An open-concept home was not very popular in the 50s (1950s, that is). Today, few homebuyers would consider anything else. The same cannot be said for the open office, which workers generally resisted when the idea gained momentum in the US.1
I suspect most people “pretended” to like the open environment to keep their jobs, or at the very least, to go with the flow. Today, it is virtually unheard of to have your own office, the rationale being that open creates a better work environment . . . “better,” meaning more collaboration, the merging of social and work habits, and so on.
As a former business owner, I suspect the real motive behind open offices initially was the bottom line—less overhead, fewer surreptitious activities that could harm the company, increased accountability, and greater transparency.
Alas, the open office is old news and let’s face it—practically speaking, the operational landscape has changed dramatically with the mobile nature of business. With 50% to 70% of employees working at least part of the time from home, an agile work environment is a must.4
Molding of the mind
With modern corporate culture comes another type of “climate change”—and it is gaining momentum. Some companies have taken the open design concept and run with it, to shape workers psychologically—through wellness.
For example, the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) claims the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) is the first initiative to focus exclusively on the health and wellness of the people in buildings.5
It reportedly combines best practices in design and construction with medical and scientific research to set performance requirements in 7 categories relevant to occupant health and well-being: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.
Since WELL v1 was launched in October 2014, the building standard has seen promising results. CBRE Group Inc.’s Global Corporate Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles became the first commercial office building in the world to achieve WELL Certification through the pilot program.6
One year after occupancy, an employee survey showed:
• 92% of respondents reported that the new space created a positive effect on their health and well-being
• 94% said the new space has had a positive impact on their business performance
• 83% said that they felt more productive