Women’s home and corporate offices are displaying the latest trends in efficiency and well-being.
A communal kitchen at Analysis Group.
Out: sky-high cubicle walls, sterile shag carpeting, and pea-green color schemes. In: glass walls, lounge seating, and home sweet home. The Society for Human Resource Management’s annual survey showed that an unprecedented number of companies are offering telecommuting as a benefit. Some 30 percent of all Americans now work remotely. And if workers are office-bound, their companies are calling for bright, open, and multifunctional spaces. We spoke with four female interior designers who are creating environments that combine work and pleasure.
“There has been a huge shift in office space in that it isn’t just where you go to work, but a place to engage and connect with people,” says Lois Goodell, principal at CBT (110 Canal St., 617-262-4354). “Work spaces are a lot less rigid and less focused on just one activity. Whereas the office had previously been designed for hierarchy in an organization, there are now spaces where you can come together and benefit from all skill sets.” Goodell’s colleague Kathy McMahon, associate principal at CBT, sees this as an interesting shift because the hierarchical workplace has traditionally been a man’s world. “There are a number of things that women historically do well that are showing up more in the office, such as an easier way of multitasking. Employees are more visible, and there is a focus on wellness.”
A bright home office on Newbury Street.
One of CBT’s recently completed office projects has a female CEO who wanted private offices to have glass fronts so that employees can be transparent, literally and figuratively. The firm also has a sizable café for company events, a training facility for analysts, and informal meeting zones. At The Bridgespan Group in Boston, Goodell went in the opposite direction and designed a space with no assigned seating. Employees pick where they work for the day, and while there are additional glass-fronted offices for conference calls, the communal space allows for the open flow of ideas. Designers are realizing that as people go through their day, they are inspired by different spaces or may need to change from a “quiet car” area to being plugged in alongside colleagues for a collaborative project.
Boston-based interior designer Elizabeth Swartz (11 Elkins St., 617-421-0800) is also seeing corporate clients that want office spaces to support a sense of well-being. “Offices can be designed to be aesthetically pleasing, efficient, and a source of motivation for the task at hand,” she says. “Lounge seating in open areas fosters collaboration, and I incorporate color into the workplace.” Goodell and McMahon have also noticed that businesses are experimenting with color and graphics; for instance, some are opting to signify spaces within an office by using different textures and materials.
Glass walls foster transparency.
How have these changes in corporate offices affected the design of home offices? Swartz is seeing a rise in his-and-hers home offices done in bright colors that set them apart from the rest of the home. “Most of my clients want a dedicated home office or two,” says Swartz. “A home office can indulge the client’s personality—for instance, by displaying golf trophies and family treasures, or using wonderful furniture, fabrics, carpets, and accessories.”
Color in the home office also resonates with interior designer Ana Donohue (31 Harvard St., Melrose, 617-331-2663). “I am having more clients ask for fun, lighthearted, and funky designs with lots of color and personality,” she says. “No one wants a standard office. Women are spending much more time in their home offices than they first expected, so now they are more important than ever.”