The Washington Post, in a feature on the evolution of the office since the first half of the 20th century, highlights Knoll's contributions to workplace planning. The piece, published online on July 7, sketches the shift in attitudes surrounding work and employees that is reflected in changes in physical planning: from corridor offices in the early 1900s to hierarchical layouts of the 1950s, to the rise of cubicles and, today, to the widespread adoption of the open plan. The piece also charts trends arising in response to some of the open plan's challenges, including an attention to flexible, adaptable and varied spaces and to employee wellbeing.
Open plan layouts rose in popularity in recent decades with renewed emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, the article states. These trends were concurrent with the growing influence of creative and tech industries in the American and world economy. According to The Washington Post, 70 percent of offices in the United States have low or no partitions across a wide range of sectors.
Recently, open plan layouts have drawn criticism for a one-size-fits-all approach to workplace that may hinder focus and interfere with the need for privacy. Knoll has been a longtime advocate of spatial diversity in planning, with flexible environments that permit focused and individual work, collaborative work, and everything in between. The article notes Knoll Activity Spaces, which support focus and escape to varying degrees by way of enclaves, refuge rooms and common areas. Knoll's planning guidelines, featured by the Post, address the need to balance space types that account for scale, quantity, degree of enclosure, flexibility and organizational culture.