The early 21st century marks dramatic change; in the global economy, the structures and cultures of organizations, in workforce demographics, in technologies, and in the personal needs and expectations of workers. Long established workplace norms are giving way to disruption and uncertainty.
This shifting landscape of work leaves many people and organizations out of sync, with unmet needs. Many existing methods of equipping and managing the workplace fail to serve the enterprise, as they fail to empower or motivate people. Individual and group spaces aren’t optimized for modern work styles. Many offices are, literally and figuratively, from another era.
Herman Miller Inc. has successfully met this challenge before. A pioneer in the modern office, the company first established itself as a workplace leader in the 1930s, with modular executive furnishings by designer Gilbert Rohde. In the 1940s, design director George Nelson created the first L-shaped desk for Herman Miller, to accommodate the proliferation of desktop technology (typewriter and telephone), as designers Charles and Ray Eames advanced new materials and forms in Herman Miller office seating. In the 1960s Herman Miller’s groundbreaking Action Office system established the ‘open plan’ office. At the forefront of virtually every workplace innovation since, including the rise of ergonomic work chairs and most notably its iconic Aeron design, Herman Miller is once again embracing social change as opportunity—aiming for profound and positive impact on the lives of people and organizations.
Working with an international cast of experts, researchers and designers, Herman Miller is applying new insights into people, place, and work—how we think, how we are motivated, and how we create and collaborate.
The result is Herman Miller’s Living Office—a naturally human integration of people, ideas, tools, furnishings and spaces, to create a more desirable workplace. Living Office helps people and organizations uniquely express and enable their shared character, activities, and purpose, promoting employee engagement, creativity, productivity, and wellbeing, and ultimately greater prosperity for all. Herman Miller has begun introducing their new knowledge, services, products, and technologies to support this progressive vision.
Living Office Research
Powerful mobile technology and seamless information networks allow work to happen anywhere, at any time, driving a shift in the fundamental purpose of the formal office. What was once secondary—camaraderie, connection, spontaneous interaction, and group expression—is becoming primary. Bringing people together, in proximity or direct collaboration, to power their ultimate creativity and performance, is the essential purpose of today’s office.
For more than two years, on six continents, surveying hundreds of organizations in diverse industries, multiple Herman Miller research programs are exploring the changing nature of work and place. Among key findings, a large majority (between 75 and 99%) of facilities managers in all regions indicated that creating spaces to ‘improve employee engagement’ was a strategic priority. To achieve this, ‘creating a sense of community and belonging’ was a top workplace strategy on all continents. By 2015, non-dedicated team areas are anticipated to be the single largest allocation of space (averaging 35% of the office), as dedicated individual workstation space continues to decline (between 11-22%, by region). This reflects the practical realities of today’s mobile, collaboration-intensive workstyles. Herman Miller’s research reveals the typical workstation is unoccupied 60% of the day, with private offices averaging 77% vacancy. Likewise, conference rooms are rarely used to capacity, as people increasingly prefer less formal meeting spaces within the office.
Data like this led Herman Miller to a deeper understanding of global work and a comprehensive new workplace design strategy. Living Office reflects and supports people’s fundamental need for interaction, creation, and motivation, and a belief that richer levels of personal engagement will create greater levels of performance and well being, for both individuals and organizations.
Creating a Living Office
The company’s research identified and defined ten primary Modes of Work (for individuals and groups) and ten related Settings offering a complete range of dynamic spaces. These modes and settings are universal to today’s global work experience, though Herman Miller emphasizes there is no single solution for an optimal workplace. Each organization’s Living Office should be wholly unique, grounded in the distinctive mission, values, culture, and activities of its people, while serving its corporate strategy and objectives.
Herman Miller researchers found people engaged in ten key behaviors; three Alone (Process/Respond, Contemplate, Create) and seven Together (Chat, Converse, Co-Create, Divide/Conquer, Huddle, Show/Tell, Warm Up/Cool Down). The research offers detailed, compelling definitions for each, such as, “Divide & Conquer…a team with a common goal finds it valuable to work on individual components of a project while maintaining close proximity to one another. Working in parallel helps resolve issues quickly and enables spontaneous collaboration. Developments and content are shared among the group as the goal is reached.” With thorough understanding of the behaviors and needs of a given department, team, and individual, Herman Miller believes it can help customers create potent workplace settings that enhance individual engagement and organizational performance.
Living Office provides ten unique settings optimized to support specific work modes, including Haven, Hive, Jump Space, Clubhouse, Cove, Meeting Space, Landing, Workshop, Forum and Plaza. Like modes, the settings offer specific office design solutions, “Landing…adjacent to Meeting Spaces or Forums. Prior to a meeting it provides a gathering space for attendees. After, the visual link between the landing and its meeting space aids memory and helps drive work in this setting. Furniture and tools that welcome a brief gathering enhance the utility of each Landing.” Each of the ten settings are distinct in purpose, scale, and social support, and can be designed in great variety using a wide range of furniture.
Composed from a bespoke selection of settings, Living Office landscapes bring an organization’s workplace strategy to life, enabling talent to thrive through choice and community. In a Living Office, people will have real options and know where to go for their personal and group needs and wants.
In early 2014 Herman Miller will offer major new furniture platforms to complement Living Office settings and landscapes, creating diverse new experiences of work and workplace. From high performance seating that promotes health and comfort, to adaptable systems, to timeless classics in the Herman Miller Collection, a remarkable range of solutions will serve each Living Office.
In the new landscape of work, creativity and problem-solving drive value and humanity is the distinguishing capability. Processes don't create products, solve problems or build relationships—people do. Offices attract and retain talent to drive performance, and bring strategy to life, giving individuals something they can find nowhere else: personal connection to work and colleagues; places of greater productivity and performance; and a more naturally human, satisfying experience. This is Herman Miller’s Living Office vision—helping organizations and people to customize their places of work to express and enable shared character, purpose, and ultimately, greater prosperity for all. See and learn more at www.hermanmiller.com/living-office.
About Herman Miller
Herman Miller’s inspiring designs, inventive technologies and strategic services help people do great things and organizations to perform at their best. Their award-winning products and services generated approximately $1.8 billion in revenue in fiscal 2013. Herman Miller designs are found in the permanent design collections of museums worldwide, while innovative business practices and a commitment to social responsibility have also helped establish Herman Miller as a recognized global leader. In 2012, Herman Miller was again included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. The company trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol MLHR.www.hermanmiller.com