Design Science: Office Areas and Proportions Based on Human Work Modes

If you take a minute to pull back and really look at how an office functions, you will find that people cycle through three general daily work modes: focus, meet, and refresh.

Image © Visnick & Caulfield

Image © Visnick & Caulfield

In general, it’s all about balance. While we do spend most of our time focusing and working hard, it is imperative for both employee wellbeing and business practice that there are opportunities throughout the day for people to collaborate and meet, as well as take a break from their work. Like the daily work cycle, offices are designed to accommodate for our three daily work modes.

focus meet refresh floor plan

Image © Visnick & Caulfield

Generally, we spend about 66% of our day in focus mode and 34% both meeting or collaborating, and taking time to refresh. A productive and positive workplace layout and design should therefore be directly proportionate to the amount of time workers spend in each mode.

This means the majority of an office space is designed and allotted to help employees maintain FOCUS.

Verivo Workstations

Verivo Work Room. Image © Neil Alexander for Visnick & Caulfield

The focus mode is a time for productivity. Design features for this mode include work stations, private offices, quiet rooms, and collaboration areas. These areas should make up the bulk of an office’s layout. Focus areas should be functional with plenty of plug and play opportunities, but also open enough to allow for collaboration and innovation to occur on a team level. Essentially, every office should be designed to help employees work efficiently; after all, there are entire spaces dedicated to conducting business. But it’s important to remember that businesses could not exist without people.

Areas where people can MEET and conduct work in groups are the next necessity for every single office. 

growth equity firm conference room

Conference Room for a Private Growth Equity Firm. Image © Neil Alexander for Visnick & Caulfield

Like focus areas, meeting areas must be made to function, but also, they must be diverse in that they can serve different types of meetings, ranging from formal to impromptu. This means going beyond the standard conference room. Meeting areas include lounge areas, huddle spots, high tops, and training rooms. Essentially, they serve two purposes: generating group work, teamwork, collaboration and innovation, and providing a separate area for formal meetings to take place, especially in the  case of open plan offices.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, every office should have multiple spaces for employees to REFRESH.

VCA Cushman Wakefield Space

Cushman & Wakefield Lounge and Cafeteria Space. Image © Neil Alexander for Visnick & Caulfield

Break areas in the workplace are varied and fall on a wide spectrum from kitchens, lounges, and multi-media rooms, to game rooms, gyms, and relaxation rooms. Whatever it may be, these spaces are just as important as the focus areas. Refresh areas remind us to take breathers throughout the day and separate ourselves from our work. They remind us that we’re human and many times, this separation results in new ideas and revelations. The office is where we go to work, but having designated areas to hit the refresh button will indefinitely allow workers to come full circle and travel back to work mode number one: better focus. Smart design is key in making this happen.

Written by Isobelle Hemmers
Edited by Daniela Maher Associate at Visnick & Caulfield, LEED AP , NCIDQ Certificate 28090, and Scott Kligerman, Senior Associate at Visnick & Caulfield, LEED AP
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