Industry Insight

Knowledge Updates on the Industry's Hottest Trends

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Article Review: 5 Design Trends We Hope Will Disappear Soon

Holly Turner provides her thoughts on this Interior and Sources article and its views on which trends have entered the realm of the overdone. 

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By: Holly Turner, Director of Design, POE

The definition of trend is “the general course or prevailing tendency.”  Robert Niemen, the author of the article 5 Design Trends We Hope Will Disappear Soon, outlines the prevailing design movements that are on most of our Pinterest boards.  Have these prevailing trends or fads become tired and overdone?  Are we following a general course of design rather than being “forward thinkers?”

The most infamous of the trends identified in the article: the open office. Throughout the last quarter-century, this concept had the greatest influence over commercial interior design. Gone are the cube farms; here is the natural light. Gone is a sense of privacy; here is collaboration. The days of the Dilbert cubicle are going away, never to return.

In my previous article summary, I discussed the seven great factors of office design and how the open office is heavily misused. Though misused, I disagree with Niemen; I do not believe the open office is merely a trend, nor should it completely disappear. I believe the key to great office design is to not follow trend, but to instead go on a trail of discovery to find the balance of open and closed space most suited for your clients’ needs. One workplace houses employees with many different workstyles; enclosed environments that facilitate focus are necessary for some, while an open office concept may spur the productivity and collaboration of others.

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Article Summary: 7 Great Factors of Office Design

POE's Director of Design, Holly Turner, reviews this Harvard Business Review article that provides simple tools you can utilize to create a workplace based on fact, not fad.

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By: Holly Turner, Director of Design, POE

There are thousands of articles on industry trends telling you what and what not to include in your next project. However, I have found there is a lack of articles that ties together these ideas and makes it easy for readers to understand what factors make up the core of effective workplace design. 7 Great Factors of Office Design, an article released earlier this year through the Harvard Business Review, does just that. It provides an infographic that helps map the degree to which a client would like to integrate each of the core attributes of effective workspace design, as well as a checklist of questions you should utilize when first discussing space needs – questions that enable designers to get to the heart of the problem.

Over the past decade, many clients I’ve worked with come in requesting a solution that they saw in a magazine or a documentary on Google. However, it’s up to us to remind them that a solution implemented by one company will not necessarily work for another. Just as Google considered employee workstyles, brand integration, and desired state of business, so must we dig deeper into our clients’ needs and truly understand what solution is most suited for their people, future flexibility, and long-term investment.

The 7 Attributes of Workspaces

The seven attributes highlighted in this article serve as the core of efficient workspace design. They are location, enclosure, exposure, technology, temporality, perspective, and size. Though all attributes are discussed, in turn, when POE plans strategic workplaces with our clients, I’ve never seen them organized this way. I think this infographic is perfect to employ at the beginning of a project, then keep on-hand for its duration. Utilizing this tool, you can complete a simple exercise with clients that can help them visualize to what degree their new space needs to focus on each attribute. After it’s completed, the information you collect can serve as a reference point for the entirety of the project. I view it as a way to stay on-track and hold yourself and your clients accountable, helping to ensure you design a workspace based on fact, and not solely on fad.

Getting Started
Though I didn’t find the workspace examples provided in this article very insightful, I found the series of questions provided useful for starting a thought-provoking conversation on space with company leaders.
• Who are our employees, and who will they be in the next 5 years?
• Who else uses our space (visitors, clients, community members, etc.), and why?
• How do we want clients, prospective hires, or other visitors to perceive us when they enter our space?
• To what extend do we value flexibility and choice, over how work gets done?
• Are certain modes of working seen as a privilege only available to a select few?
• What current workplace behaviors would we like to change?
• What are the most satisfying attributes of the existing workplace that sustain productivity?
• If people aren’t regularly coming to the office, do we understand why not?

These questions are important to address, and are kept in the back of many designers’ minds. The list above can serve as a great reminder and “checklist” of sorts to help you dig deeper with clients.

Next year, it’s predicted that generational workplace design will shift from Gen Y to Gen Z. More than ever, companies are competing for top talent and are therefore looking for more ways to utilize their workspace as not only a financial tool, but as a business tool that can attract and retain the best of the best. Moreover, the open office concept has been overused. Benching and the open office were once viewed as an attraction tool – an exciting way of working that encourages open collaboration. Though collaboration helps spur exciting innovations, open, collaborative areas should be reserved for “destination” work spaces in the office that encourage lingering and spontaneous meetings. Research has proven that noise pollution caused by an open office environment inhibits workers’ abilities to focus, increasing anxiety and their working hours as they struggle to reach “flow.” Employees are rediscovering the value of quiet and havens for focus, requesting workplaces and product solutions more in-line with their individual needs and workstyles.

