Office Design Evolution

Designing for people and their experience is essential today more than ever before

Today’s cubicle was born in the 1960s as the number of office jobs grew exponentially. This shift led to the design of the “Action Office”—designed to improve efficiency, bring down physical barriers to communication, and provide a highly designed and collaborative work space. These new office environments were quite costly and arrived on the scene at a time when there was a greater divide between management and employees than exists today. While these early cubes were cost prohibitive, the idea of a flexible, open office environment quickly evolved into what we know today as the “cubicle.” Love it or hate it, many of us have spent many hours working in one

As we progressed into the 80s, the design of office space and furniture began to change to ensure technology was accessible and easily incorporated in the “modern” office environment. Since the early years of cubicles and the onset of desktop computers, technology has advanced far faster than could have been foreseen and out-paced the design of the “modern,” open office environment.

Today, many offices have a mix of spaces—from private offices to cubicles each of which has plenty of access to technology—and the concept of the open office is highly debated. Some evidence points to improved communication and efficiency. On the other hand, there are studies that show these environments have a negative impact on office culture due to the various generations at work today (from Baby Boomers to Millennials) and their workplace setting needs and desires.

For a while, we thought technology was the answer. It shaped how we worked, how we communicated, and it even shaped our environments (office and home). As we relied more and more on this technology and it became mobile, we began to pull away from personal connections—just ask a teenager to call someone rather than texting. Now, we are shifting once again and realizing the value of connection and our relationships with others. This desire to connect and develop relationships has expanded to a desire for an office that is focused on people and culture.

The next generation of workers has placed a value on experience rather than possessions. They  want to travel and create memories that will last a lifetime rather than buy things like art or knick-knacks or even homes. Since we spend nearly 50% of our time at work, new workers are expecting their work space to be an experience, too. This doesn’t mean we have to add a zip-line or set up a gaming center. It does, however, mean that we need to provide them with opportunities to connect with their coworkers, to grow and experience different aspects of their career, and provide an environment that encourages communication and relationships.

When it comes to designing a great office environment for today’s employees, it is important to spend quality time with those most connected to the space to learn more about their work flow, preferences , communication styles, collaboration needs, personalities, and desires. By spending this time studying an organization’s current office and the “work-arounds” they have implemented to address these needs, we have found that we are better equipped to design an office environment that reflects the needs of the team, management, communication style, and culture. While planning and designing for growth, flexibility, and cost are still very important; however, being cognizant and considerate of the people that spend their time in these spaces is also important and can have the largest impact on engagement, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

Office design trends come and go as do our desires for an “ideal” work space, however, designing for the people who spend their time in those environments remains key to a developing a successful design solution. We have shaped how we design and interact with our clients, and their teams, around the simple idea of relationships (people, place, experience, and culture).

EW Receives West Michigan’s Best & Brightest Companies to Work For® Award

This winter Eckert Wordell was nominated for West Michigan’s Best & Brightest Companies to Work For. This competition honors West Michigan companies that display a commitment to excellence in their HR practices and employee enrichment and engagement. All nominees that complete the submission process are assessed on various HR and business operations categories from communication and work-life balance to recognition and retention.

As you will in this newsletter, we have spent the last few years reshaping our company culture. We already feel the benefits of this effort and are excited to announce that West Michigan’s Best & Brightest competition agrees with us. We won the designation of West Michigan’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For 2019!

How Critical is Culture?

Bottom line: A positive culture is crucial to the well-being of your company.

Corporate culture is a perplexing concept in that it is very important and can have a direct result on your success, yet, is hard to explain. Each of these descriptors captures a part of the whole idea of “What is culture?”:

  • A company’s identity or values
  • Its personality
  • The atmosphere in the workplace
  • Your corporate philosophy and principles

To put it most simply, “What is it like to work at your company?”

Whether you put direct effort into defining and developing your culture or you leave it alone to be what it will be, culture has the potential to make or break your company. A strong positive culture will attract talent to your organization and will make your best people want to stay. Bad culture, on the other hand—well, you can imagine the consequences, or maybe you have experienced them. One of many ways to promote the culture you want to develop is to carefully consider your office environment, as described in the previous articles. The right environment can not only enhance an already great culture but can also move your team toward the culture you want, if you’re not there, yet.

Our deliberate investment, over the last several years, in shaping and developing our own unique culture has tangibly paid off. We have a clearer vision of who we are, where we’re heading, and how we plan to get there together. We’re becoming a more close-knit team. And (not surprising), we’re happier and more productive. There is nothing like looking forward to going to work each day to join forces with people you enjoy being around. Commitment to cultivating a great culture: In our experience, highly recommended!

What’s Your EQ?

Zinidane Zidane.

If you joined the 3.3 billion people on the globe who watched the final game of the 2006 World Cup between France and Italy, that name is very familiar. Prior to that game, Zidane was recognized as France’s soccer stud. It was during the conclusion of the contest that Zidane performed an act of unbelievably poor sportsmanship—an act that banished him from the game and branded his career.  His infamous head-butt against an Italian player earned him a red card and an immediate ejection. In many ways, his action was so brutal and provocative that the game’s final score (Italy won in a shoot-out) seems almost inconsequential.

So, what happened with Zidane? What caused him to not only use his head but lose it? It came down to little more than acting before thinking. We all do it, just hopefully to lesser degrees. But, why is it that some people respond to and manage situations better than others? It’s called emotional intelligence (EI). And, if there’s any stage where it is particularly necessary, it’s the workplace.

A number of facts back this up. In studies performed by TalentSmart, a training and development organization, there is a definite link between an employee’s emotional quotient (EQ) and his/her job performance. Consider these findings:

  • EQ alone explains 58% of a leader’s job performance
  • 90% of top performers score high in EI assessments
  • Only 20% of low performers test high in EI assessments

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, seems to agree. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, he said, “A leader’s intelligence has to have a strong emotional component. A leader has to have high levels of self-awareness, maturity, and self-control. My experience says it is actually more important than book smarts in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.”

So, the next time you need to navigate a challenging situation or you become the target of some choice words, give yourself a split second to pause. It might just save your career and your reputation.

Mark de Roo is President of Keystone Coaching & Consulting, LLC in Holland, Michigan. As a coach, he specializes in leadership development, personal productivity improvement, and career development. He can be reached at

Upcoming Events: Summer 2019!

  • May 3–7: American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Annual Conference, in San Diego, California. Come see us in Booth 744!
  • June 3–6: Michigan County Medical Care Facility Conference, Boyne City, MI.

Giving Back!

Last month, our Community Initiatives Team joined forces with Treystar and hosted a blood drive in our office. The drive was a great success; we met our goal and were able to donate enough blood to save 60 lives. A special thanks to all our donors!