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The Workplace of 2020: A Balance between Quiet and Collaboration

The importance of choice is a basic human need. Choice is intrinsically linked to our need for control. With the rise of a consumerism model brought on by the internet (and especially Amazon), the need for choice is greater than ever. And the workplace, a place a lot of people spend a huge majority of their time, is no exception.

Workplace choice focuses on the fact that employees are more engaged when they can choose where to work. The sense of control that comes with options and flexibility is good for employee engagement productivity. In fact, a 2016 study from Steelcase highlighted the correlation between an employees’ control in the workplace and their engagement. When you combine that with Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report that states that higher employee engagement leads to higher productivity, the message is clear: Giving employees the option of where they work is good for the employee and good for the organization. But the shift from each person having just an assigned desk to a flexible work environment requires designers to rethink office furniture design and functionality. Empower your employees through design!

What Does a Flexible Work Environment Look Like?

The reality of living in a world that is connected 24/7 means that the workday goes well beyond 9-5. The work-anywhere, work-anytime culture is requiring employers to get creative in their efforts to provide a great work environment for their people. If you want to attract the best talent, you must provide the best work environment – one that aligns with the needs of today’s workforce.

Flex Mobile

After years of the open office environment being the go-to for employers, research is showing that it’s not the best for everyone. While it does encourage collaboration, the distractions such as constant noise can actually slow production, especially for those that need quiet to concentrate. As a result, organizations need to cater to needs as diverse as their employee base. Along with an open office environment of cubes or large work tables, organizations are highly encouraged to add focus rooms and conference rooms of different sizes for collaborative projects and meetings. By doing so, you can provide the quiet that some people need to get certain types of work done while moving the noise of a busy meeting or group project out of the earshot of those continuing their daily tasks. As stated in Gensler’s report, you must balance your office between “we” and “me” spaces.

  • Employee engagement is a common issue – The latest Gallup survey shows that 67.2% of the American workforce are disengaged. When they have a set desk, set hours, and little autonomy, they’re unlikely to be motivated to go above and beyond. However, when people have a great experience at work, they become much more engaged with company culture, have better interaction with peers, and are more productive.

According to the 2019 workplace survey

  • Ownership – When employees are given the choice where to work, they’re likely to take more ownership over what they’re working on and be more confident
  • Promoting trust – By giving employees options of where they work, it shows employees that their boss trusts them to get their work done. Empowering your employees is a key to motivating the best work!
  • Retain and attract – Today’s workforce is drawn to companies that give them options. The most high-powered employees have a need to feel empowered and connected to a greater purpose – and giving them a flexible work environment does just that.

How Can Organizations Provide Options but Still Keep Costs in Line?
The research is vast and compelling; however, many companies wonder how they can move to a more flexible work environment without breaking their budget. Here are five ways that you can begin moving your organization toward a flexible work environment:

Flex Mobile

  1. Provide focus rooms (also known as huddle rooms). While some people have no trouble concentrating in an open office environment, for those who do, these are a game changer.
  2. Invest in mobile furniture, such as Clarus Flex™ Mobile rolling whiteboards. When you can move furniture around, you have a better ability to be agile and change with the times. Space dividers such as the soon-to-be-released Flex™ Wall provide further ability to segment spaces for collaboration areas without having to buy new furniture each time you want to change the layout.
  3. Be sure to be part of the sustainability solution, not the problem. Source sustainable products such as Clarus glassboards that are durable and not toxic to the environment. Sustainability is also a very big selling factor to today’s incoming workforce as Generation Z has quite a desire to help save the planet one office at a time.
  4. Along with not polluting the environment, providing nature’s natural benefits of daylight and fresh air is proven to improve productivity.
  5. Consider small ways to provide your employees with creature comforts. When you spend as much time at work as you do, having a variety places to take a break that are comfortable can give your employees the break their brains need to recharge.

While you are providing your employees with a living, without them, you would not exist. Making the design investment that improve the workplace experience for your employees will result in a huge return on investment!


Ipsos. “Engagement and the Global Workplace.” The Steelcase Global Report. Steelcase, 2016,

Jackson, Brenden, and Erica Sturges. “Gensler Design Forecast: Shaping the Future of Cities.” Gensler. Gensler Research Institute, edited by Nick Bryan, et al., 2019.

Pinto, Kyle. “Understanding Workplace Choice to Design Better Spaces.” ChargeSpot, Sept. 8, 2016,

State of the American Workplace. Gallup, Dec. 4, 2018,