull inspiration from plush, opulent hotel lobbies for their ground floor and amenity lounges, and the lush gardens at resorts for outdoor workspaces. By emulating the experiential, curated feel of a luxury hotel, workplaces can be transformed into a destination that is a comfortable place to work instead of only being functional.
Design with Connectivity in Mind
With the future of work still evolving and technology continuing to enable greater connectivity, collaboration is a key draw for return to office strategies for many employers. Typical office design often looks like pass through lobbies, floors full of isolating cubicles and break rooms hidden away behind closed doors. This is a stark contrast to the world of hospitality where design is focused around centralized hubs. Think about a hotel. It has a lobby with a bar, giving you a reason to stop and connect, ballrooms for meetings and weddings and amenities such as a pool and fitness center. This centralized, functional hub is surrounded by the guest rooms and offers users a one-stop shop for all their needs.
This hub model can be applied to office buildings as well by providing user-friendly open break rooms on each floor and a robust, flexible amenity lounge on the ground floor, acting as a vibrant fulcrum for the entire building. Offering a functional outdoor space for getting a change of scenery or taking a walk after lunch will provide an outdoor hub for tenants to utilize. Some examples are 1277 Lenox Park and The Dupree, both located in Atlanta, which feature Abridge spaces. Abridge provides flexible-term office space so businesses can get to work more quickly and more efficiently without sacrificing the quality of their brand and workspace. By placing suites around shared common areas, each tenant is able to enjoy the privacy of their own office while having access to a robust set of amenities.
Foster a Sense of Community
To ensure people want to keep coming back to the office, it must be carefully curated in a way that resonates with them emotionally and connects to the surrounding culture. Hospitality is known for expertly cultivating spaces that reflect the rich art, history, style, traditions and culture of the region or city they are located in, and in doing so, a sense of community is fostered among visitors of the hotel or resort. Office designers can pull from this hospitality practice and use narrative design strategies to strengthen the connection between people and place. Narrative design principles can incorporate historical references in branding, theming spaces around the local environment and biodiversity, and crafting spaces with materials and designs that complement and enhance the story being told, such as vibrant fabrics, local artwork, unique architecture and reclaimed wood. These tactics combine to develop a strong sense of place for the office.
Workplace designers can also pull ideas from hospitality to create a sense of belonging for the tenants and users of the buildings. It is a well-known fact that most people enjoy working at coffee shops. While there is free coffee at home, the coffee shop provides a curated experience that makes it a go-to destination and gives its customers a sense of belonging to a community. In workplace design, we must seek to create spaces that inspire people in the same way their local coffee shop does. How can this be achieved?
Start by providing public common areas and amenity spaces that are warm, welcoming, and comfortable. The spaces should be engaging to the senses with rich colors, varying textures, and furniture that promotes collaboration and flexibility to fit a variety of needs. Remember to incorporate communal areas like cafes, shared tables to allow for teamwork and collaboration, inviting lounges and breakout spaces that encourage social interactions and informal gatherings. This goal can also be achieved by including soft chairs and couches, ambient lighting from primary and secondary sources, subtle acoustics and the incorporation of live plants and biophilic design elements.
With working from home remaining so favorable in the minds of many, it is important to approach workplace design with fresh, new perspectives and ideas. The hospitality inspired workplace can provide a welcoming, destination-style environment that champions connectivity and community for all users. These principles will serve to enhance employee engagement with the workplace environment and shift the perception of the office from “the four walls where work gets done” to a place where workers can thrive.