Why is this important to note? I’ve seen a lot of projects that start off with the intention of including workstyles and different areas of work within the space, then slowly turn into benching projects. In my opinion, those projects went from using their space as a valuable business tool, to viewing space as a financial tool, and benching as a way for them to save on potential costs.

I firmly believe that it is in the best interest of company leadership and their designers to ditch the “one size fits all” approach and create flexible workplaces that best support the different workstyles within. On your next project, I encourage you to sit down with project decision-makers and reflect on the degree to which they should integrate each of the seven workspace attributes. Doing so will increase your chances of creating a solution that ameliorates innovation and effective use of space without sacrificing productivity and potential return on investment.

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10 Easy Ways to Create a Healthy Workplace

As employee wellbeing grows in importance, it's vital stay informed on different ways it can be applied in the workplace. Senior Designer Angela Bollmann provides insight.

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By: Angela Bollmann, Senior Designer, POE

Workstations, formally known as cubicles, were originally designed for privacy. Featuring large, clunky monitors and computer equipment, tall panels, and tight, uncomfortable task chairs, these stations of old were hardly ergonomic nor designed with employee health in mind.

More and more, when architects and designers collaborate to create a new office space, employee wellbeing is top-of-mind. From demountable glass walls allowing exposure to natural daylight, to height-adjustable workstations that keep employees active throughout the day, design teams are integrating healthy product applications as often as possible.

I like how this article quickly touches upon the various ways an office can support employee health. Who would have ever thought that reducing your stress is a lightbulb change away? Or that workplace strategists would suggest bringing in puppies to boost employee morale? Workplace wellbeing is only going to become more relevant in the upcoming years. Clients are already looking to us for recommendations on various ways design and product applications can boost employee morale and productivity. “10 Easy Ways to Create a Healthy Workplace” is a quick read full of helpful tips you can add to your wellbeing toolkit.

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Article Summary: A Workplace Designed for the Innovation Economy

Driving new innovation is the goal of many modern organizations. How can a workspace support innovation? What myths are stopping people from building an innovative ecosystem?

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By: Libby Barbey, Marketing Manager, POE

I recently read an article entitled “A Workplace Designed for the Innovation Economy” on Building Design + Construction’s website. I thought it would be the perfect piece for us to feature in our monthly industry insights for a few reasons:

  • The research and evidence found in this article will help our A&D partners defend design choices that may worry business owners.
  • POE has been noticing a significant shift in the way forward-thinking business leaders are approaching workplace design – may are more open to new ways of working because their primary business goal is to innovate to stay on top of their industry’s leaderboard.
  • The solutions in this article focus on designing a workplace that is person-centric, and not just based in fad design. POE believes “People Make the Place,” and their individual workstyles and needs should be addressed and met in order to support their best work.

The article begins by addressing how the creation of personal computers launched us into a knowledge economy where, though productivity and efficiency driven in the early 20th century are still important focuses, they are not as important as the need for a company to innovate. With globalization and technology leveling the playing field for many companies, the only way to continue growth and differentiation in a saturated market is to innovate.

What kind of workplaces support innovation?
Gensler defines it as “environments that enable people to engage resources, technology, and the critical human interactions that create the “connections, context, and the content necessary for innovation to occur.” How did they come up with this definition? By using results from their yearly workplace survey.

Gensler’s 2016 Workplace Survey results found “a tremendous correlation between workplace performance and innovation…[showing] a direct link between key aspects of workplace design and higher levels of creativity and innovation.” The findings support that not only can impactful design influence innovation, but can actually drive it forward in a measureable way.

Though my position requires me to frequently research workplace trends, research, and statistics, the hard data Gensler was able to recover in their survey still surprised me. Here are their findings:

  • Higher performing, more innovative workplaces are 10% more collaborative than less innovative ones
  • There is 2x the amount of learning going on in innovative workplaces
  • People socialize 13% more often in innovative workplaces
  • The actual time spent on focus work in innovative workplaces is 14% less than in a non-innovative workplace
  • People in innovative workplaces work from conference rooms more than they work from open areas
  • Innovators work away from the office 26% of the time
  • In non-innovative workplaces, people have 2x less power to work away from their desks, causing them to feel “chained” to it and feel less empowered
  • Those less innovative were 2.5x more likely to use their individual space to socialize and collaborate than their more innovative counterparts
  • 2/3 of U.S. workplaces have not kept pace with the needs of an innovative workforce

The last fact hit me pretty hard. 2/3?! To put that in perspective excluding non-employers, according to the Statistics of U.S. Business, in 2010 alone there were roughly 6,975,000 small businesses and 18,500 businesses with 500+ employees active in the United States. That means there are ~4,662,333 (give or take a few) companies that aren’t investing in a workplace that supports innovation.


