Unoffice The Office

Unoffice the Office

Emerging Opportunities to Advance the Human-centered Workplace


Today, most people are not working in an office setting that works for them. But we can change that.

In the past few decades, the sweeping transformations experienced by virtually every industry have rarely been matched by complementary, comprehensive workplace redesigns. Opportunities are now more plentiful than ever to create ideal workspaces that can be leveraged to advance work across sectors—if we use a human-centered, occupantdriven focus to design them. Amid the complexities of comprehensive design—materials, technology, personalities, organizational culture—simplification is key. west elm WORKSPACE is “unofficing” the office by recentering it on people and nature: the essentials. In a phrase, we’re humanizing the workplace.

Our research into how work happens in modern organizations and the factors important to success reveals that companies operate on three general scales: the individual, the team, and the organization. The individual scale revolves around worker satisfaction, productivity, and well-being. The team scale revolves around the abilities to connect, establish a sense of community, and collaborate. The organization scale revolves around flexibility, distributed work, and hospitality.

Because these scales have distinct but overlapping characteristics, their needs are best met with design methods and products that account for interrelated, human-centric goals: collaboration made possible by community; concentration encouraged by retreat; and, the ability to access helpful information through people as well as technology. In every case, considering the nature of people and our preferences is essential. The proceeding sections of this paper outline six key challenges the modern workplace faces, along with west elm’s approach to each. Based on our research and studies undertaken by our partner consultants, the six segments describe ways to leverage environmental psychology, cognitive science, and contemporary socioeconomic trends to address the emerging workplace problems that are unaccounted for by traditional design.

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