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Designing a Human Habitat for Prosperity

Written by k
Imagery by Sandra Kicman

“The most important thing in the room is not the furniture –  it’s the people,” declared Gilbert Rohde in 1930. This was a decisively progressive observation and is particularly meaningful in today’s business office environment. Knowing that happy, engaged, and productive people are what drive an organization’s prosperity, wouldn’t it make sense to design a human-centered work environment?
    The new trend in office design says, yes. In fact, Rohde was the first design director for Herman Miller where a human-centered work environment is their driving principle behind the “living office.” The living office is a platform for increased productivity and effectiveness because it provides a more naturally human experience of interaction and creation.  To translate the concept into actual design, Herman Miller launched a two-year global research study with 175 companies representing all sizes and sectors. Researchers studied how space was being used. They asked what worked, what didn’t, and what would employees like to change.
    Herman Miller pinpointed the ten most common modes of work such as Chat, Huddle, Create, Show & Tell, and Contemplate. Settings were designed to accommodate these modes. Some examples are Haven, Hive, Forum, Workshop, and Plaza. Ideally, an organization has a floor plan that strategically includes settings that support the ten work modes.
    What better place to showcase a working, breathing model of a living office than a company specializing in business interiors. Millington Lockwood Business Interiors, Western New York’s exclusive distributorship for Herman Miller, recently completed a living office remodel. Mike Bonitatibus, president of Millington Lockwood explains, “There is no one formula for any office. The living office is designed to support the strategic needs of a business. Our space is set up for how we work, which is mostly in teams.” A plaza setting is the vibrant heart of an office landscape. In contrast, havens provide small shelters where focused work can be done without distraction. Floor plans, settings, and furniture support current technologies and how people use their devices.
    Living offices are the opposite of cube farms. Instead of uniformity, they empower people with dynamic choices. David Iacona, territory manager for Herman Miller, compares it to shopping. “These environments draw people in with a compelling selection of settings. Individuals want to be there and be productive because it’s enjoyable.” Herman Miller works collaboratively with architectural and design firms to deliver living office environments to a client. 

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