Obviously there is some resistance from business owners. Where is it coming from?
Gensler addressed the four biggest myths surrounding innovation in the workplace and refuted each:

  • If given the choice, everyone would work away from the office
    Research showed that people would rather spend 71% of their time in the office. On top of that, the number of people paying to go to work is increasing through co-working centers; Today, there are over 8,000 co-working centers and facilities worldwide, and another 10,000 projected to open within the next two years. Demand for working spaces is clearly still there.
  • Office buildings are going away
    Office buildings are changing, not going away. The amount of office space per employee is shrinking, however, since they have been getting smaller, there have been a growing demand for more creative workplaces that feature more collaborative areas and places people in the office can go to for focus work.
  • Innovation is only about technology and Millennials
    Every generation is currently represented, and every industry is represented in both innovative and non-innovative categories. In Gensler’s survey, the “innovator age rage” spanned 18 to 77 years old across the entire sample population.
  • Collaboration is the primary goal of the Innovation Workplace
    An employee engages in all four work modes: focus, collaboration, learning, and socializing. Over the past 8 years, workplace surveys found focus work consistently remaining around 45% of an employee’s time in the office. Though it is the most critical of the four work modes, it is not the only mode that needs to be supported by a workplace.

How can you create an innovative ecosystem?
Gensler cited three key factors in unlocking an innovative ecosystem: supporting the individual, supporting the team, and supporting the community. In POE’s research, workplace strategy sessions, and case studies, we’ve discovered these factors to be very relevant to successful workplace design.

  • Supporting the individual 
    Especially with the growing trend of benching and open office applications, attention must be paid to noise management and limiting distraction. As Gensler stated “if the focus work of an individual needs to do is not supported by the workplace, the entire workplace will not function.”
    Research from Dr. Michael O’Neill on workplace wellbeing is not unfounded. Environmental stressors such as noise pollution, and lack of natural light, ergonomics, and a sense of community can seriously hinder the productivity of employees while causing physical and emotional stress.
  • Supporting the team 
    Collaboration is key, but not in the middle of the open office. Research shows that large and small meeting spaces need to be plentiful enough to support all the different meetings and activities employees undergo throughout the day. Conference rooms and huddle rooms with acoustic applications to reduce noise pollution throughout the rest of the office need to be included in the workplace design.
  • Supporting the community 
    Gensler states it best in a few points:
    >> Giving people the choice to work in different locations throughout the day enables spontaneity and inspiration 
    >> Ensuring the workspace reinforces the purpose and culture of the organization allows people to see, feel, and experience why they do what they do everyday 
    >> Allowing everyone to share in access to the different amenities, space, choice, and sense introduces a degree of equity into the workplace essential for innovation

To check out how Gensler utilized this research in some of their client spaces, read the full article here.

I find this research incredibly helpful as it provides statistical support for highly adaptable, human-centric workplaces, and flexible product applications that change as the needs of our clients change. I believe in order to get the best out of your employees, you must design for them and their vastly different workstyles. Failing to provide a supportive environment – especially one not focused on wellbeing – will only damage productivity and employee satisfaction, hampering innovation and potential business growth.•

If you’d like to check out more research on how to design innovative environments, I encourage you to check out the following whitepapers:
• Collaborative Spaces
• Designing for Focus Work
• How to Create a Successful Organizational Culture
• Organic Spaces: the New Platform for Business Transformation
• Workplace Design Tips for Wellbeing
• And more

New Product
Qove from OFS

Highly adaptable and versatile, Qove can be configured to support individual work, touchdown and collaborative spaces, along with conference environments.

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Review by: Angie Romano, Designer, POE


White attending NeoCon this year, one of the products that stuck out to me most was the OFS Qove Lounge. It's great to see a product with a more residential feel that creates a more comfortable "work point" within the open office. Lounge furniture featuring a small table, charging capability, and some privacy is becoming more and more important as companies aim to provide a variety of spaces for employees to use throughout the day.

Click here to visit the OFS website and learn more about Qove.

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Creating Collaborative Workplaces that Cut Costs

How can you create a more collaborative workplace with less space? POE Designer Angie Romano fills us in.

