On Thursday, July 14, SiriusXM’s Business Radio interviewed Tracy Wymer, Vice President of Workplace Research & Strategy, for In the Workplace, a weekly segment that focuses on new developments in the modern office. Speaking with hosts Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management at the Wharton School, and Dan O’Meara, attorney at Philadelphia-based firm Montgomery McCracken, Wymer shared some of Knoll’s recently-published research on contemporary trends in workplace design.
Referencing the office politics of the Mad Men era and the prevalence of “sick building syndrome” in decades past, Wymer, Cappelli and O'Meara tracked the evolution of workplace design over the past century, highlighting the effect of spatial organization on the tenor of a work environment.
Traditional models such as perimeter planning—in which private offices border a central working area and claim the most coveted sightlines—have begun to cede to more democratic workplace designs, Wymer said. For instance, an inversion of perimeter planning involves placing private offices in the central core instead, allowing daylight from windows to reach communal spaces.
Wymer tied this to an emerging workplace ethos that values “the notion of wellbeing and wellness” of employees. On the benefits of core planning, he explained, “if you have a line of sight to another horizon, its especially good on eye fatigue as you shift between what you’re looking at on a screen and shifting your field of focus out to a longer focal length; that helps exercise your ocular muscles.”
Referencing Knoll’s latest study, Wymer discussed the potential of Immersive planning, a hybrid model based on the experience-driven tempo of the contemporary office. The recent surge in more collaborative working styles necessitates workplace designs that allow for adaptation and multiple office environments, he said, each with their own “vibe.”
This, however, might rub against the desire for personal space and privacy in an increasingly interactive workplace. “People derive a higher satisfaction level if they’re allowed to personalize their space,” Wymer said. At NeoCon 2016, Knoll’s preview of a new workplace system, Rockwell Unscripted, addressed these competing concerns.
With Rockwell Unscripted, Wymer explained, a combination of set design and urban planning smoothens transitions from one working experience to another, facilitating productivity and wellbeing. “Materiality is a key component,” he stressed. A variety of spaces, demarcated by contrasting textures and forms, affords the “ability to weave in and out of space very fluidly” and introduces notions of theatricality and play to the typical workplace.
For the full conversation, listen below.