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By: Angie Romano, Designer, POE


“More collaborative” is one of the most common themes we hear from customers when describing how they want their workspaces to look and function. This buzzword has driven many design decisions, but there is more to collaboration than removing walls in an office. Moving to a smaller space with definitely save a company cost, but the real savings comes when you leverage that smaller space more effectively by utilizing technology. By investing some of the cost-savings from a reduced office size into new technology, and new furniture that adapts to a more collaborative work environment, a company’s potential is really unleashed.

Technology, like a Cloud file sharing system, room reservation program or even something like the interactive and collaborative workspace Bluescape really fosters a unique work experience where diverse employees from different departments, different locations in the building or customers can interact on a project. In addition to technology, leveraging the physical space of an office after reducing the square footage is important. With less individual workspace for employees, it becomes very important to create other spaces that can be used for a variety of tasks that cater to multiple employees and departments. By providing spaces with a variety of sizes and privacy employees are able to choose where they can work the most effectively at the task at hand.

Providing the combination of a variety of workspaces with the effective use of technology is really the sweet spot for companies who are looking to save costs by downsizing their office space. Even with a smaller space, employees can be fully engaged and effective.

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The Power of Plants: Creating an Atmosphere that Provides Healing Benefits

POE Designer Lauren Richter takes a look at how incorporating nature in the workplace is aiding Forbes' Best Places to Work.

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By: Lauren Richter, Designer, POE


When you think of the words healing, health, or wellness, our minds usually associate these topics with nature (consciously or subconsciously). For example, at hearing the word “healthy” you may picture a head of broccoli or a fresh salad – both contain elements that come from the earth. The word healing or soothing may have you picturing one treating a sunburn with a bottle of Aloe Vera – again, a plant-related substance. In video games, your health bar is typically green if you are doing well (and avoiding the hits by bad guys).

In a setting where we spend the majority of our waking hours, shouldn’t we want the same thing – for our health bars to be a fully vibrant green radiating with well-being? Not only are health centers, hospitals, and clinics using their interiors as a way to connect with nature and have our brains associate their facilities as a healing place, but the corporate world is also taking note. Forbes has published its Best Places to Work in 2016, and these top companies are not shying away from providing organic interiors for their employees.

As we look to incorporate more wellness in the workplace, it is becoming increasingly important for us to not forget the tried and true stress-relieving benefits of embedding natural elements in architecture and design.

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The Multisensory Approach to Workspace Design

How can taking a multisensory design approach improve workplace design? POE Designer Angie Romano fills us in.

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 By: Angie Romano, Designer, POE


“The ancient Roman architect, Vitruvius, proposed that firmness, utility, and delight were the three pillars of successful building…Firmness and utility are the most readily accomplished, but delight has been a much more elusive quality…the idea that built spaces will make their users happy and make them want to spend time there.”
                    -Ceci Amador, Allwork’s Managing Editor 

Workplace wellness: an industry “buzz-phrase” that isn’t going away anytime soon. As a designer, I’m being asked more and more to provide solutions that increase employee engagement and wellbeing. The article “Multisensory Approach to Workspace Design” discusses how designing spaces that balance worker engagement among all senses can create a more humane, holistic environment sure to increase employee satisfaction and retention. Balancing lighting, acoustics, temperature, smells, and even the amount of healthy foods offered in the space have been shown to decrease workplace stress, increase productivity in workers, and encourage workplace wellness.

Personally, I believe creating balance is crucial to developing a healthy, well-rounded space – especially in the world of open offices. Some examples of how I’ve been able to achieve this balance and influence delight in workplaces I’ve designed: providing sound masking in open office environments to significantly decrease sound pollution and creating huddle rooms with soft surfaces for a more relaxed, calming space in which employees can focus on work or take a much-needed break from their busy day.

As employees spend more time in the workplace, it becomes crucial to create spaces that foster delight and keep stress levels low. Considering not only the physical aspects of the office (walls, floor, furniture, etc.) and examining the needs of people who will be utilizing the space – the human aspect – will lead you to create well-rounded spaces that benefit all its inhabitants.

New Product
Assembli by Martin Brattrud

Comfortable. Sleek. Versatile. 

POE Senior Designer, Greg Wooden, shares a few thoughts on Martin Brattrud's newest collection.

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By: Greg Wooden, Senior Designer, POE



Versatility is essential in today’s business environment. Products are expected to maximize their contribution to the facility by featuring multiple uses. This product collection caught my attention for its contemporary design, as well as its high level of versatility within the workplace.

Design-wise, I especially like the integration / juxtaposition of the various materials used for this collection: upholstery encased in luxurious veneer, metal legs, multiple finish offerings, etc. I believe its aesthetic blends the needs of an upscale business atmosphere while modeling the residential feel now trending in contemporary workspaces.

Assembli offers both visual and acoustical privacy as well as a comfortable hang-out space. The line is adaptable and offers a myriad of choices with the idea of giving people options to better suit their needs. Through its multiple configurations and plentiful accessory offerings it fulfills the needs of people meeting and collaborating in groups, as well as people working independently.

Here’s a link to Martin Brattrud’s website so you can take a look for yourself.

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Workplace Wellness: Active Seating

POE Designer, Andrea Gregory, takes a look at three forms of active seating.

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By: Andrea Gregory, Designer, POE


Incorporating wellness in the office has been shown to increase productivity and reduce time lost due to employees seeking treatment for health issues. As the focus on workplace wellness continues to increase, the search for amenities and furniture that encourages activity throughout the day continues. Massage chairs, nap rooms, and even on-site healthcare services are all options companies are beginning to provide for their employees as they work longer hours than ever before.

Seating can be a simple way to incorporate wellness in the workplace. The products below are perfect for individual workspaces and collaborative areas, alike (or, in the case of the BuzziBalance Board, a standing station).

Though companies may be unsure of how to incorporate activity-inducing products into their workplace, one thing is certain: wellness is a more a way of life than a passing trend. When offices support this idea they will reap the rewards of happier, healthier, and more productive employees.






BuzziBalance by BuzziSpace

• Offers both and seated and standing options
• Ottoman pouf encourages movement and stretching – great for a collaborative work session
• Balance Board activates both the mind and body – try it during a standing meeting







Doko by Keilhauer

• Ottoman series with “Active Seating” base option
• Challenges users to activate muscles in their backs and cores while sitting
• Over time, using it can improve core stability, posture, and circulation










Zenergy Ball Chair by Safco

• Exercise ball design
• Supports better posture and balance
• Stationary glides provide stability

New Product
Meet Haworth’s New Industry-Changing Chair

POE Senior Designer, Rebecca Medina, reviews the newest addition to Haworth’s large breadth of seating lines: Fern. 

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    By: Rebecca Medina, Senior Designer, POE

“Sitting is the new smoking.”
You see it everywhere: books, articles, and even TED talks on how a sedentary lifestyle is slowly taking years off your life. The industry has addressed this issue with sit-to-stand desks and articles have been written identifying the optimal amount of time you should be standing each hour per day. Even with new research, sitting in your office chair for most of the day is still the norm.

So why not sit in total comfort?

I’m here to tell you that, with Fern, it is possible. I had the pleasure of test driving the chair recently and trust me, it does not disappoint!

Fern is the result of over a decade of tests studying human movement in the office environment. Its name refers to the chair's construction: it utilizes an innovative stem structure at the center of its back with fronds (similar to leaves on a fern) stemming from the spine. This central system provides support for both the user’s spine and either side of his or her back – similar to the back’s natural anatomy. What ultimately differentiates this premium chair from other task chairs on the market? Haworth breaks it down into three categories: sit well, work well, and feel well.

Sit Well.
Sit well refers to, simply, how comfortable you are in the chair.  It deals with the physical ergonomics.  In addition to your spine and both sides of your back, Fern provides support in all three areas of your back: thoracic (upper), lumbar (mid), and pelvic (lower).  A combination of extensive third-party research performed by Western Michigan University, along with global research and pressure mapping studies, was utilized to determine the optimal level of comfort – guiding the chair’s design.

Work Well
Sitting in your chair should not be distracting; it should enhance your level of comfort. Research shows that physical distractions can hinder focus and concentration.  Fern features an edgeless design; there are no uncomfortable, sharp edges to impede your work. Furthermore, its stem and fronds structure is flexible, allowing the chair to move with you, not against you.

Feel Well
This addresses the emotional ergonomics…Fern just makes you feel good!  It’s aesthetically pleasing with less of a mechanical look and more of a residential feel.  Also, its design is pretty intuitive.  You won’t be left scratching your head about how the adjustments work.

Haworth claims Fern as a new movement in seating.  It’s innovative, ground-breaking, and takes seating to a whole new level.  I agree with them.  The workplace is always evolving and this chair is at the forefront of that evolution.
Fern is proof that the industry is shifting focus to the person sitting in the chair rather than the chair itself.